On the subclassifcation and semantics of motion verbs in Arrernte

David P. Wilkins
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen

This paper explores the morphosynactic and semantic properties of motion
verbs in Eastern Arrernte (more particularly the Mparntwe and Eastern
varieties of Eastern Arrernte spoken by current residents of Alice
Springs).   For the purposes of this exploration, I identify as "motion
verbs" all those verbs which can occur in a clause with both an Ablative
case-marked Ground and an Allative case-marked Ground, and which entail
that the subject of the clause changes location from the 'vicinity' of one
Ground to the 'vicinity' of the other.  That is, the subject is the Figure
which changes location.  This criterion identifies both intransitive and
transitive forms.  Motion verb roots identified using this diagnostic can,
by and large, be further subdivided into three formally and semantically
distinct motion subclasses - (i) "deictic" motion verbs (e.g. /alhe-/ 'go';
/aknge-/ 'to take something to; carry'; understood as "deictic" only in the
sense of Wilkins and Hill 1995); (ii) oriented motion verbs (e.g. /irrpe-/
'to go into; enter'; /itnye-/ 'to fall'); and (iii) manner of motion verbs
(e.g. /artnerre-/ 'crawl').  I will discuss each of these three subclasses
in turn and describe their distinctive properties.  Interestingly, based on
available tests for argumenthood, the intransitive members of each of the
three motion subtypes are associated with a distinctive argument structure
pattern (i.e. each subclass is associated with a different case array).

In the course of the discussion, I will also demonstrate that, in terms of
Talmy (1985), (a) the characteristic lexicalisation type for motion verb
roots in Arrernte involves the conflation of "Path" with "fact-of-Motion"
(in contrast to English which characteristically conflates "Manner/Cause"
with "fact-of-Motion"), and (b) Arrernte is a "verb-framed", rather than a
"satellite-framed language", when it comes to the expression of "Path"
notions.  Of some interest is the fact that Arrernte has an extremely
restricted number of manner of motion verbs, and, textually, manner of
motion is rarely explicitly mentioned (or is left underspecified).
However, if time permits, I will use video excerpts to demonstrate that
manner of motion is often overtly expressed in other semiotic modalities
that accompany speech, such as gesture, hand sign, and sand drawing, even
though the corresponding speech has no mention of manner.

Date created: 24 March 1998
Last modified: 24 March 1998
 1998 David Wilkins
Maintained by: David Nash

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