Number Agreement and Morphosyntactic Orientation in the South Caucasian Languages
University of Montréal
The Kartvelian (South Caucasian) family comprises three languages: Georgian, Svan and Zan (Laz-Mingrelian). The protolanguage, Proto-Kartvelian, is believed to have been characterized by ergative-absolutive case marking and a verb with two sets of crossreferencing affixes (Set S ["subject"] and Set O ["object"]). These affixes manifest a nominative-accusative pattern in all the daughter languages, and probably did so in Proto-Kartvelian. In the course of four millenia the Kartvelian languages and their dialects have undergone changes in various morphosyntactic components: agreement (in particular, agreement for number), case assignment, and also in the internal structure of case paradigms. These changes are described in detail, dialect by dialect, in the monograph. The conclusion I draw is that certain of these changes can be described in terms of drift toward or away from three TYPES of morphosyntactic ORIENTATION. By "orientation" is meant a typology of dialects according to the structuration of their morphosyntactic components to accord syntagmatic and paradigmatic "privileges" (control of agreement, especially obligatory agreement; link to unmarked member of paradigmatic set, etc.). Orientation can be described both in terms of degree of asymmetry (does one clausal argument-type receive special privileges not shared with others; in other words, can one speak meaningfully of a grammatical SUBJECT?), and in terms of alignment (nominative, absolutive, etc.) The following three orientations can be discerned in the Kartvelian languages and their dialects:
Type A: split-absolutive orientation [the most archaic, still preserved in some northeast Georgian mountain dialects]. Type B: nominative (semantic-subject) orientation [the modern literary Georgian language and most contemporary dialects]. Type C: Discourse-prominence orientation [several dialects from southwest Georgia].
ISBN 9783929075960. LINCOM Studies in Caucasian Linguistics 12. 260pp. 1998.