Chapter 7 Non-active Voices in South Asian Languages

In: Passives Cross-Linguistically
Authors:
Pritha Chandra
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Gurmeet Kaur
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Anindita Sahoo
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Abstract

It is well known from cross-linguistic literature that non-active structures, characterized by argument structure alternation, manifest huge variation (Lekakou 2005, Kallulli 2006, Alexiadou and Doron 2012, Alexiadou 2014 among others). In this paper, we compare non-active structures across two typologically distinct, but geographically proximate South Asian Languages (henceforth SAL s)—Odia (Indo-Aryan) and Telugu (Dravidian). Both Odia and Telugu have a similar bi-partite voice system, with non-actives (middles, anticausatives and medio-passives) appearing with passive morphology, and reflexives appearing in the active voice. They however differ in other respects. Odia passives and non-actives are unambiguously unaccusatives, while Telugu passives oscillate between unergative and unaccusative structures, and non-actives mostly show unaccusative properties. Another particularly interesting feature of Telugu is that its non-actives have an implicit agentive reading, even in the presence of unaccusative light verbs—this possibility however does not exist for passives selecting the same light verb. We contend that these macro-variations emerge from structural differences between the two languages. Odia passives and non-actives have a vP, which is always unaccusative with either an [+activity] or a [+causer] feature. On the other hand, Telugu passives and non-actives have a voiceP that hosts an implicit agent—which in turn selects a [+activity] or [+cause] v, yielding the observed variation amongst the two types of constructions. In general, our contention is that cross-linguistic morphological and semantic differences among non-actives result from voice/v differences, with richer and more elaborate voicePs imparting more variety to the concerned languages. In the end, we show how our analysis applies effectively to non-actives of another South Asian language Kharia (Austro-Asiatic).

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