Changing valency

Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald

in The Languages of the Amazon

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199593569
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739385 | DOI:
Changing valency

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A verb typically describes a situation involving one, or two, or more obligatory participants. An intransitive verb has just one participant—an S. A transitive verb has two—an A and an O. A ditransitive verb has three—an A, an O and an E. In terms of how they are marked and how they behave, these participants can be grouped together in various ways. Many of the world’s languages have special grammatical means of either removing, or adding a participant to a verb. This is what this chapter focuses on. Valency-reducing devices signal the removal of a participant: the erstwhile transitive verb become intransitive. These include passives and antipassives. Antipassives in many Amazonian languages are patientless. Valency-increasing devices indicate that a participant has been added. These include causatives and applicatives. Causatives may have meanings to do with intensity of action. Amazonian languages offer a wider choice of means for valency increase than for decreasing valency. And each kind has an Amazonia-specific flavour.

Keywords: passive; antipassive; reflexive; applicative; causative

Chapter.  6516 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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