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Byline: Shahida Khalique Qudsia Ishaq and Nadeem Haider Bukhari


This study sets out to explore the nature of Ergative Case marking in Pahari language. The paper unfolds the fact that Pahari unlike its sister languages exhibits not only morphological split ergativiy based on the uses of current aspects and tenses but it also provides strong empirical evidence for ergativity at phonological level As Pahari is mainly used for oral communication the native speakers were observed and data analysis was done to see the nature of Ergative Case marking in the aforementioned language. The data show that the ergative marker does not appear with the NPs that end with vowel sound. These nouns are covertly marked for Ergative Case. Subjects that end with consonants bear ergative markers. There is also a variation in Ergative markers and The ergative markers 'e -a -ain' are used to mark the subjects.

This phenomenon sets Pahari apart from its sister languages that exhibit only morphological split ergativiy and have only one ergative marker.

Keywords: case marking ergative pahari language

1. Introduction

Pahari belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages which is a sub group of Indo-European languages (Masica 1991). It is one of the most ancient languages of Indo Aryan family primarily spoken in the hilly areas of Nepal Himalaya region a northern Indian province Himachal Pradesh the Indian controlled Kashmir as well as in the northern areas of Pakistan especially in the Murree and Hazara Districts and in the state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Shakeel 2004). It is the mother tongue of most of the people living in the state of AJ and K. With the differences of accent intonation and stress pattern there are different dialects like Poonchi Pothwari and Mirpuri. These dialects are considerably different in vocabulary and pronunciation (Ahmad 2002).

Pahari being a South Asian language shares most of syntactic characteristics with its sister languages. Ergativity is one of the distinctive features of the South Asian languages. All the South Asian languages such as Gojri (Bukhari 2008) Hindi (Kumar 2006) Urdu (Butt 1995) and Punjabi (Akhtar 2000) are claimed to show spilt ergative system. Like its sister languages Pahari is also a spilt ergative language. The following sections discuss the spilt nature of ergativity and the range of variation in Ergative marking. The first section presents the data to prove the claim that like other languages of the region Pahari also shows morphological spilt ergativity. Section two sheds light on the phonological nature of ergativity in Pahari.

2. Morphological Ergativity in Pahari

A language is said to be morphologically ergative if the subject of an intransitive clause is marked similarly to the direct object of a transitive clause and differently from the subject of transitive clause (Dixon 1994 Trask 1979). The pattern of Ergative Case-marking in Pahari data is in full conformity with the definition of the morphological ergative structure. Ergative Case is assigned to the agent subjects of transitive verbs in past tense or perfective aspect. Consider the following example:

1. a. janghat-e-kapray Totay

oy-ERG.M.SG clothes-NOM.M.PL wash-PST.M.PL

"The boy washed the clothes."

. shafique-e namaz parishori shafique-ERG.M.SG

prayer-NOM.F.SG read-PST leave.PERF.F.SG

"shafique has offered the prayer."

In (1a) the verb tona `wash' being transitive in nature allows the subject `boy' to bear the Ergative Case and does not agree with it. It rather agrees with the object `kapray' that bears the nominative case and therefore can control agreement. Similarly in (1b) the subject carries the Ergative Case as a result the verb does not agree with it.

Example (1) confirms the fact that only transitive verbs allow Ergative Case marker to appear on subjects. The subjects of intransitive verbs always take Nominative or Dative case. They cannot bear Ergative Case whether they are in perfective aspect or imperfective. As the example illustrates:

2 a.Janghatpindigeya


"The boy went to Pindi."

.kuri-a ghusaaya

irl-DAT.F.SGanger-NOM.M.SG come-PST.M.SG

"The girl became angry."

Although in past tense the use of intransitive verb geya "go" in 2(a)makes the subject a Nominative subject and does not allow it to take the ergative marker. In 2(b) the verb aya "came" is also intransitive so its subject takes Dative marker.

In the traditional literature on the case system of South Asian languages such as Hindi-Urdu Mahajan (1994 1997) Punjabi (Butt 1995 Akhtar 2000) and Gojri (Bukhari 2008) etc. it is claimed that South Asian languages exhibit split Ergative Case system. Following this claim it is interesting to note that ergativity in Pahari is also spilt ergative being conditioned by aspect and tense. Ergative Case appears on the subjects in simple past tense and perfective aspects only. Example 3 illustrates the tense aspect based split ergative system:

3. a. faisal-ekhatlekhya faisal -ERG.M.SG

letter-NOM.M.SG write-PST.M.SG

"Faisal wrote a letter."

. faisal-e khatlekhishoria

faisal-ERG.M.SG letter-NOM.M.SG write leave. PERF .SG.PL

"Faisal has written a letter."

c. faisal-e khatlekhishoriasa

faisal-ERG.M.SG letter-NOM.M.SG write leave. PERF.M.SG


"Faisal had written a letter."

