Marking of arguments in Balochi ergative and mixed constructions

08 May

Prof. Dr. Agnes Corne

By: Dr. Agnes Korn

1. Introduction

Balochi (Bal.) is a contemporary language of the Iranian (Ir.) branch of Indo-European languages and is spoken in Western Pakistan, South Western Afghanistan, South Eastern Iran and some other countries by several millions of people. Its dialects may be divided into a Western (WBal.), a Southern (SBal.) and an Eastern (EBal.) group.1 While the majority of Balochi dialects pattern ergatively in the PAST domain (see 1.1), many sentences show somewhat deviant constructions. These patterns are interesting from a typological point of view, specifically in their combination in one and the same language; they are the topic of this paper. The approach will be a comparative one, contrasting Balochi dialects with each other, and with data from earlier Iranian languages.

1.1 Ergative constructions

Nominative constructions are characterised by marking the subject of intransitive constructions (S) in the same way as the agent of transitive constructions (A) while the patient of transitive constructions (P) is marked differently. Ergative constructions, on the other hand, show identical marking of subject and patient, with the agent being marked differently (see e.g. PAYNE 1998:555). As a rule, ergativity in Iranian languages is of the split ergativity type, with nominative patterning of verbs forms from the present stem and ergative for the tenses formed from the past stem. These domains will be referred to as PRESENT and PAST domain, respectively, in what follows.2 So the shown in tables 1 and 2 coexist in the grammatical system in Ir. languages that show ergativity.3 The case used for the patient in nominative constructions is the same as the one used for the ergative agent (underlined).
1.: Marking of arguments in nominative constructions
2.: Marking of arguments in ergative constructions
1 This three way division of Balochi dialects follows JAHANI 2000:11 (see also KORN 2005:41 for more discussion). Although undeniably descending from a common protolanguage, it is questionable to which degree the Balochi dialects spoken today should be termed one language (see KORN, fthc. 3).
2 The two terms are capatalised to indicate that not all forms from the present stem are necessarily some sort of present tense, nor do all formations based on the past stem function as past. For details as to which constructions pattern ergatively and which ones nominatively in Balochi, see KORN (fthc. 1).
3 Cf. e.g. WINDFUHR 1992:31-32. It will be seen that this statement requires modification (as indeed mentioned by Windfuhr), see section 7.

1.2 The Balochi case system

Before embarking on the discussion of ergative Bal. constructions, a short look at the nominal system of Balochi is necessary. Table 3 shows the case system that I assume to underly all Bal. dialects.4 Apart from the vocative, there are four cases: direct, oblique and object case, genitive and vocative. The direct case has the ending -∅ both in the singular and the plural. In ergative constructions, the direct case is used for the patient while the oblique case (underlined) is used to mark the agent.

3.: Balochi case system

direct oblique object genitive vocative
-¯a -¯ar¯a -ai, -¯e, -¯ı, -a, -∅ -∅
plural -¯an -¯an¯a, -¯anr¯a -¯an¯ı -¯an
For the personal pronouns, it is necessary to list the forms of the three major dialect groups separately.

4.: Inflection of Balochi personal pronouns

direct oblique object genitive singular 1st WBal. man man¯a
SBal. man man¯a man¯ar¯a
EBal. mã, ma, m㯠ma¯ mana¯, man㯠ma¯ı, ma˜ı
2nd WBal. taw, ta tar¯a
SBal. tau, to¯ t(a)ra¯ tara¯ra¯ t(h)a¯ı, t(h)¯ı
EBal. thau, tha thar¯a
plural 1st5 WBal. (am)m¯a (am)m¯ar¯a
(am)mai, m¯e
SBal. m¯a m¯ar¯a
EBal. ma¯ ma¯r(a¯) ma˜ı¯
2nd WBal. š(u)m¯a šum¯ar¯a
šumai, šum¯e
SBal. šum¯a šum¯ar¯a
EBal. š(a)w¯a, š¯a š(a)w¯ar, š¯ar š(a)w¯a¯ı, š¯a¯ı
4 For discussion of this case system, see KORN (fthc. 3); for its history, see KORN (fthc. 2). For the case system of the Bal. dialects of Iran, see section 3.1. The transcription of Balochi has been put to unified system; the same applies to the glosses of the examples, some of which are based on the authors’, others are mine. Translations are meant literal rather than idiomatic to reflect the Bal. constructions. The left column of the exanmples specifies the dialect group and the subdialect (where known) of the sentences.
5 The forms am(m)¯a etc. are used in Afghan and Turkmen Balochi.

In most variants of Balochi, there is no distinction between direct and oblique case of the 1st and 2nd person pronouns. The WBal. dialects have only one form for the direct and the oblique case, which derives from the Middle Iranian oblique case. This form is classed as direct case in the remaining dialects, new oblique and object case forms being added to the system. However, even in the dialects which have a neo-oblique case, it is predominantly the forms deriving from the old oblique that are used as agent of ergative constructions (underlined).6 In addition, there are pronominal clitics. These are found in all functions of the oblique cases, including the agent of ergative constructions.7 For the 3rd person, demonstrative pronouns are used, which are for the most part inflected like nouns.

