Speaker: Gertrud Schneider-Blum (University of Cologne)
Title: The impact of attentional centering on ergative marking in Tima
Abstract: One of the languages on the African continent which display ergative features is Tima, a Niger-Congo language spoken in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. This talk deals with the impact of attentional centering – influenced by the factors of animacy of the participants, identifiability of the agent, and givenness of either A or P participant – on the choice of construction between AVO and OVA, with A being ergative-marked in the latter. The research brought forth the following findings:
- Token-identifiable human agents typically trigger an AVO constituent order.
- Type-identifiable human agents typically trigger an OVAerg constituent order; the described event may or may not be decomposed into two sub-events.
- Inanimate agents acting on human animates trigger a decomposition of the event into two sub-events: First, P is presented, second, A is introduced as an ergative- marked participant following the verb.
- The information structural device of givenness interacts with the two parameters of agent-identifiability and animacy. A given agent always leads to an AVO construction. A given patient finds the speaker faced with the choice of opting for an AVO or an OVAerg construction.