The above example shows that subjects bear Ergative marking in past tense and perfective aspect. In 3 (a) the verb /lekhya 'wrote' does not agree with the subject faisal as it exhibits the Ergative Case marker -e. The verb enters into agreement with the object khat 'letter' that is in Nominative Case. Similarly in 3(b) the verb shoria "leave" does not agree with the subject faisal which is in Ergative Case but the verb agrees with the object khat 'letter' that is a Nominative subject. The Ergative Case in 3(a) (b) and (c) blocks the agreement of verbs with the subjects. Instead the verbs agree with the objects which bear nominative case.

Like other languages of the region including Urdu Punjabi and Gojri Pahari does not show Ergativity marking in other tenses and aspects. It shows Nominative-Accusative or Nominative-Nominative constructions in others aspects and tenses. As the following example shows:

4 a. Koiyagaddichalana

man-NOM.M.SGvan-NOM.F.SG drive-HAB.M.SG "The

man is driving! drives a van."

. koiyagaddichlan asa

man-NOM.M.SGvan-NOM.F.SG drive-IMP be.PST.M.SG "The

man was driving a van."

c. janghatpindi gay si

oy-NOM.M.SG pindi-NOM.F.SG go FUT

"The boy will go to Pindi."

Example 4 (a) is in habitual aspect and 4(b) is in past progressive aspect whereas the structure in 4 (c) is in future tense. The subjects in all the sentences are in Nominative Case. This example confirms the fact that Pahari shows Ergativity in past tense and perfective aspect but not in other tenses and aspects.

3. Phonological Spilt Ergativity

In Pahari the assignment of Ergative Case is not just confined to perfective aspect or past tense and the transitivity of the verb but it is also associated with some phonological grounds. The Ergative Case marker does not appear on subject that ends with vowel. These subjective nouns are covertly marked for Ergative Case while subjects that end with consonants bear Ergative Case markers -e -a -am. It refers to the fact that Ergative Case is covertly marked in the context of the subject that ends with a vowel sound. The following example illustrates this argument:

5 .a.salihaaamanday

saliha-ERG.F .SG mango-NOM.M.PL bring-PST.M.PL

"Saliha brought mangos."

. zahidakitavpari

zahida-ERG.F.SG book- NOM.F.SG read- PST.F.SG

"Zahida read the book."

In 5 (a) the NP Saliha ends with a vowel sound and it does not take Ergative marker though it functions as an Ergative subject as the verb does not agree with it. Rather it agrees with object NP. Similarly the same phenomenon can be seen in 5(b) where the subject Zahida also ends with short front vowel `a' and does not allow an ergative marker to appear with it. This example confirms the claim that the NPs ending with a vowel do not take ergative marker but their counterpart subjects (ending with a consonant) overtly take ergative marker. The example 6 illustrates this phenomenon:

6. a. mehmood-exatlikhyasa mehmood-ERG.3 .M.SG

letter-NOM.3.M.SG write.PST be.PST.3 .SG.M

"Mehmood wrote a letter."

. shafque-e kitavpari si

shafque-e-ERG.3 .M.SG book-NOM.3 .F.SG read


"Shafique read a book."

In example (6) the subjects Mehmood and Shafique both end with a vowel sound and they are overtly marked for Ergative Case and cannot show agreement with the verbs. The objects are in nominative Case so the verb agrees with the objects. The above mentioned data make it clear that ergative marker appears on the NPs that end with a consonant sound.

Although ergativity is covertly marked in the context of the words that end with vowel sound Pahari also shows exception. In Pahari ergativity is overtly marked on third person feminine singular nouns ending with vowel sound:

7. a. kuri-a kaprayTotay

irl.-ERG.F .SG clothes-NOM.M.PL wash-PST.M.PL

"The girl washed the clothes."

. bakuri-a kakhaishorya

oat-ERG.F .SGgrass-NOM.M.SG eat-PST


"The goat has eaten grass."

c. billi-a dood pee shoryasa

cat-ERG.F.SG milk-NOM.M.SG drink leave. PERF.M.PL


"The cat had drunk milk."

The subjects kuri girl 'baki' `goat' and billi `cat' all end with a vowel sound `i' that is a feminine marker in Pahari. All these subjects carry ergative marker a'. The verbs in (7a-c) enter into agreement with their respective nominative NPs that are objects as the subjects are marked with Ergative Case. The above example justifies the claim that third person feminine singular nouns ending with vowel sound bear overt ergative markers.

4. Conclusion

This study confirms that Pahari is a split Ergative language like Punjabi Hindi Urdu and Gojri. This work demonstrates that Ergative Case is assigned to the subject when the verb is transitive it carries IMPF features orit is in simple past tense. Furthermore while discussing Ergative Case this study explores an interesting phenomenon that the Ergative marking in Pahari is not confined to only perfective aspect transitivity of verb and agent role of the subject but it also shows phonological condition for marking ergativity. This is an unusual phenomenon which has not been reported for any other language spoken in Pakistan.


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Publication:Kashmir Journal of Language Research
Article Type:Report
Date:Dec 31, 2013

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