2. “Model” ergative constructions

Bal. ergative constructions of the standard type show the agent in the oblique and the patient in the direct case:
1 s¯abir-¯a ¯e haw¯al-∅ uškit
WBal. PN-OBL DEM news-DIR heard.PAST
(Pakistan) “Sabir heard this news.” (ELFENBEIN 1990/I:62 no. 5)8
2 ¯ay-¯a g¯ok-∅ kušt
SBal. DEM-OBL cow-DIR kill.PAST
(Karachi) “He/she killed the cow.” (FARRELL 1990:39)
3a haw¯e ˇc¯a\-∅ khay-¯a ˇia\-a
EBal. this.very well-DIR who-OBL strike-PERF
“Who has dug this well?”
3b haw¯e ˇc¯a\-∅ m¯a ˇia\-a
this.very well-DIR I.OBL strike-PERF
“I have dug this well.” (GILBERTSON 1923:121)
The manuscript Codex Additional 24048 of the British Library is the oldest known Bal. manuscript,9 it may date from around 1820 (ELFENBEIN 1983:1-4). As demonstrated in the examples quoted in what follows, Bal. ergative constructions at that period had more or less the same form as those of contemporary dialects. An example for the standard form is
4 mard-¯a ham¯e z¯al-∅ gipt
SBal. man-OBL this.very woman-DIR take.PAST
(19th c.) “The man took (i.e. married) this woman.” (CodOrAdd 24048: f. 1a, l. 3)10
In ergative constructions, the verb does not agree with the agent:
6 The same forms are also used after prepositions.
7 On the placement of these clitics, see DABIR-MOGHADDAM (fthc.).
8 This sentence is from a story in the dialect of Kharan in Pakistan.
9 For an edition, see ELFENBEIN 1983. In what follows, the text will be quoted according to folio (f.) and line (l.) of the manuscript plus page of Elfenbein’s edition. The transcription and the analysis are not always identical with those suggested by Elfenbein; glosses are mine.
10 ELFENBEIN 1983:10.

5 ã¯h-㯠to¯b¯ı ˇia\-a-∅
EBal. DEM-OBL.PL diving strike-PERF
“They have dived (lit.: have struck a dive).” (GILBERTSON 1923:59) Conversely, the verb may agree with the patient. There is no agreement in person11 of the verb with the patient in any dialect of Balochi, but 3rd person patient may agree with the verb in number, i.e. the 3pl. ending is optionally added if the patient is understood to be plural:
6 b¯anuk-¯a zahm-∅ kaššit drust-∅ ˇiat-ant
SBal. lady-OBL sword-DIR draw.PAST all-DIR strike.PAST-3PL
(19th c.) “The lady drew a sword [and] struck them all.” (CodOrAdd 24048: f. 4a, l. 2)12
7 ã¯h¯ı-a¯ kull-e˜¯ band¯ı-∅ yala ku\-ag-ant
EBal. DEM-OBL all-ADJ prisoner-DIR free do-PERF-3PL
(Marri) “He has freed all the prisoners.” (BASHIR 1991:104)13
8 z¯ı ã¯h¯ı-a¯ ma˜ı¯ ˇiarr-∅ šušt-ag-ã
EBal. yesterday DEM-OBL my clothes-DIR wash-PERF-3PL
(Marri) “Yesterday s/he washed my clothes.” (BASHIR 1991:104)14
Since the direct case has the ending -∅ both in the singular and the plural, agreement of the patient with the verb, i.e. the 3pl. ending of the verb, is the only indicator (besides the context) of plurality of the patient. Animacy and definiteness are not relevant here: plurality of animate as well as inanimate patients may be marked, neither need the patient be definite (see ex. 29). Ergative constructions that index the agent by way of a pronominal clitic have been treated as a separate type by some authors.15 It does not seem necessary to establish a separate type, though: pronominal clitics function as clitic form of the oblique case pronouns, so they may naturally also be used as ergative agent. These ergative constructions are indeed quite common. Some Bal. dialects use them for all persons, but in others, their use is limited to the 3rd person. It is significant that Bal. dialects where the distinction between direct and oblique case tends to be lost (see section 3.1) make ample use of the pronominal clitics, as their function is unmistakeably oblique.
9 p¯ıa¯la¯-∅=õ¯ zu¯rt-a
SBal. bowl-DIR=PRON.1SG seize-PERF
(Karachi) “I have taken the bowl.” (FARRELL 1990:54)
11 Since there is no gender in Balochi, there is obviously no agreement in gender either.
12 ELFENBEIN 1983:14. Elfenbein transcribes durust.
13 Bashir has kull¯e, which she interprets (Elena Bashir, personal communication) as containing the -¯e “one” (for
which see fn. 23), but it seems to make more sense to assume that the ¯e is nasalised, i.e. the suffix appearing on attributive adjectives.
14 BASHIR 1991:104 interprets these two sentences as showing past perfect, but it seems that they are regular present perfect examples with agreement of the verb with the object. Bashir’s EBal. examples are from an informant from the Marri tribe and appear to be elicited.
15 Thus e.g. MOŠKALO 1985:113-119, FARRELL 1995 and KALBA¯ S¯I 1988:78-82. I am grateful to Moritz Flatow for bringing the latter article to my attention.

10 b¯agp¯an-∅ gipt=¯ı
SBal. gardener-DIR take.PAST=PRON.3SG
(19th c.) “He seized the gardener.” (CodOrAdd 24048: f. 4a, l. 7)16
11 ma¯ı g¯oš-∅ buri\-ag-ant=iš
EBal. my ear-DIR cut-PERF-3PL=PRON.3PL
“They cut off my ears.” (GILBERTSON 1923:73)
The pronominal clitics may also occur in addition to an agent expressed as a noun:
12 ¯e sard¯ar-¯a g¯o man-∅ yak šart=¯ı kut-ag
SBal. DEM chief-OBL with I-DIR one bet=PRON.1SG do-PERF
(19th c.) “This chief made a bet with me.” (CodOrAdd 24048: f. 5b, l. 12)17
3. Marking of the agent
There are contexts in which the agent in the PAST domain is not in the oblique. This effects a marking of arguments that may be called neutral:18 the agent and the patient of transitive verbs, and the subject of intransitive verbs are all marked identically:
5.: Marking of arguments
in Balochi neutral constructions
This pattern is found under two entirely different conditions, viz. in the Bal. dialects spoken in Iran, and in all Bal. dialects in sentences with a pronoun of the 1st or 2nd pronoun as agent and a 3sg. as patient.

