Transitivity (grammar)
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In
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...

linguistics
, transitivity is a property of
verb A verb () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many la ...
s that relates to whether a verb can take
object Object may refer to: General meanings * Object (philosophy), a thing, being, or concept ** Entity, something that is tangible and within the grasp of the senses ** Object (abstract), an object which does not exist at any particular time or pl ...
s and how many such objects a verb can take. It is closely related to valency, which considers other
verb argument In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
s in addition to
direct object In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
s. The obligatory noun phrases and prepositional phrases determine how many arguments a predicate has. Obligatory elements are considered arguments while optional ones are never counted in the list of arguments. Traditional grammar makes a binary distinction between
intransitive verb In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clause (linguistics), clauses, phrases, and words. Th ...
s, which cannot take a direct object (such as ''fall'' or ''sit'' in
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
), and
transitive verb A transitive verb is a verb A verb, from the Latin ''wikt:verbum#Latin, verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''bec ...
s, which take a direct object (such as ''throw'', ''injure'', or ''kiss'' in English). In practice, many languages (including English) also have verbs that have two objects (
ditransitive verb In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clause (linguistics), clauses, phrases, and words. The t ...
s) or even verbs that can be used as both a transitive verb and an intransitive verb (
ambitransitive verbAn ambitransitive verb is a verb A verb, from the Latin ''wikt:verbum#Latin, verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', '' ...
s, for example ''She walked the dog'' and ''She walked with a dog''). In
functional grammarFunctional grammar may refer to: * Functional linguistics, a range of functionally based approaches to linguistics * Functional discourse grammar, grammar models developed by Simon C. Dik that explain how utterances are shaped based on the goals of ...
, transitivity is considered to be a ''continuum'' rather than a binary category as in traditional grammar. The "continuum" view takes a more semantics, semantic approach. One way it does this is by taking into account the degree to which an action affects its object (so that the verb ''see'' is described as having "lower transitivity" than the verb ''kill'').


History

The notion of transitivity, as well as other notions that today are the basics of linguistics, was first introduced by the Stoics and the Peripatetic school, but they probably referred to the whole sentence containing transitive or intransitive verbs, not just to the verb. The discovery of the Stoics was later used and developed by the philologists of the Alexandrian school and later Alexandrine grammarians, grammarians.


Formal analysis

Many languages, such as Hungarian language, Hungarian, mark transitivity through Morphology (linguistics), morphology; transitive verbs and intransitive verbs behave in distinctive ways. In languages with polypersonal agreement, an intransitive verb will agreement (linguistics), agree with its subject only, while a transitive verb will agree with both subject and direct object. In other languages the distinction is based on syntax. It is possible to identify an intransitive verb in English, for example, by attempting to supply it with an appropriate direct object: *''He kissed ''—transitive verb. *''She injured ''—transitive verb. *'' did you throw?''—transitive verb. By contrast, an intransitive verb coupled with a direct object will result in an grammar, ungrammatical utterance: *''What did you fall?'' *''I sat a chair.'' Conversely (at least in a traditional analysis), using a transitive verb in English without a direct object will result in an incomplete sentence: *''I kissed'' (...) *''You injured'' (...) *''Where is she now?'' *''She's injuring.''
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
is unusually lax by comparison with other Indo-European languages in its rules on transitivity; what may appear to be a transitive verb can be used as an intransitive verb, and vice versa. ''Eat'' and ''read'' and many other verbs can be used either transitively or intransitively. Often there is a semantics, semantic difference between the intransitive and transitive forms of a verb: ''the water is boiling'' versus ''I boiled the water''; ''the grapes grew'' versus ''I grew the grapes''. In these examples, known as ergative verbs, the role of the subject differs between intransitive and transitive verbs. Even though an intransitive verb may not take a ''direct'' object, it often may take an appropriate indirect object: *''I laughed '' What are considered to be intransitive verbs can also take cognate objects, where the object is considered integral to the action, for example ''She slept a troubled sleep''.


Languages that express transitivity through morphology

The following languages of the below Language family, language families (or hypothetical language families) have this feature: In the Uralic languages, Uralic language family: * Mordvinic languages * The three Ugric languages * Northern Samoyedic languages In Indo-European (Indo-Aryan) language familyː * Hindi-Urdu (Hindustani grammar, Hindustani) * Punjabi language, Punjabi * Gujarati language, Gujarati In the Paleosiberian languages, Paleosiberian hypothetical language family: * Languages of both branches of the Eskimo–Aleut languages, Eskimo–Aleut family; for details from the Eskimo language, Eskimo branch, see e.g. Sireniki Eskimo language, Sireniki, Kalaallisut language, Kalaallisut * Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages * Yukaghir * The Ket language has a very sophisticated verbal inclination system, referring to the object in many ways (see also polypersonal agreement). All varieties of Melanesian Pidgin (disambiguation), Melanesian Pidgin use ''-im'' or ''-em'' as a transitivity marker: ''laik'' means 'want', while ''laikim'' means 'like (him/her/it)' in Tok Pisin. All varieties of Salishan languages, Salish.


Form–function mappings

Formal transitivity is associated with a variety of semantic functions across languages. Crosslinguistically, Hopper and Thompson (1980) have proposed to decompose the notion of transitivity into ten formal and semantic features (some binary, some scalar); the features argued to be associated with the degree of transitivity are summarized in the following well-known table: Næss (2007) has argued at length for the following two points: # Though formally a broad category of phenomena, transitivity boils down to a way to ''maximally distinguish'' the two participants involved (pp. 22–25); # Major participants are describable in terms of the semantic features [±Volitional] [±Instigating] [±Affected] which makes them distinctive from each other. Different combinations of these binary values will yield different types of participants (pg. 89), which are then compatible or incompatible with different verbs. Individual languages may, of course, make more fine-grained distinctions (chapter 5). Types of participants discussed include: *Volitional Undergoers (some Experiencer, Recipients, Beneficiaries): [+Vol], [-Inst], [+Aff] :ex. ''me'' in Spanish ''Me gusta.'' ['I like it.'] *Force: [-Vol], [+Inst], [-Aff] :ex. ''the tornado'' in ''The tornado broke my windows.'' *Instrument: [-Vol], [+Inst], [+Aff] :ex. ''the hammer'' in ''The hammer broke the cup.''


See also

* Differential object marking * Ergative–absolutive language * Impersonal verb * Unaccusative verb


Notes


References

* Dryer, Matthew S. 2007
Clause types
In Timothy Shopen (ed.), Language typology and syntactic description, Vol. 1, 224–275. Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. * * * Translation of the title: ''At the cradle of languages''.


External links

*http://www.smg.surrey.ac.uk/features/morphosemantic/transitivity/ do
10.15126/SMG.18/1.09


{{Authority control Grammatical categories Transitivity and valency,