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Can a verb have a benefactive marker (applicative marker or index)?


This question concerns a phonologically bound verbal marker that signals that the verb has a beneficiary. The marker could be analyzed in the language-specific case as voice, indexing or a 'bound pronoun'. In some languages, applicative markers may be used to topicalize, focalize or background a beneficiary. This type of marking also counts for this feature. The marker does not have to index the beneficiary. Autobenefactive markers do not count and serial verb constructions that include a benefactive verb (typically 'give') do not count.


  1. Look up the sections on verbal morphology, indexing and argument structure, and adverbial modifiers.
  2. If there are no such sections, search for the words 'give', 'receive', 'recipient', 'benefactive' and 'applicative'.
  3. If the language has a way to index a beneficiary on verbs, code 1.
  4. If the language has a way to mark on the verb that an action has a beneficiary, code 1.
  5. If the language does not have a benefactive marker on verbs and does not index beneficiaries on verbs, code 0.
  6. If the grammar comprehensively describes verbal morphology but does not mention the coding of beneficiaries, code 0.
  7. If there is not enough information in the grammar to understand how beneficiaries are coded, code ?.


Arabana (ISO 639-3: ard, Glottolog: arab1267)

In Arabana, the general transitivizer -la- functions, amongst others, as a benefactive marker. Arabana is coded 1.

‘(They) cry over someone.’ (Hercus 1994: 150)

Thanta   wirra-la-rnda
stuff    buy-BEN-PRS
‘(Father) buys dress material for (them).’ (Hercus 1994: 150)

Jina (ISO 639-3: jia, Glottolog: jina1244)

In Jina, a bound beneficiary pronoun may co-occur in a clause with a co-referential full noun phrase. Jina is coded 1 for this feature.

Adam   val-nara         arga   kə      Falmata
Adam   give-3SG.F.BEN   ring   DAT     Falmata
‘Adam gave falmata a ring.’ (Schmidt, Odden & Holmberg 2002: 111)

In continuous aspect clauses, indirect object pronouns are infixed inside a reduplicated verb (reduplication marks continuous aspect). This counts as indexing.

na   zal-ama-cə-zala
‘I am sending her to you.’ (Schmidt, Odden & Holmberg 2002: 111)

Further reading

Haspelmath, Martin & Müller-Bardey, Thomas. 2004. Valency change. In Geert E. Booij, Christian Lehmann, Joachim Mugdan & Stavros Skopeteas (eds), Morphology: An international handbook on inflection and word-formation. Vol. 2, 1130–1145. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Peterson, David A. 2007. Applicative constructions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Polinsky, Maria. 2013. Applicative constructions. In Matthew S. Dryer & Martin Haspelmath (eds), The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Zúñiga, Fernando & Seppo Kittilä. 2019. Grammatical voice (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics, 59.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Hercus, Luise A. 1994. A grammar of the Arabana-Wangkangurru language, Lake Eyre Basin, South Australia. (Pacific Linguistics: Series C, 128.) Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.

Schmidt, Bodil Kappel, David Odden & Anders Holmberg. 2002. Some aspects of the grammar of Zina Kotoko. (LINCOM Studies in African Linguistics, 54.) Munich: Lincom Europa.

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