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.