Definition of ergative in English:

ergative

Syllabification: er·ga·tive
Pronunciation: /ˈərgətiv
 
/
Grammar

adjective

  • 1Relating to or denoting a case of nouns (in some languages, e.g., Basque and Eskimo) that identifies the subject of a transitive verb and is different from the case that identifies the subject of an intransitive verb.
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    • In the past tense configuration, however, the Pashto agreement system is ergative: the Agreement is verb - subject agreement with intransitives, but verb - object agreement with transitives.
    • In Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) for example the ergative case is used to mark subjects of transitive verbs and possessors of nouns.
    • But the ergative subject is the subject and comes first.
  • 1.1(Of a language) possessing the ergative case.
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    • In fact, though, we now know a great deal about ergative languages, and it is clear that ergativity is as far as can be from an either/or phenomenon.
    • Instead, every ergative language exhibits ergativity in some circumstances but not in others, and the range of observed ergative systems is enormous, though the differences are not arbitrary.
    • There is no known language which is wholly ergative.
  • 1.2(In English) denoting verbs that can be used both transitively and intransitively to describe the same action, with the object in the former case being the subject in the latter, as in I boiled the kettle and the kettle boiled. Compare with inchoative.
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    • Given the same function condition, stated above, the non-pivot ergative noun phrase of the second clause cannot be omitted under coreference with the pivot noun phrase of the first clause, hence its ungrammaticality.
    • An ergative system is one in which the subject of an intransitive verb is treated grammatically like the direct object of a transitive verb, while the subject of a transitive verb is treated differently.
    • Two main linguistic features are analysed: the expression of causativity in ergative constructions and the expression of modality in’ projecting’ that clauses.

noun

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  • 1An ergative word.
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    • In this language, the ergative is simply the oblique stem of the noun.
    • Based on the traditional assumption that the ergative construction is the underlying construction and the ergative is the subject, the passive can be described as follows.
  • 1.1 (the ergative) The ergative case.
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    • The other case, the ergative, is used for the agent.
    • Like the other case-marking postpositions in this language, the ergative is encliticised to the first word of the noun phrase.

Derivatives

ergativity

Pronunciation: /ˌərgəˈtivitē/
noun
More example sentences
  • But what a cool correlation between language and genetics this could be - if the absence of grammatical gender and ergativity in Persian could tip us off to population mixtures that explain features in western Iran.
  • This is baby-level English-structure stuff - not something like the that-trace effect, or ergativity in verbs, say - and very long-standard terminology.
  • Instead, every ergative language exhibits ergativity in some circumstances but not in others, and the range of observed ergative systems is enormous, though the differences are not arbitrary.

Origin

1950s: from Greek ergatēs 'worker' (from ergon 'work') + -ive.

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