3.1 Ergative constructions in Iranian Balochi
Irrespective of their affiliation to one of the major dialect groups, the Bal. dialects spoken in Iran share a case system which markedly differs from that of other Bal. dialects, presumably due to the influence of Persian, whence they will be collectively termed “Iranian Balochi” (IrBal.) here. The genitive may be replaced by the e ˙z¯afe construction.19
16 ELFENBEIN 1983:14.
17 ELFENBEIN 1983:16-17. Elfenbein edits g¯on, but the photo of the manuscript seems to speak for g¯o, both variants of which are used in Balochi (cf. KORN 2005:181).
18 KALB ¯ AS¯I 1988:71 uses the term xon ¯s¯a “hermaphrodite, neutral”.
19 See JAHANI 2004 and 2003 for discussion of the IrBal. case system, for affiliation of IrBal. dialects and some of their features, see KORN 2005:256, for Bal. dialect groups, see also section 1.

6.: Case system of Iranian Balochi

nominative object genitive (or e ˙z¯afe)
singular -∅ -¯a(r¯a) -ey
plural -¯an -¯an¯a -¯an¯ı
Direct and oblique case tend to merge and yield a case that may be called nominative, with an ending -∅ in the singular and -¯an in the plural. The object case is used for indirect objects and for patients in the PRESENT domain. Being the conflation of the direct and the oblique cases, the nominative of Iranian Balochi marks both the agent and the patient of ergative constructions, and also the subject of intransitive verbs. So for Iranian Balochi, “neutral marking” means that agent, patient, and subject in the nominative case in the PAST domain.
Here are IrBal. examples for the subject in the nominative:
13 ost¯ad-¯an ez tehr¯an-∅ a yaht-ent
IrBal. teacher-NOM.PL from PN-NOM IPF come.PAST-3PL
(Sarawani) “The teachers were (lit.: were coming) from Tehran.” (BARANZEHI 2003:93)
14 pogol-㯠tawa¯r a ko
IrBal. frog-NOM.PL sound IPF do.PAST
(Sarawani) “The frogs were making noise.” (BARANZEHI 2003:103)
15 k¯ar-¯an=o tam¯am kapt-e-∅
IrBal. work-NOM.PL=PRON.1SG finish fall-PERF-3SG
“My works have become (lit.: fallen) finished.” (MAHMOODI BAKHTIARI 2003:143)20
The same case marks the agent:
16 e¯ sey-e˜¯ bacˇak-㯠(…) ro¯za=yeš wa¯rt-a
IrBal. this three-ADJ boy-NOM.PL fasting=PRON.3PL eat-PERF
(Sarawani) “These three boys have broken the fast.” (BARANZEHI 2003:94)
The plurality of the patient may still be marked on the verb:
17 n ¯ ˜u gw¯at-∅ ˇcan ˙d-¯ent-˜e
IrBal. now wind-NOM swing-CAUS.PAST-3PL
(Sarawani) “Now the wind swung [the clothes].” (BARANZEHI 2003:82)
18 mõ-∅ d¯at-˜e ramaz¯an-a ke ra-∅
(Sarawani) “I gave them to Ramazan, who [then] went.” (BARANZEHI 2003:83).
20 This sentence is not elicited according to MAHMOODI BAKHTIARI 2003:143 and indeed does not entirely
correspond to its Persian equivalent:
i k¯ar-h¯a=yam=r¯a tam¯am kard-e-am
NP work-PL=PRON.1SG=DO finish do-PERF-1SG
“I have finished my works (now that I am talking to you).”
It is noteworthy that in Iranian Balochi, the agent is expressed by a pronominal clitic in all persons wherever possible (see section 2.). Indeed, the use of these clitics is convenient in a system that would otherwise mark agent and patient identically.
19 ket¯ab=õ w¯ant
IrBal. book=PRON.1SG read.PAST
(Lashari) “I read (past tense) the book.”21
20 t¯an do s¯al dega ma-∅ l¯og=o zort-a
IrBal. until two year next I-NOM house=PRON.1SG seize-PERF
“I will have bought a house by the next two years.” (MAHMOODI BAKHTIARI
21 ˇcand wahd=¯e=yat ke yakk o degar=˜e na-d¯ıst-at
IrBal. some time=one23=
SUB one and other=PRON.1PL NEG-see-PPERF
(Sarawani) “It was some time since we had seen each other.” (BARANZEHI 2003:95)
22 n¯un=˜e belett-∅ gept
IrBal. now=PRON.1PL ticket-NOM take.PAST
(Sarawani) “Now we bought the ticket.” (BARANZEHI 2003:102)
23 dars-∅=en a wã¯
IrBal. lesson-NOM=PRON.1PL IPF read.PAST
(Khash) “We were studying.” (JAHANI 2003:125)
24 zekk-∅=¯ı t¯al¯an kort er ham-¯e tagerd
IrBal. pouring do.PAST from this.very mat
(Sarawani) “She poured out a goat skin on the mat.” (BARANZEHI 2003:83)
The agent is expressed both by a noun and a pronominal clitic specifically when the agent
is a 3sg.:
25 tam¯am-e s¯ıst¯an o bal¯oˇcest¯an-∅ xeil¯ı p¯ıšraft=¯ı kort-a
IrBal. all-EZ PN-NOM much progress=PRON.3SG do-PERF
(Zahedan) “The whole of Sistan and Balochistan has progressed a lot.” (JAHANI 2003:125)
26 al¯ı-∅ hasan-∅=¯ı zat
(Lashari) “Ali hit Hasan.”24
21 Elicited by the author from D¯od¯a Mahm¯udzah¯ı, Iranshahr (January 2005).
22 This sentence is the translation of the Persian sentence (i.e. elicited)
ii t¯a do s¯al-e d¯ıgar x¯ane xar¯ıd-e-am
NP until two year-EZ next house buy-PERF-1SG
“I will have bought a house by the next two years.”
23 The clitic -¯e is usually termed “indefinite article”, but this does not seem quite adequate: its cooccurrence
with the oblique ending shows that it rather denotes e.g. “one (specific)”, not “a (any)” (see also fn. 43).
27 go-˜e al¯ı-∅ ˇian¯ı=¯ı košt-a o ˇiest-a-∅
IrBal. say.PRES-3PL PN-DIR wife=PRON.3SG kill-PERF and jump-PERF-3SG
“They say that Ali has killed his wife and run away.” (MAHMOODI BAKHTIARI
In sentences like these, the use of the pronominal clitic disambiguates a sentence that otherwise would be open to two different analyses: as the pronominal clitic may not be suffixed to the agent, the noun that carries the clitic must be the patient, so Ali is the agent.

