Encoding three-participant events in the Lao clause
Enfield, N. J.
Encoding three-participant events in the Lao clause. Linguistics, 45
(3), 509-538. doi:10.1515/LING.2007.016.
Any language will have a range of predicates that specify three core participants (e.g. 'put', 'show', 'give'), and will conventionally provide a range of constructional types for the expression of these three participants in a structured single-clause or single-sentence event description. This article examines the clausal encoding of three-participant events in Lao, a Tai language of Southeast Asia. There is no possibility in Lao for expression of three full arguments in the core of a single-verb clause (although it is possible to have a third argument in a noncore slot, marked as oblique with a prepositionlike element). Available alternatives include extraposing an argument using a topic-comment construction, incorporating an argument into the verb phrase, and ellipsing one or more contextually retrievable arguments. A more common strategy is verb serialization, for example, where a threeplace verb (e.g. 'put') is assisted by an additional verb (typically a verb of handling such as 'carry') that provides a slot for the theme argument (e.g. the transferred object in a putting scene). The event construal encoded by this type of structure decomposes the event into a first stage in which the agent comes into control over a theme, and a second in which the agent performs a controlled action (e.g. of transfer) with respect to that theme and a goal (and/or source). The particular set of strategies that Lao offers for encoding three-participant events — notably, topic-comment strategy, ellipsis strategy, serial verb strategy — conform with (and are presumably motivated by) the general typological profile of the language. The typological features of Lao are typical for the mainland Southeast Asia area (isolating, topic-prominent, verb-serializing, widespread nominal ellipsis).