The Animacy Hierarchy or Nominal Hierarchy is a scale of noun phrases' relative animacy or capability to function as agent of a sentence. Categories higher in the hierarchy are more animate/agental and categories lower in the hierarchy are less animate/agental:
- first person, second person
- third person
- personal name/kin term
In languages with split ergativity categories towards the top of the hierarchy are most likely to have nominative- accusative case marking while items towards the bottom are most likely to have ergative-absolutive case marking. Again there are no known languages that violate the hierarchy, i.e. having ergative-absolutive marking on first/secondperson pronouns and nominative- accusative marking on inanimates. Languages differ with regard to where in the hierarchy they draw the border, but they do not violate the hierarchy.