Valence in Classical Trevecian – part 3/3

(Access the previous parts here: Part 1 and Part 2.)

Part 3: Ideologies of Noun Class and Valence

When considering actual usage of valence particles in Classical Trevecian, patterns that depart from the grammatical rules described above are often encountered. These apparently “incorrect” usages, however, still have their own internal logic when viewed in social context, especially with regard to the language ideologies underlying categories of class and valence. These ideologies reflect primarily with reference to human actors, and are based around two underlying principles (or “stereotypes”):

a) Humans are prototypical agents. There is a tendency towards viewing human entities as the “appropriate” agents of actions, and thus expressing their status as non-agents can be considered demeaning.

b) Humans are superior to all other entities. In terms of Classical Trevecian grammar, this means that entities of Class 1 (that is, stereotypical human beings) are considered superior to entities belonging to other classes. Hence, implying that a human being is not a member of this class is considered demeaning.

There are two basic ways in which usage of valence particles plays upon these stereotypes: “incorrect” class agreement for human referents and “incorrect” alignment particle use, which implies either “demotion” of “elevation” of a human referent to a more (or less) agentive role. These techniques are discussed in turn below, with examples.

3.1 “Incorrect” class agreement

Normally, all human referents count as members of Class 1 for purposes of valence particle agreement. However, sometimes it is clear that the entity referred to is a human being, but the valence particle agrees with a Class 4 (rather than Class 1) referent in the appropriate valence slot:

so-kûf tôvi dorh-u
this-man kick A4.P1-me
“that man kicked me”

Here, the “correct” valence particle to use would be kan, implying a Class 1 agent (the man) and a Class 1 patient (the speaker); however, the particle actually used is dorh, implying a Class 4 agent. This implies that the referent is somehow unworthy of being referred to as a “proper” human being, and is effectively demoted to a “lower” class of animate entities – one which includes most animals. Not surprisingly, this Class 1-Class 4 switch is often used in an insulting way, or more rhetorically to “lessen the worth” of one’s enemy. It is also quite common with second-person referents, as in the following example:

me-tôvi dorh dê
you-kick A4.P1 he
“you kicked him”

(In the example above, there are two possible “ideological” strategies for compounding the insult even further: a) replacing the agent with a third-person pronoun; b) inflecting the verb for a first-person subject. The details of these techniques are beyond the scope of the present discussion, however.)

This strategy is not limited to agents – human referents acting as Experiencers and Patients can be similarly “demoted” by incorrect class agreement. In the first example, the particle mas (agreeing with a Class 4 Experiencer) is used instead of dorh, while in the second example, sîm (agreeing with a Class 4 Patient) replaces kan:

so-kûf gêba mas
this-man fall E4
“that man fell”

yhirâp-af žaman sîm surûf
soldier-IND.PL A1.P4 exile
“soldiers killed the exile”

3.2 “Incorrect” alignment

Another ideologically motivated strategy of valence particle use is to keep class agreement intact, but use a valence particle that either elevates or demotes the role of the referent in the sentence. For instance, the referent’s relative status with regard to the speaker may be elevated by using an “incorrect” valence particle that implies that the referent is more central to the action that is actually the case: thus, a Class 1 Patient may be elevated to an Experiencer, and a Class 1 Experiencer may be elevated to an Agent. The particles kan and žårs (implying a Class 1 Patient) can be replaced by the particle dorh, which can also imply a Class 1 Experiencer:

kîmas žaman dorh
king kill E1
“the king was killed”

Similarly, the particle dorh, implying a Class 1 Experiencer, may be replaced by one of the particles sith or sîm (which both unambiguously imply a Class 1 Agent):

kîmas gêba sith
king fall A1
“the king fell”

On the other hand, the referent’s relevant status may also be demoted, by “switching” valence particles in the other direction. Thus, the particle dorh may be replaced by žårs in order to ideologically demote a Class 1 Experiencer to a Patient:

gî gêba žårs
child fall P1
“the child fell”

Similarly, the particles kan, kari, sith, sîm, and sîri (when implying a Class 1 Agent) may be replaced by the particle dorh, to ideologically demote an unambiguous Agent to an Experiencer:

surûf žaman dorh kîmas nu
exile kill E1 king LOC
“the exile killed the king”

Notably, these processes of elevation and demotion interact to an extent with valence adjusting operations. The following rules can be observed:

a) Elevating a Patient to an Experiencer requires the Agent of the action to be expressed as an oblique, usually with the instrumental particle da, effectively forming a quasi-passive clause:

kîmas žaman dorh yhirâp-af da
king kill E1 soldier-IND.PL INSTR
“the king was killed by soldiers”

b) Elevating an Experiencer to an Agent cannot be considered a valence increasing operation, since no Patient can appear in the sentence.

c) Demoting an Experiencer to a Patient always forms a “middle” clause (marked appropriately by the particle žårs); valence particles implying an identifiable Agent cannot be used.

d) Ideological demotion of an Agent to an Experiencer is effectively a valence decreasing operation, and cannot be formally distinguished from the formation of reflexives and antipassives. With ideological demotion, any existing Patient is usually demoted to an oblique marked by the locative particle nu, as in the following example (already cited above):

surûf žaman dorh kîmas nu
exile kill E1 king LOC
“the exile killed the king”

This contrasts with antipassives, where the Patient is demoted using the distributive kêse. There is nevertheless some potential for ambiguity (i.e. whether a reflexive, antipassive, or ideological-derogatory meaning is “intended”), especially if the patient is not expressed directly.

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