3.2 Personal pronouns as agent
As shown in table 4, the 1st and 2nd person pronouns have the same form in the direct and oblique case in Western and Eastern Balochi. In Southern Balochi, the form of the direct case is used for the agent in ergative constructions. The only exception is the EBal. 1sg. pronoun, which has a separate form for the oblique case that is also used for the agent (see ex. 3b).26 Except for the EBal. 1sg., a 1st or 2nd person agent expressed by a full pronoun is in (what is also) the direct case. Such sentences with a 3rd person patient show neutral marking:27
28 man-∅ wat¯ı l¯og-∅ pr¯ošt-ag
SBal. I-DIR own house-DIR break-PERF
(Kech) “I have broken my own house.” (MOCKLER 1877:86)
29 man-∅ xat-∅ likit-ã
SBal. I-DIR letter-DIR write.PAST-3PL
(Karachi) “I wrote letters.” (FARRELL 1990:40)
Examples of this type are not so common, though, because the agent seems to be particularly liable to be indexed by a pronominal clitic.

4. Marking of the patient
In addition to the neutral constructions, there are other patterns in Balochi that have the arguments of sentences in the PAST domain in something else than the ergative pattern. These do not show the patient in the direct case, but the patient is marked as it would be in a nominative construction, i.e. it is in the oblique or in the object case. Examples of this type 24 Elicited by the author from Mohammad Y¯usef Parvareš (Ra’¯ıs¯ı), Espake (January 2005). 25 This sentence is the translation of the Persian sentence
iii m¯ı-g-an al¯ı zan=eš=o košt-e-∅ o far¯ar kard-e-∅
NP PRES-say-3PL NP wife=PRON.3SG=DO kill-PERF-3SG and escape do-PERF-3SG
“They say that Ali has killed his wife and run away.”
26 This form is likely to have been introduced secondarily to match the pattern of agent marking in the oblique
(see KORN, fthc. 1).
27 For 1st and 2nd person patients, see 4.3.

have been considered as incorrect by some authors.28 However, they are rather common, so it seems more adequate to describe them as patterns in their own right, i.e. specific types of mixed constructions.

4.1 Patient in the oblique case
In sentences that have the patient in the oblique case and the agent not a 1st or 2nd person pronoun, the agent and the patient are marked in the same way. The difference to a neutral construction is that the subject of intransitive verbs is in a different case, and that agent and patient are in the oblique. This pattern may be termed “double oblique”.29

7.: Marking of arguments
in Balochi double oblique constructions
The existence of a pattern which has both the agent and the patient marked as oblique is noteworthy since it has been noted that such sentences do not occur.30
30 bacˇakk-a¯ wat¯ı danta¯n-㯠pro¯št
WBal. boy-OBL own tooth-OBL.PL break.PAST
(Pakistan) “The boy broke his teeth.” (BARKER/MENGAL 1969/I:348)
This construction existed already in the 1820s (see also ex. 38):
31 n¯am-¯a har kas-¯a z¯ant
SBal. name-OBL every person-OBL know.PAST
(19th c.) “Everyone knew the name.” (CodOrAdd 24048: f. 13b, l. 13)31
32 ¯e haps-¯a ¯o ¯e zahm-¯a kill¯ah-¯a paˇc=¯ı gipt
SBal. DEM horse-OBL and DEM sword-OBL fort-OBL open=PRON.3SG take.PAST
(19th c.) “He got hold of this horse and this sword [and] the fort.” (CodOrAdd 24048: f. 5b, l. 1-
28 See e.g. COLLETT 1983:21 (who says these constructions “should not” be used) and ELFENBEIN 1983:7.
29 Following HARRIS/CAMPBELL 1995:241. Such constructions are termed n¯ader “singular, uncommon” by
KALBA¯ S¯I 1988:73.
30 FARRELL 1995:222, 224. However, their occurrence is also noted by RZEHAK 1998:178. As Collett does not differentiate between what is oblique and object case here, and as he does not give examples, it is not clear whether the note about the existence of unusual ergative constructions (COLLETT 1983:21) refers to the patterns classed here as double oblique or to tripartite constructions, or to both.
31 ELFENBEIN 1983:30.

