Degrees of volition

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Degrees of volition are a category of the noun that is expressed by various subject cases or other formal means in some languages, such as Tokana, Poswa and the Albic languages. (There may be natlangs with degree-of-volition marking, but I know of none.)

Volition in Old Albic

In Old Albic, the degree of volition of an agent is marked by the case the agent appears in. If the agent acts out of its own volition, it is in the agentive case. This is the unmarked degree. If it acts accidentally, it is in the dative case. If its action is the result of an external force, it is in the instrumental case, and the verb does not carry an agent agreement marker. The latter is the only degree of volition possible with an inanimate 'agent'. With verbs of perception, dative case marks cursory perception, and agentive case marks deliberate observation. Some examples:

(1a) Ibretara o ndero am phath.
AOR-break-3SG:P-3SG:A M-AGT man-AGT I-OBJ knife-OBJ
(1b) Ibretara on nderon am phath.
AOR-break-3SG:P-3SG:A M-DAT man-DAT I-OBJ knife-OBJ
(1c) Ibreta ømi nderømi am phath.
AOR-break-3SG:P M-INST man-INST I-OBJ knife-OBJ

All three sentences can be translated as 'The man broke the knife', but (1b) emphasizes that the man did not mean to break the knife, but broke it accidentally, and (1c) that he was forced to break the knife.

The same kind of degree-of-volition marking applies to agentive intransitives.

Volition marking in Poswa

In Poswa, nouns that take possession markers must also be marked for one of three manners of volition in order to be the subject of a verb. These markers also promote inanimate nouns to the highest level in Poswa's animacy hierarchy, which means that inanimate nouns can in fact be the agent of a transitive verb, in a roundabout way.

Use with animate nouns

Here the same sentence above, The man broke the knife, is translated into Poswa in several different ways to show the different shades of meaning provided by the volition markers.

The simplest and most common method is to translate the sentence directly without using any volition marking. Sabas is "man", poppup is "knife", and wisi- means "to break" in the sentence

Sabas₁ poppwep₂ wisibebel.₃
The man₁ broke₃ the knife.₂

However, in some situations, a finer distinction of meaning is desired. This can only be specified, however, by also adding a possession marker to the noun. Then, after the possession marker, two optional markers may further be added to distinguish between the three possible manners of volition. These markers are placed only on the agent noun; however, the verb also changes in a subtle way which will be explained further below:

Sapšo poppwep wisibebi.
I forced my man to break the knife.
Sapšos poppwep wisibebel.
I allowed my man to break the knife.
Sapšosa poppwep wisibebel.
I () my man to break the knife.
My man broke the knife.

Note that it is only in the third — and longest — sentence that the man gains the ability to act on his own, independently of his owner. As above, animate nouns such as sabas "man" are often found in unbound form, without a possessor, and in such cases are always treated as being able to act independently. However, even animate nouns lose this ability when the patient of the verb is of a higher animacy level than the agent.

See also