Grammatical Relations, Transitivity and Ergativity: An Interactive View of Cleftability

Cheng Luo


Keenan and Comrie's Accessibility Hierarchy (AH) applied to clefting predicts greater c1eftability of subject (s U) than direct object (DO). However, in some Eastern Austronesian languages, particularly Tongan, some transitive SUs are less cleftable than other transitive SUs or DOs, and some DOs are less c1eftable than other DOs. This split pattern relates to both transitivity and ergativity. On the one hand, reduced
cleftability cooccurs with middle verbs which have weaker transitivity. On the other hand, the lesser c1eftability of 3SG transitive SU exhibits a split ergative pattern, whose apparent conflict with the AH may be resolved by reinterpreting the absolutive NP as SU and the ergative N P as DO. In any case, an adequate description of cleftability needs to address
interaction between the AH and other parts of the grammar.

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