33 t¯ıng-¯a k¯az¯ı[-¯e] k¯er-¯a =¯e b¯un-¯a burrit
SBal. slave.girl-OBL officer[-GEN] penis-OBL from base-OBL cut.PAST
(19th c.) “The slave girl cut the officer’s penis from its base.” (CodOrAdd 24048: f. 4a, l. 5-
This pattern is ergativoid in that the verb does not agree with the agent, but may show agreement with the patient:
34 ma¯ zahm-㯠a¯r\-ag-ant
EBal. I.OBL sword-OBL.PL bring-PERF-3PL
“I brought the swords.” (GILBERTSON 1923:113) In all examples of a patient marked in the oblique in the PAST domain that I have found so far, the patient is definite: it seems that definiteness is a necessary condition for the patient being marked this way. However, definiteness does not imply that the patient needs to be in the oblique as is shown, for instance, by examples 1-3. So oblique marking of the patient is obviously optional and is likely to depend on pragmatic factors.

4.2 Patient in the object case
Other examples from the PAST domain have the patient in the object case (with double underlining):
35 kuˇcik-¯a ham¯a ˇiinik-¯ar¯a d¯ıst
SBal. dog-OBL that.very girl-OBJ see.PAST
(Karachi) “The dog saw this girl.” (FARRELL 1995:221)
36 ma¯ mard-ã¯ra¯ ˇia\-a
EBal. I.OBL man-OBJ.PL hit-PERF
“I have struck the men.” (GILBERTSON 1923:197)
32 ELFENBEIN 1983:16. Elfenbein reads zahm (against the photo of the manuscript). For what I assume to be kill¯ah-¯a, the photo indicates kul¯ah¯a, which Elfenbein transcribes as kull¯ah¯a and translates “entirely”, but it is not clear how kull¯ah¯a might be derived from kull “whole”, and in several other places in the story (cf. f. 4b, l. 2 and f. 6b, l. 9-10), zahm, haps and kill¯ah are enumerated as the possessions that are taken away first and given back later. Maybe the copyist mistook a šadda sign in the original for ˙damma.
33 ELFENBEIN 1983:14. I apologise for this example.
The manuscript, which often confuses vowel length, writes burr¯ıt, which is surely an error. Elfenbein transcribes t¯ınga (probably only a misprint), k¯ır¯ae (but the word is k¯er in all other Bal. sources) and b¯on, which is not known to me from other sources. The usual word is bun, so maybe it is a writing error. However, as the word is written throughout in this manuscript, it might perhaps be an existing variant, cf. Persian bon besides b¯un, which might be different developments from Proto-Ir. *budna-.
The genitive ending on k¯az¯ı is not present in this sentence, maybe due to some uncertainty how to write word-final -¯ı-¯e, but it is there in a variant of the same sentence occurring later on in the story: k¯az¯ı-¯e k¯er-¯a-¯e b¯un-¯a burritag “someone has cut…” (f. 6a, l. 12, ELFENBEIN 1983:18). The parallel in f. 6b, l. 3 (ELFENBEIN 1983:18) has drust ¯e (Elfenbein reads ¯ay¯ı) b¯un¯a burritag-ant “someone cut everything from the base”, -ant agreeing with the patient, makes clear that drust here and k¯er-¯a in the other sentences is the patient and that
b¯un¯a has locative function.
This construction is likewise already present in the 1820 manuscript:
37 d¯ıt=iš mard-¯ar¯a
SBal. see.PAST=PRON.3PL man-OBJ
(19th c.) “They saw the man.” (CodOrAdd 24048: f. 4b, l. 3-4)34
38 wat¯ı mardum-¯an¯a l¯o ˙t-¯a¯ent wat¯ı huštir-¯an=¯ı
SBal. own man-OBJ.PL want-CAUS.PAST own camel-OBL.PL=PRON.3SG
(19th c.) “He let ask for his men [and] his camels.” (CodOrAdd 24048: f. 2a, l. 3-4)35
This pattern has agent, patient and subject each in different cases:
8.: Marking of arguments in Balochi tripartite constructions
The difference between these examples and those in the preceding section is that a patient marked with object case ending is human while things, body parts and animals would have the oblique ending (see 4.1). This statement seems to be contradicted by one example in
39 t¯o-∅ ¯ay-r¯a ¯art
(Oman) “You brought it.” (COLLETT 1983:10, Collett’s translation)
Similarly, MOCKLER 1877:18 states that any noun has the endings -∅ or -¯ar¯a when
functioning as patient of an ergative construction, e.g.
40 mard-¯a aps-∅ /
SBal. man-OBL horse-DIR /
(Kech) “The man has killed the horse.” (MOCKLER 1877:21) It is not quite clear how this should be interpreted. The data adduced here by Collett and Mockler here are clearly not derived from free speech, but appear to be elicited, if not even
34 ELFENBEIN 1983:16.
35 ELFENBEIN 1983:12. Elfenbein translates “he asked for his man (sic), his drivers”, and edits l¯o ˙t¯aint and mardum¯an. The photo of the manuscript shows £” x£*HdÆ* (sic); this seems to indicate mardum¯an¯a which to the scribe or the copyist (who probably were not Baloch according to ELFENBEIN 1983:3-4) was not clear:
in the same way, b¯agp¯an¯a (OBL of b¯agp¯an “gardener”, usually spelled £”£C u£†) is written £” x£C u£† in f. 2b, last line – f. 3a, l. 1.
constructed by the authors themselves. It is not excluded, though, that some SBal. dialect(s?) patterns somewhat differently than the others. At any rate, one might say that human patients (and maybe in some SBal. varieties also other patients) may be marked with the object case ending if they are definite. Again, this marking is clearly optional, since sentences like example 4 show a definite human patient in the direct case. According to FARRELL 1995:224,
the marking depends on the presence of a specific emphasis on the patient. It remains to be seen, however, if more specific conditions can be found.
4.3 Personal pronouns
