Discourse Antipassivity in Indonesian--Mokele Mbembe Linguist of Fortune -- JLSSCNC Vol I, No 1 Contents Classified Ads

Exploring Penguin Causatives

Robert F. ScottLondon, England

Penguin is a wide-spread language of the Southern Hemisphere, spanning Antarctic waters and southern coastal regions, and reaching as far north as the equator at the Galapagos Islands. Penguin is historically related to an extensive family of languages including Ostrich, Rhea, Emu, and Kiwi, which probably all descended from a common parent language, reconstructed as Proto-Dodo.

In this paper, we will examine two interesting aspects of Penguin causatives, in hopes that these will shed light on the nature of causative constructions cross-linguistically. The first area of interest is morphological; the second is semantic.

We will begin our discussion with Examples (1) and (2), which illustrate, respectively, a simple intransitive and a corresponding causative:

(1)    Blim-aŋ    i-gak-di    Perki-am

ice floe-LOC    NEG-rise-PAST    Perky-NOM

“Perky fell off the ice floe”

(2)    Raplum-di    yusu-am [blimaŋ igakdi Perkiam]

cause-PAST    1sg-NOM 

“I caused Perky to fall off the ice floe”

With great regularity, causatives in Penguin are formed according to the pattern of (2), which we may reformulate as (3):

(3)    Raplum   +   (CAUSER)   +   EVENT

Note that overt expression of the causer is optional, and that EVENT may be manifested by any type of clause.

Example (4) is a simple transitive expression, which may be compared with a corresponding causative, (5):

(4)    I-na-gikan    Perki-am    ikan-an

NEG-PASS-eat    Perky-NOM    fish-ACC   

“Perky vomited up the fish”

(5)    Raplum-di Bruzer-am [inagikan Perkiam ikanan]

“Bruiser caused Perky to vomit up the fish”

There is, however, another way to express (5), which by-passes the inherent topicality of the grammatical subject and instead places overt topicalization on the direct object “fish” by promoting that constituent’s morphological suffix from that for ACC (-an) to that for NOM (-am). As we see in (6), this allows the caused EVENT to have two participants with identical case-marking; fortunately for Penguin speakers, rigid word order makes semantic relations immediately apparent, and topicalization is thus easily interpretable in such a construction.

(6)    Raplumdi Bruzeram [inagikan Perki-am ikan-am]

“Bruiser caused with respect to the fish that Perky vomited them up”

Adding a locative expression to the causative event of (6), we may see that Penguin also allows for topicalization of oblique NP’s by the same means:

(7)    Raplumdi Bruzeram [blim-am inagikan Perkiam ikanan]

“Bruiser caused with respect to the ice floe that Perky vomited up the fish on it”

This would be more appropriate, for example, in response to the question “and what about the ice floe?”

As awkward as the free translations provided for (6) and (7) may seem in English, worse is yet to come. In appropriate situational contexts, Penguin may allow for multiple concurrent topicalizations, promoting two or more objects to morphological NOM status. Thus, adding topicalized locative and benefactive to (7), we obtain (8):

(8)    Raplumdi Bruzeram blimam inagikan Perkiam ikanam sulusulam

“Bruiser caused with respect to the ice floe, the fish and the mermaid that Perky vomited them up on it for her”

Again, however nonsensical the free translation of (8) proves in English, the utterance was readily interpretable when it occurred naturally in a Penguin conversation, because word order constraints unproblematically clarify the semantic relations among the five nominative-marked nominal participants. To this writer’s knowledge, such a striking example of morphologically-encoded topicalization, limited (as the phenomenon is in Penguin) to causative constructions, is unattested among languages previously made accessible for study by the linguistic community.

The second interesting observation which may be made concerning Penguin causatives is semantic. As mentioned above, the agent of causation in a Penguin causative is optional; more accurately, agents rarely actually occur in normal speech. This, of course, would never have caused a moment’s discomfort, had I not come to the startling realization that this is the only example of any sort of permissible omission in all of the Penguin language. Phenomena such as Equi-NP deletion, and a host of other types, are of course quite common across the world’s languages; but why should Penguin, which allows none of the common types of deletion in other circumstances, call for it so regularly in just this one construction type?

One day, the answer suddenly leapt out at me when I happened to notice the striking similarity between the form of the verb “to cause” raplum and the word “shark” soplum. Strikingly similar roots occur in a large variety of apocalyptic and execratory terms.

I had discovered the answer! Penguin causatives are sort of the moral equivalent of English “the devil made me do it,” and causation is normally simply attributed to that which signifies the personification of evil in Penguin culture, the shark. Of course, this indicates that Homo Sapiens are not the only creatures who would prefer to pass the blame off whenever possible--a realization which should prove comforting to all who feel that, in evolving beyond lower life forms, we have in fact lost their natural goodness: they aren’t so noble, either!

Discourse Antipassivity in Indonesian--Mokele Mbembe
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