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Can the recipient in a ditransitive construction be marked like the transitive patient?


As a ditransitive construction we consider constructions with ditransitive verbs expressing a physical transfer of possession or a mental transfer of messages (give, lend, hand, feed, send, bring, show, tell, teach). A ditransitive verb must allow overt expression of an agent, a theme and a recipient/addressee as separate NPs. The morphological marking of these arguments (e.g. accusative case, dative case vs. adposition marking) is irrelevant for counting a verb as ditransitive.

‘Marking’ for the purposes of this feature includes both flagging (i.e. case and adposition marking) and indexing on the verb. 1 is primarily triggered by flagging. Only if there is no overt flagging for neither the P argument nor the recipient argument, indexing is considered. 1 covers both the ‘double-object construction’ and the ‘secondary-object construction’ of Haspelmath (2013).


  1. Consider the section in the grammar that deals with argument flagging (i.e. case and adposition marking) and indexing. Check whether it discusses ditransitive verbs. If not, search the grammar for examples with ditransitive verbs.
  2. If the overt flagging of the P argument and the recipient argument is identical, code as 1.
  3. If the P argument and the recipient are marked with different flags, code as 0.
  4. If only the P argument or only the recipient is overtly marked, code as 0.
  5. If neither the P argument nor the recipient are overtly marked, consider the indexing patterns on the verb.
  6. Code as 1 if the two arguments are indexed identically.
  7. If the indexing of the P argument differs from the indexing of the recipient, code as 0.
  8. If there is neither overt indexing not flagging for both P and the recipient, code as 1.
  9. Various ditransitive verbs might have different marking patterns. As the question is about the possibility of the recipient in a ditransitive construction to be marked like the transitive patient, code as 1 even if not all verbs follow this pattern and add a comment.


Awa-Cuaiquer (ISO 639-3: kwi, Glottolog: awac1239)

Though only some Ps (pronouns and certain nouns) are overtly marked with the dative suffix in Awa-Cuaiquer (compare the marked P argument in (a) vs. the unmarked P argument in (b), this situation still counts as 1, as some P are identically marked with the recipient, as in (c).

a. Demetrio  na-wa    pyan-tɨ-tɨ-s
   Demetrio  1SG-DAT  hit-TERM-PST-LOCUT.P
   ‘Demetrio hit me.’ (Curnow 1997: 65)

b. Demetrio  kuzhu  pay-t   kway-zi
   Demetrio  pig    buy-t   PFV-NLOCUT
   ‘Demetrio bought a pig.’ (Curnow 1997: 65)

c. na=na        Santos=ta   pashu    mɨla-ta-w
   1SG.NOM=TOP  Santos=DAT  daughter give-PST-LOCUT.SBJ
   ‘I gave my daughter to Santos.’ (Curnow 1997: 74)

Further reading

Haspelmath, Martin. 2013. Ditransitive constructions: The verb ‘give’. In Matthew S. Dryer & Martin Haspelmath (eds), The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Malchukov, Andrej, Martin Haspelmath & Bernard Comrie. 2010. Ditransitive constructions: A typological overview. In Andrej Malchukov, Martin Haspelmath & Bernard Comrie (eds), Studies in ditransitive constructions: A comparative handbook, 1–64. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.


Curnow, Timothy. 1997. A grammar of Awa Pit (Cuaiquier): An indigenous language of south-western Colombia. Canberra: Australian National University. (Doctoral dissertation.)

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Alena Witzlack-Makarevich