I might not be able to post much for a week or so, so I'm counting on you guys to discuss this lively-style

  • nomimono: lit. "drink (transitive) thing", "a drink"
  • tabemono: "eat thing", "something to eat, food"
  • kakimono: "write thing", "a document, writing"
  • atemono: "guess thing", "a riddle"
  • araimono: "wash thing", "washing, laundry"


  • kowaremono: "break (intransitive) thing", "breakable, fragile item" or "broken item"
  • ikimono: "live thing", "living thing, animal"
  • narimono: "make a sound thing", "musical instrument"

It seems that if you add -mono to the renyoukei of a transitive verb, you get the meaning of "something which is itself [verb]ed". But if you add -mono to an intransitive verb, you get "something which [verb]s".

So, my question is, is this a kind of ergative-absolutive system, or is there a simpler explanation?

Special bonus complicated exception: iremono ("put [something] in [something else] (transitive) thing") means "container". In other words, even though it's formed from a transitive verb, its meaning is not "something which is itself [verb]ed". On the other hand, an iremono isn't a direct object, it's an indirect object ("I put the book into the box"), which may make it an exception to the rule.

Popularity factor: 6


The difference between transitive and instransitive in Japanese is often a point of amusement for me. Sitting in the train, and the like, contemplating the relative importance of T/I compared to that of English. It's neat.

If the result of the lively-style discussion is that its an Ergative element, so much the better for my linguistic day dreams.


This discussion was a lot less lively than I had hoped. Oh well.


Well, I was going to talk about ergativity for a bit, but I don't really have any intuitions regarding -mono, so I didn't.


I will accept general comments about ergativity, cause I really don't know much about it (shameful, because my home country's language families are famous for their ergativity).


Okay. (I've been a little distracted - someone mentioned Italian toasted sandwiches, and I ended up redoing my sandhi charts in Devanagari).

I've never thought -ee was a particularly good example of ergativity in English, because it's not really productive with intransitive verbs. Not for me, anyway. A better example, I think, is "the verbing of the noun", where noun is the absolutive argument of verb (you can probably force an ergative (um, non-ergative) reading in some cases, but without context I think the absolutive reading is the most natural). That's just something I thought of myself, so maybe you can think of counterexamples.

These ergative structures in English (and Japanese) point to the idea that it's probably a mistake to treat ergativity as a holistic typology, to think that there are ergative languages and accusative languages and finding ergative structures in an accusative language is anomalous. It doesn't look like there are any totally ergative languages, that is, languages that make an ergative/absolutive distinction everywhere they possibly could. And I wonder if maybe the same isn't true of accusativity.

(I haven't read the Wikipedia article, really, so some of the above may be redundant. I tend not to read Wikipedia stuff on linguistics, because I generally know enough to see that something's wrong without knowing enough be able to correct it properly.)


hi matt - i've drifted from studying japanese for a while - i took a 10 week spanish beginner spanish class ( only meets twice a week ) but anyways - i learned comer is to eat, and comida is food. beber is to drink - and bebida is drinks. it is similar to japanese - tabemono - nomimono. i thought it was so amazing ! i wonder what other languages have this pattern.

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