As pronouns of the 1st and 2nd persons are by definition human and definite, it is to be expected that they can appear in the object case when functioning as patient in the PAST domain as well. Indeed, nowadays they apparently have to be in the object case. In Southern Balochi, the use of the oblique is also possible.
41 ta-∅ be ˇc¯akar-∅ man-¯a baxšet
IrBal. you.SG-NOM to PN-NOM I-OBJ give.PAST
(Khash) “You gave me to Chakar.” (JAHANI 2003:126)
42 man-∅ ta-r¯a gušt
(Pakistan) “I told you.” (ELFENBEIN 1990/I:104 no. 100)36
43 r¯ah-¯a mn-¯a tunn-¯a ˇiat-a
WBal. way-OBL I-OBJ thirst-OBL strike-PERF (Afghanistan) “On the way, thirst has struck me.” (RZEHAK 1998:178)37
44 man-∅ ta-r¯a gitt
SBal. I-DIR you.SG-OBL take.PAST
(Karachi) “I caught you.” (FARRELL 1995:224)
45 ba¯dša¯h-a¯ man-㯠khušth-a
EBal. king-OBL I-OBJ kill-PERF
“The king has killed me” (GRIERSON 1921:352)
Again, the 19th century manuscript shows the same structures:
46 ¯e man-∅ b¯ıt-ag-¯an ki
(19th c.) ta-r¯a=un ¯awurt-ag y¯a digar=¯e b¯ıt-∅
you.SG-OBL=PRON.1SG bring-PERF or other=one be.PAST-3SG
“Was it me who (lit.: that I) has brought you, or was it another one (= someone else)?”
(CodOrAdd 24048: f. 8a, l. 5)38
36 The text is a story in the dialect of Kharan (Pakistan).
37 The Bal. dialect of Afghanistan is otherwise entirely nominative. However, epic poetry shows ergative and
other patterns as well.
38 The reading tar¯a-un cautiously suggested by ELFENBEIN 1983:20 seems to be the only solution that makes
sense for the manuscript’s HxÆ° .
47 man-¯ar¯a ¯e kamuk-¯a na-ˇiat=¯ı
(19th c.) “She did not hit me this bit (= not even a bit).” (CodOrAdd 24048: f. 3a, l. 13)39
However, in this manuscript, the pronoun also appears in the direct case when functioning as
48 man-∅=¯ı ˇiat
(19th c.) “She hit me.” (CodOrAdd 24048: f. 3a, l. 7)40
This manuscript seems to indicate a language change within the last 200 years, starting with an optional object case marking of human definite patients in general and ending with the 1st and 2nd person pronouns being always in the object case. The explanation may be that the form of these pronoun is (identical to) the direct case when it functions as agent, there is a strong motivation to mark it differently when occurring as patient. The reason for the marking being oblique or object in Southern Balochi instead of object case throughout is likely to be that the object case marking seems to be a recent system.41 5. Summary of case use in ergative constructions Table 9 presents the result of a counting of case uses in ergative and mixed constructions in
the first story in the British Library manuscript (ELFENBEIN 1983:10-21). The numbers here are not to be taken too literally, as some sentences may be open to different interpretations.
However, the table should give an idea of the relative frequency of sentence patterns.42 We may conclude that in Bal. sentence patterns of the PAST domain, the choice of the case of the patients seems to be governed by criteria of definiteness and animacy (table 10): if the patient is definite, things and animals are optionally in the oblique, thus identical with the agent, while humans may show a specific patient marking, which is not used for inanimate patients or agents, but also for animate patients in the PRESENT domain.
39 ELFENBEIN 1983:14. Elfenbein transcribes man¯ar¯a-¯ı, so that the sentence would contain two pronominal
clitics of the 3sg. The photo seems to indicate ¯e as it is marked with a diacritic sign which in other places of the manuscript is used to differentiate ¯e from ¯ı.
40 ELFENBEIN 1983:14.
41 The function of tar¯a etc. as oblique is due to a rearrangement of the SBal. pronominal system, which uses a doubly marked form (tar¯ar¯a etc.) for the object case (see table 4). The use of tar¯a etc. here may be said to reflect the stage prior to this adjustment.
42 “Transitive verb forms” here include compound verbs which have an additional patient. Multiple patients of one verb are counted as one if they are in the same case.
9.: Marking of agent and patient in the first story in CodOrAdd 24048
transitive verb forms in the PAST domain: 221. plurality of patient marked on these: 11 noun pronoun of the 1st, 2nd person
oblique: 118
“one” + oblique: 243
agent = pronominal clitic: 18
direct case: 2 direct case: 15
direct case: 64
direct + “one”: 12
+ 17 possible nominal parts of
compound verbs
OBL/OBJ case:
sg.: -¯a: 5, -¯ar¯a: 1
pl.: -¯an: 1, -¯an¯a: 1
direct case: 1 man¯ar¯a: 1
tar¯a: 1
10.: Marking of patients in Balochi ergative and mixed constructions
indefinite definite
non-human DIR OBL (optional)
human DIR OBJ (optional)
pronoun 1st, 2nd person – OBL/OBJ (1820 optional, today regular)
To the extent that Bal. neutral, double oblique and tripartite constructions have been noted at all, they have been explained as mixtures of the nominative and the active construction, i.e. by a mixing of the structures seen in tables 1 and 2.44 Such language-internal factors may certainly play a role, but it seems worthwhile to check for additional factors that might have influenced the Bal. sentence patterns.
6. Definiteness and animacy in ergative constructions of neighbouring languages
6.1 Urdu
Indic languages likewise display split ergativity, and the marking of the patient depends on criteria of definiteness and animacy. One might thus wonder whether influence from Urdu 43 These cases are:
yak r¯oˇc-¯e mardum-¯e-¯a ˇc¯arit “one day, a man looked” (f. 4a, l. 10-11); ELFENBEIN 1983:14 reads mardumiy¯a,
