The Philippine Challenge to Universal Grammar
Nikolaus P. Himmelmann
- Grammatical relations – in particular the relation 'subject of' – and voice are of central concern to any theory of universal grammar. With respect to these phenomena the analysis of Tagalog (and the Philippine languages in general) has turned out to be particularly difficult and continues to be a matter of debate. What traditionally has been called passive voice in these languages […] appears to be so different from voice phenomena in the more familiar Indo-European languages that the term 'focus' was introduced in the late 1950s to underscore its 'exceptional' nature [...]. Furthermore, […] an inflationary use has been made of the term 'ergative' in the last decade; it can thus no longer be assumed that it has an unequivocal and specific meaning in typologizing languages, apart from the technical definition it might be given within a particular framework. But if the Philippine 'focus' constructions are neither passive nor ergative, how else can they be analysed? [...] In this paper a ease will be made for the claim that 'focus' marking should be analysed in terms of orientation, a concept used […] for capturing the difference between English (and, more generally, Indo-European) orientated nominalisations such as 'employ-er' or 'employ-ee', and unorientated nominalisations such as 'employ-ing'. This approach implies that 'focus' marking is derivational rather than inflectional as often presumed in the literature. This is to say that what is typologically conspicuous in Tagalog is not the 'focus' phenomenon per se, since this is very similar to orientated nominalisations in many other languages, but rather the very prominent use of orientated formations (i.e., derivational morphology) in basic clause structure.
The systematization of tagalog morphosyntax
- In the last two decades Philippine languages, and of these especially Tagalog, have acquired a prominent place in linguistic theory. A central role in this discussion was played by two papers written by Schachter (1976 and 1977), who was inspired by Keenan's artcle on the subject from 1976. The most recent contributions on this topic have been from de Wolff (1988) and Shibatani (1988), both of which were published in a collection of essays, edited by Shibatani, with the title Passive and Voice. These works, and several works in-between, deal with the focus system specific to Philippine languages. The main discussion centers around the fact that Philippine languages contain a basic set of 5 to 7 affix focus forms. Their exact number varies not only in the secondary literature, but in the primary sources, i.e. Tagalog grammars, as well, where considerable differences in the number of affix focus forms can be found. All of these works, however, do agree on one point: the Philippine focus system basica1ly consists of agent, patient (=goal or object), benefactive, locative, and instrumental affix forms. Schachter/Otanes (1972) list a number of further forms, and in Drossard (1983 and 1984) we tried to show (in an attempt similar to those of Sapir 1917 and Klimov 1977) that the main criterion for a systematization of the Philippine focus system consists in the difference between the active and stative domains, an attempt which in our opinion was largely misunderstood (cf. the brief remarks in Shibatani (1988) and de Wolff (1988). The present paper is thus, on the one hand, an attempt to repeat and clarify our earlier position, and on the other, a further step towards such a systematization. A first step in this direction was an article on resultativity in Tagalog from 1991. In the present paper this approach will be extended to reciprocity. In the process we will show that it is valid to make a distinction between an active (=controlled action) vs. a stative (=limited controlled action) domain. First, however, we will take a brief look at what makes up the active and stative voice systems.