The Unaccusativity/Unergativity Distinction in Urdu

  • Tafseer Ahmed University of Konstanz


The article discusses the classification of intransitive verbs into two distinct classes, i.e. unaccusative and unergative (Perlmutter 1978, Burzio 1981, 1986). Burn, fall, drop, sink etc. having patient/theme subject, are supposed to be unaccusative verbs. Work, play, speak, smile etc., having agentive subject, are supposed to be unergative verbs. The unergative/unaccusative distinction has been shown to exist crosslinguistically and language specific tests have been proposed as diagnostics. We find tests for unaccusativity/unergativity distinction for Urdu/Hindi too. On the other hand, we find that there are many Urdu/Hindi intransitives that act both like unaccusatives as well as unergatives in different semantic contexts. Different authors have pointed out this fact for other languages especially of Romance and Germanic families ((Van Valin 1990, Zaenen 1993, Keller and Sorace 2003). This article therefore proposes to abandon a strict two-way distinction between unaccusatives and unergatives and proposes semantic features to model the validity/invalidty of different syntactic constructions involving intransitive verbs.