which would be morphologically unclear, and ˇc¯ar¯ıt, which is indeed what the manuscript has and would be the 3sg. present tense, but the past stem suffix -it is frequently written -¯ıt in this manuscript (cf. fn. 33);
yakk-¯e-¯a gušt “someone said” (f. 5b, l. 4); ELFENBEIN 1983:16 reads yakkay¯a, but translates “somebody said”, in which function his form would not be clear. In Balochi, the suffix -¯e “one” somes before the OBL ending in all dialects that allow this combination (see KORN, fthc. 2).
44 Cf. e.g. MOŠKALO 1985:121, who uses the term “contamination”. might have caused the Bal. ergative system.45
11.: Marking of patients in Urdu/Hindi ergative constructions
indefinite definite
inanimate NOM NOM
animate (humans and animals) NOM ACC However, comparing the Urdu system to the Balochi one, it emerges that they are not parallel: inanimate patients are not marked in Urdu, no matter whether they are definite or not, while they may be marked in Balochi if they are definite (cf. KLAIMAN 1987:76).
Conversely, marking of definite animate patients is regular in Urdu while it is optional in Balochi even if the patient is animate and definite. The animacy split is also different: while in Urdu, it is animates vs. inanimates, it is humans vs. the rest in Balochi. So the Bal. system of marking of patients is not likely to have been influenced by the Urdu system.
5.2 Bactrian
The animacy split of humans vs. not-humans recalls a phenomenon observed in Bactrian, a Middle Ir. language which was spoken in Northern Afghanistan and beyond and in several respects occupies an intermediary position between East and Western Iranian. Bactrian shows split ergativity with agreement of the verb wiht the patient in person and number:
49 oto=mo to … azado … uirt-hio
Bactr. and=PRON.1SG you.SG.DIR free release.PAST-2SG
“I released you.”46
The preposition abo, which has directional function, is also used to mark patients in the PRESENT and PAST domain if these are human and definite (SIMS-WILLIAMS 1998:86, 2004:2). In this example from the PRESENT domain, the first abo marks the patient, the second and third have local function: 50 od=aldo abo twmaxo abo lado od=abo razogolo oihl-amo Bactr. and=or to you.PL.OBL to court and=to royal tribunal bring.SBJ-1PL
“…or we should take you to court and to the royal tribunal.”47
The same marking is found for definite human patients in the PAST domain:
51 aggit=ido amaxo mano babo odo pidoko abo raliko olo
Bactr. receive.PAST=PTC we I.OBL PN and PN to PN wife
“We received – I, Bab, and [I], Piduk – Ralik [as our] wife.”48
45 For Urdu influence on Balochi, see e.g. FARRELL 2003, KORN 2005:48-50, for more on Urdu cases, see e.g.
46 From a deed of manumission (ed. SIMS-WILLIAMS 2000:45, document F, l. 8, maybe 480 AD).
47 From a contract for the purchase of an estate (SIMS-WILLIAMS 2000:59, document J, l. 24, possibly from 528
AD). twmaxo is only attested in oblique function (SIMS-WILLIAMS 2000:227).
The Bactrian constructions might indicate that criteria of animacy and definiteness were relevant in Iranian languages of the region already in Middle Iranian times.
6.3 Parthian
If this is the case, this might open an interesting aspect for Parthian, which is particularly relevant here since it is the Middle Iranian language that is most closely related to Balochi.
Like Bactrian, Parthian shows split ergativity with verbal agreement with the patient in person and number:
52 u=t az hišt h-¯em s¯ewag
Parth. and=PRON.2SG I.OBL leave.PAST COP-1SG orphan
“… and you have left me as an orphan.”49
53 u=š¯an ¯o murd¯an ¯edw¯ast h-¯em
Parth. and=PRON.3PL to dead-OBL.PL lead.PAST COP-1SG
“… and they have lead me to the dead.”50
In many Parthian examples from the PAST domain, a plural patient51 is not in the direct, but in the oblique case, thus marked identically with the agent. In example 53, the agent is expressed by the pronominal clitic -um, the patients, which are definite and human, are marked with the oblique ending, and the verb agrees with them: 54 ab¯aw=um harw-¯ın br¯adar-¯an ud wx¯ar-¯ın
Parth. there=PRON.1SG all-OBL.PL brother-OBL.PL and sister-OBL.PL
pad kirb¯ag wind¯ad ah-¯end
in piety find.PAST COP-3PL
“There, I found all brothers and sisters in piety.”52 Such examples have been interpreted as showing the ending being generalised as plural marker. This process is well-known to have happened in Middle Persian.53 It remains to be investigated, however, to which degree it has operated in Parthian, i.e. how many of the instances of an unexpected Prth. suffix involve the marking of a patient in an otherwise ergative sentence, and whether animacy and definiteness might play a role here as well.
48 From a marriage contract (SIMS-WILLIAMS 2000:33, document A, l. 15-16, maybe from 333 AD). amaxo serves both as direct and as oblique case of the 1pl. pronoun (SIMS-WILLIAMS 2000:179).
49 Fragment M 42 R i l. 15-16, quoted from DURKIN-MEISTERERNST p. 282.
50 Fragment M 7 II V ii, l. 1-3 (transliteration and German translation in ANDREAS/HENNING 1934:29.
51 In the singular, nouns (including family terms, cf. SIMS-WILLIAMS 1981:170) are not differentiated for case.
52 Transliteration and German translation in ANDREAS/HENNING 1934:858. Part of the example is also cited in RASTORGUEVA/MOLˇCANOVA 1981:223.
53 Cf. e.g. SUNDERMANN 1989:155. The same process also takes place in IrBal. dialects (see 3.1).

