(redirected from ergatives)
Related to ergatives: Intransitive verbs


1. Of or relating to a language, such as Georgian, in which the subject of an intransitive verb and the object of a transitive verb are expressed by one grammatical case, and the subject of a transitive verb is expressed by another.
2. Of or relating to the grammatical case of the subject of a transitive verb in such a language.
1. The ergative case.
2. An ergative inflection.
3. A nominal having an ergative form.

[From Greek ergatēs, worker, from ergon, work; see werg- in Indo-European roots.]

er′ga·tiv′i·ty n.


(ˈɜːɡətɪv) linguistics
1. (Linguistics) denoting a type of verb that takes the same noun as either direct object or as subject, with equivalent meaning. Thus, "fuse" is an ergative verb: "He fused the lights" and "The lights fused" have equivalent meaning
2. (Linguistics) denoting a case of nouns in certain languages, for example, Inuktitut or Basque, marking a noun used interchangeably as either the direct object of a transitive verb or the subject of an intransitive verb
3. (Linguistics) denoting a language that has ergative verbs or ergative nouns
4. (Linguistics) an ergative verb
5. (Linguistics) an ergative noun or case of nouns
[C20: from Greek ergatēs a workman + -ive]


(ˈɜr gə tɪv)

1. of or designating a verb in which the subject of the intransitive construction is also the object of the transitive construction: The boat capsized. They capsized the boat.
a. of or designating a grammatical case, as in Basque or Georgian, that indicates the subject of a transitive verb and is distinct from the case indicating the subject of an intransitive verb.
b. similar to such a case in function or meaning, esp. in indicating an agent as subject.
3. of or pertaining to a language that has an ergative case or in which the direct object of a transitive verb and the subject of an intransitive verb are paired grammatically by other means.
4. an ergative verb.
5. the ergative case.
6. a word in the ergative case.
[1945–50; < Greek ergát(ēs) worker]
er`ga•tiv′i•ty, n.


Used to describe a case of verbs that take the same noun as either subject or object, for example “broke” in “She broke the glass” and “The glass broke.”


[ˈɜːgətɪv] ADJ (Ling) → ergativo
References in periodicals archive ?
Notice that, if alternances were to be encoded as features, we would need at least two features: one for transitive alternations (which require an internal argument and an external argument) and one for intransitive alternations, with one or two internal arguments (for distinguishing ergatives from unaccusatives respectively).
Finally, copulative verbs have been shown to favor the preverbal position, though less so than transitives and ergatives (Mayoral Hernandez 2008).
The specific area chosen to demonstrate the heuristic of alternations for the semantics of constructions is that of English intransitive ergatives, which Davidse classifies, according to the lexical restrictions imposed by their grammatical subjects, into two different types on the basis of their possible alternation with a reflexive pattern: He stopped/He stopped himself vs.
The practice followed by all the other dictionaries with regard to reciprocal verbs, which in fact corresponds to that adopted in the case of ergatives, no doubt spares the learner such problems.
Also evaluating competing analyses within Government and Binding theory, Daniela Ionescu, 'The Middle Verbs in English and Romanian', observes that the clear-cut distinction in English between ergatives (for example, break and melt), which all admit an impersonal variant with 'there-insertion', and unaccusatives (go and leave), which do not, is not so neatly mirrored in Romanian, where the categories are blurred by the overlapping reflexive morphology and where even the generalization that unaccusatives cannot passivize seems to require reformulation.
13) gives two examples of passives, but this also occurs with impersonals, modals, ergatives and a few other constructions (van Kemenade 1997).
Perspectives on pedagogic grammar in English language teaching: a study of the acquisition of ergatives by Japanese learners.
Furthermore, Island Halkomelem has a ban on proper noun ergatives, as (15) shows (Gerdts 1988a).
We are aware of Krifka's (1984: 19) famous OTTO geigt example in (i), which shows that it is possible for some speakers to reinterpret unergative verbs as ergatives, as proposed by Drubig (1992):
This study sets out to explore the nature of Ergative Case marking in Pahari language.
Unergatives that assign ergative, unaccusatives that assign accusative.
lt;<Unergatives that Assign Ergative, Unaccusatives that Assign Accusative>>, en Papers on Case and Agreement I, MITWPL, vol 18, pp.