Ergativity and stage/individual level predications in Nepali and Manipuri

  • Tikaram Poudel University of Kathmandu


Many Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Burman languages of South Asia are morphologically ergative. Of these a few Tibeto-Burman languages of the Central region such as Tamang and Bhujel have consistent ergative systems while majority of them have split ergative systems. These split ergative languages fall into two groups:  aspectual based split ergative patterns such as Indo-Aryan Hindi/Urdu and person based split ergative patterns such as Indo-Aryan Punjabi and Tibeto-Burman Kham. Besides these well known types of split ergative patterns, some South Asian languages such as Manipuri, a Tibeto-Burman language from Eastern region and Nepali, an Indo-Aryan language from Central region show another split ergative pattern based on generic sentences. In these two languages the ergative aligns with the individual level predications and the nominative with the stage level predications. This finding is significant for both typological generalizations and general linguistic theorizing as it provides a new perspective on the uses and functionality of the ergativity in case marking systems.