'Se' middles in the evolution of predication: Is Serbian a split-accusative language?


  • Ljiljana Progovac


language evolution, middles


Here I build on the proposal that human languages reconstruct back to an intransitive (one argument) absolutive-like grammar, which provides the foundation and common denominator for crosslinguistic variation in the expression of transitivity (e.g. ergative-absolutive, nominative-accusative, serial-verb, and other options) (Progovac 2015a, 2016, 2019). Such one-argument grammars, analyzed as absolutive-like, are arguably still found in a variety of constructions across languages, including in verb-noun compounds in some languages, including English and Serbian, and in Serbian se "middles". Given the highly productive nature of se middles in Serbian, and given their specialization for low elaboration of events, and for the inanimate end of the Animacy Hierarchy, my proposal is that Serbian is best analyzed as a split-accusative language, on analogy with split-ergative languages, in that its dominant/default grammar is accusative, but the absolutive grammar (ergativity) occupies a significant niche.



How to Cite

Progovac, L. “’Se’ Middles in the Evolution of Predication: Is Serbian a Split-Accusative Language?”. Journal of Slavic Linguistics, vol. 30, no. FASL 29 extra issue, Dec. 2022, https://ojs.ung.si/index.php/JSL/article/view/94.



FASL proceedings 2020