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Seminar: Causative constructions in Southeast Solomonic from a typological perspective, Kate Naitoro, 8 Nov

Australian National University, Bethwyn Evans, Evolution

Date: 25 October 2019

Seminar: Causative constructions in Southeast Solomonic from a typological perspective

Speaker: Katerina Naitoro

When: 8 Nov 2019, 3.30pm-5pm

Where: Engma Room (3.165), HC Coombs Building, ANU


Southeast Solomonic languages, a primary subgroup of the Oceanic family, have several types of causative constructions. Like other Oceanic languages they make use of verbal morphology inherited from the ancestor Proto Oceanic, namely the causative prefix and two transitive suffixes. We also find different types of causative/inchoative alternations, including labile/ambitransitive verbs and equipollent alternations. Last but not least, causative constructions may be formed by analytical means, such as serial verb constructions, i.e. two verbs in a single predicate, or two separate clauses. The various types of causative constructions differ formally but predictably also in semantics as well as in productivity.

In this talk I will consider the causative constructions in Southeast Solomonic through the lens of two different approaches to causatives presented by Dixon (2000, 2012)on the one hand, and by Shibatani and Pardeshi (2002)on the other. Both approaches investigate correlations between the formal marking/mechanisms and semantics. Whilst Dixon's focus on formal typology is useful for getting a general understanding of the devices and strategies present in a given language, I suggest that Shibatani and Pardeshi's approach offers deeper insights.

Apart from elaborating on the observation that the formally defined types of causatives form a continuum rather than distinct categories (Comrie, 1985), Shibatani and Pardeshi (2002)capture the functional overlap that exists among causative constructions that are usually assigned to formally distinct types. The semantics of the causative constructions can also be seen as forming a continuum. In addition to the traditional opposition between direct and indirect causation, Shibatani and Pardeshi (2002)discuss an intermediate category existing between these two, called sociative causation. This more fine‑grained understanding of the semantics of causative constructions is very relevant to analysing causatives especially in the Longgu/Malaita/Makira branch of Southeast Solomonic, as different affixes seem to align with different points along this semantic continuum.

The insights provided by Shibatani and Pardeshi (2002)are especially helpful in discussing the differences between the most frequent types causative constructions found in the two branches of the Southeast Solomonic languages, as some of the languages have diverged considerably from the patterns inherited from the ancestral language. Whilst the strategies utilised by the speakers of the more conservative languages are different from those used by speakers of the more innovative languages, productivity seems to be a good predictor the form‑function correlation as argued for by Shibatani and Pardeshi (2002).


Comrie, Bernard. (1985). Causative verb formation and other verb-deriving morphology. In Timothy Shopen (Ed.), Language typology and syntactic description (Vol. III: Grammatical categories and the lexicon, pp. 309-348). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dixon, Robert M. W. (2000). A typology of causatives: form, syntax and meaning. In Robert M. W. Dixon & Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald (Eds.), Changing valency (pp. 30-79). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dixon, Robert M. W. (2012). Basic linguistic theory Volume 3 : Further grammatical topics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shibatani, Masayoshi, & Pardeshi, Prashant. (2002). The causative continuum. In Masayoshi Shibatani (Ed.), The grammar of causation and interpersonal manipulation (pp. 85-126). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

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