7. Conclusion
7.1 Balochi sentence patterns
The discussion above has revealed the existence of a large variation of sentence patterns in Balochi: in addition to nominative and ergative patterns, there are neutral, double oblique and tripartite patterns. Bal. neutral double oblique and tripartite patterns are charaterised by the verb optionally agreeing with 3pl. patients. These patterns interact in complex ways: Balochi as a whole patterns nominatively in the PRESENT domain, and in sentences of the PAST domain that have a pronoun of the 1st or 2nd person54 both as agent and as patient. Some WBal. varieties pattern nominatively also in all other contexts. The remaining dialects show neutral patterning for 1st and 2nd pronoun agents in sentences with a 3rd person patient. For other constructions, the dialects diverge considerably. For Iranian Balochi, neutral patterning is the general pattern in the PAST domain, while the remaining dialects have ergative constructions. Instead of the ergative, double oblique may be used for definite non-human patients and tripartite patterning for definite human ones.

12.: Patterns of argument marking in Balochi dialects
Western Balochi Southern
PRESENT domain nominative pattern (table 1)
PAST domain:
agent and patient 1st, 2nd pronoun
PAST domain:
agent 1st, 2nd pronoun, patient 3rd nominative
(table 1)
neutral pattern (table 5)
PAST domain: agent and patient 3rd
ergative pattern (table 2) neutral pattern
(table 5)
PAST domain:
patient 3rd definite non-human ergative pattern (table 2) or double oblique pattern (table 7)
PAST domain:
patient 3rd definite human ergative pattern (table 2) or tripartite pattern (table 8)
PAST domain:
patient 1st, 2nd pronoun tripartite pattern (table 8)
54 In this table, “pronoun” denotes “full pronoun” (to the exclusion of pronominal clitics). For the EBal. 1sg. pronoun, see 3.2. The nowadays regular marking of 1st and 2nd person pronouns in a way that is different from that of 3rd persons may be described as a Identified Object Marking (IOM) or Differential Case Marking phenomenon (see FARRELL 1995:222, MIRDEHGHAN, fthc.). FARRELL 1995:224 argues that the optional marking of patients (in Farrell’s view only with object case endings) is not a candidate for IOM as it does not depend on identification, but on emphasis. However, the data suggest that only identified objects may be marked (albeit additional factors are also necessary) while unidentified may not, so the oblique and object case marking of patients may also be interpreted within an IOM framework.

Thence some WBal. dialects only show one pattern, Iranian Balochi shows nominative and neutral pattern and the remaining dialects show all five patterns that have been observed in language typology. Indeed, it appears that no Bal. dialect has (only) the two patterns shown in table 1 and 2.

7.2 The context of Iranian ergative constructions
It seems rather plausible that a similar statement might apply to other Iranian languages as well, as can indeed be inferred from the Bactrian examples given above. For instance, STILO 2004:243 notes nominative, ergative and double oblique constructions for Vafsi. However, the Vafsi double oblique constructions differ from the Bal. ones in that the verb agrees rather with the subject. Tripartite constructions are not uncommon in Western Iranian languages either: in Middle Persian and Parthian, patients (and indirect objects) in the PRESENT and PAST domain may be marked by the preposition ¯o,55 so that in the PAST domain, there is tripartite marking besides ergative. There is also a certain tendency to neutral marking in sentences where ¯o is not used, as direct and oblique case are in many instances not distinguished (see 6.3).
These data taken together might tend to speak against the terms in which Iranian neutral, double oblique and tripartite constructions in the PAST domain have been described. So far, these have been thought to show a “decay” of ergativity and “transition” between ergative and nominative constructions.56 It goes without saying that from a diachronic point of view, this is certainly correct in that the starting point are ergative constructions, and it is possible that the end point is a consistent nominative patterning as it is in the case of New Persian and some WBal. varieties. However, the presence of neutral, double oblique and tripartite constructions in such a wide range of languages from the Middle and New Iranian period would seem to indicate that such constructions may indeed be rather stable,57 so in this sense, their labeling as transitory or decaying is somewhat misleading. The mixed constructions may indeed have persisted for quite a long time (and continue to do so), and coexist with other patterns in one and the same language. Abbreviations:
1sg., 1SG 1st person sg. (other persons accordingly)
A agent (of transitive verbs)
ACC accusative case
ADJ adjective suffix
Bal. Balochi
CAUS causative
CodOr 24048 = ed. ELFENBEIN 1983
COP copula
DEM demonstrative pronoun
55 Unlike Bactrian, this marking seems to be independent of animacy, e.g.
iv nidraxt ¯o haw-¯ın panˇi ahrewar
Parth. oppress.PAST to that-OBL.PL five pit.of.death
“(The Prince of Darkness) subdued those five pits of destruction.” (Fragment M 507 V l. 14,
transliteration and translation in BOYCE 1952:441)
For the uses of ¯o, see also BRUNNER 1977:132-140 and DURKIN-MEISTERERNST p. 230-238.
56 Cf. e.g. FARRELL 1995:218, 240 and SIMS-WILLIAMS/CRIBB 1996:87, 90.
57 See also WENDTLAND 2005 for data that seems to point in the same direction.
DIR direct case
DO marker of direct object
EBal. Eastern Balochi
EZ e ˙z¯afe
f. folio
GEN genitive case
IPF imperfective aspect
Ir. Iranian
IrBal. Iranian Balochi (= Balochi spoken in Iran)
l. line
NEG negation
NOM nominative
NP New Persian
OBJ object case
obl., OBL oblique case
P patient
PAST past tense; domain of ergativity (see 1.1)
PERF present perfect
pl., PL plural
PN personal name
PPERF past perfect
PRES present tense
PRESENT domain of nominative constructions (see
PRON pronominal clitic
PTC particle
S subject (of intransitive verbs)
SBal. Southern Balochi
SBJ subjunctive mood
sg., SG singular
SUB subordinating particle
WBal. Western Balochi


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