Volume 14, Issue 6 (2024)                   LRR 2024, 14(6): 211-244 | Back to browse issues page


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Golfam A, Tabatabai S. Differential Object Marking in Persian A Typological Review of the Object Marker “rā”. LRR 2024; 14 (6) :211-244
URL: http://lrr.modares.ac.ir/article-14-54258-en.html
1- Linguistics Department, Humanities Faculty, Tarbiat Modares University , golfamar@modares.ac.ir
2- Linguistics Department, Humanities Faculty, Tarbiat Modares University
Abstract:   (5108 Views)
The linguistic phenomenon of differential object marking (DOM) has long been recognized as a basis for typological categorization of world languages in terms of how the direct object is case-marked. Yet, DOM in Farsi constitutes a source of contention among linguists. Some of them maintain that DOM actually exists in Farsi where they assert some types of the direct object are case-marked with “rā,” but, on the contrary, others give counterexamples for each instance to prove that is not the case. That is why some Iranian linguists have entirely abandoned the idea of DOM in Farsi and assigned “rā” a new functional role other than an object case-marker. By elucidating the theoretical bases of DOM in general, the present analytical review aims to apply a new approach to how “rā” is used in Farsi sentences with transitive verbs. The approach not only proposes explanations for the aforesaid counterexamples, but also attempts to restore its grammatical role as the case-marker of the direct object to “rā” by introducing a new viewpoint on DOM in Farsi. Thus, by establishing a grammatical role to “rā” as a marker of some kinds of direct objects, the present paper has attempted to redefine DOM in Persian. It is hoped that future corpus-based studies about the relative frequencies of “rā” occurrences in Persian sentences will lend evidential support to this theoretical approach.

1. Introduction
Differential object marking (DOM) is a linguistic phenomenon in over 300 world languages where the object of a verb can be either case-marked or unmarked, depending on a number of factors. These factors usually have something to do with the prominence of the object, that is, characteristics such as its definiteness, specificity and/or animacy. But regarding the Persian language, there have been widespread disputes among linguists about the occurrence of DOM in this language thus far. Some linguists have focused on the use of in Farsi, which sometimes comes after the direct object of a transitive verb and sometimes not, and claimed that only some direct objects are marked with , providing evidence for the occurrence of DOM in Farsi. For instance, it has been asserted that is associated only with definite and/or specific objects, and it does not necessarily come after the other types of objects. Other linguists, however, have promptly given counterexamples from Farsi to refute such claims as lacking comprehensiveness. The present paper attempts to answer the question whether it is possible to resolve all those counterexamples against the object-marking role of by presenting a new theoretical basis, restoring the grammatical role to in Persian sentences with transitive verbs. Thus, by applying a theoretical framework that was first used by Judith Aissen elsewhere, the present analytical review shows how it is possible to settle almost all the disputes over DOM in Farsi.
Therefore, as noted above, our main research question is as follows: Is it theoretically possible to restore to its grammatical role as the case-marker of some direct objects in Farsi, resolving the counterexamples given so far in order to disprove claims about the occurrence of DOM  in Farsi? Our hypothesis is that with the help of a theoretical framework applied otherwise by Aissen, it is possible to do that.

2. Literature Review
The fact that whether DOM actually occurs in Farsi has long been the subject of discussions among linguists. Comrie (1989, pp. 132-133) associated the direct object's markedness in Farsi with the definiteness, and claimed that the Persian direct object is marked with only if it is definite. However, this is a claim that many other linguists have disputed over (e.g. see: Browne, 1970; Dabir-Moghaddam, 1990; Lazard, 1982, 1984; Lambton, 1984; Karimi , 1989, 1990; Natal Khanlari, 1999; Shokouhi & Kipka, 2003; Peterson, 1974; Roberts, 2005; Rahimian & Hajiani, 2009; Rasekh Mahand, 2010; Sadeghi, 1999).

3. Methodology
The American linguist Judith Aissen has attempted (2003) to explain DOM using the optimality theory, based on the harmonious alignment of the grammatical relation between the subject and the object according to the dimensions of animacy and definiteness (see Fig. 1).

Figure 1
Relative Markedness on the Scales of Animacy and Definiteness: (a) Animacy Scale: Human > Animate > Inanimate; (b) Definiteness Scale: Personal Pronoun > Proper Name > Definite NP > Indefinite Specific NP > Non-Specific NP (Aissen, 2003).








4. Results

The purpose of tables and figures in documents is to enhance your the readers’ understanding of the information presented in the document. It is much lucid and efficient
According to Aissen, “It is those direct objects which are most in need of being distinguished from subjects that get overtly case-marked. This intuition is sometimes expressed as the idea that the function of DOM is to disambiguate subject from object” (Aissen, 2003, p. 437). In the present paper, the very theoretical framework is applied to the current issue of DOM in Farsi, though surprisingly Aissen's view of DOM in Farsi does not differ from a properly challenged view by Lazard in this regard (Aissen, 2003, pp. 468-471).  
As Aissen noted, the more prominent the direct object is, the more likely it is to be case-marked, because “the function of DOM is to disambiguate subject from object” (Aissen, 2003, p. 437). Accordingly, if the prominence of the object is so much that it is not possible to clearly distinguish the subject from the object, the object must be marked compulsorily, and when the prominence of the object is less than this limit, the object can be marked optionally, and, finally, if there is no ambiguity in distinguishing the subject from the object, there is no need to mark the object (see the Table 1).

Table 1
Differential Object Marking in Farsi, Based on the  Relative Prominence  of  Object/Subject: A definite object  with a definite subject (either specific or unspecific) must  be  marked with "rā" (the first column); An indefinite , specific object with an indefinite subject (either specific or unspecific) must  be  marked with "rā, but with a definite subject, it can  optionally be marked with "rā" (the second column);  An indefinite, unspecific object with an indefinite, unspecific subject  must  be  marked with "rā ", but with an indefinite, specific subject, it can optionally be  marked with "rā ", while with a  definite subject, it is used either  with  or  without "rā ", depending on its dimension of  animacy (the third column).




 
1. Introduction
Differential object marking (DOM) is a linguistic phenomenon in over 300 world languages where the object of a verb can be either case-marked or unmarked, depending on a number of factors. These factors usually have something to do with the prominence of the object, that is, characteristics such as its definiteness, specificity and/or animacy. But regarding the Persian language, there have been widespread disputes among linguists about the occurrence of DOM in this language thus far. Some linguists have focused on the use of in Farsi, which sometimes comes after the direct object of a transitive verb and sometimes not, and claimed that only some direct objects are marked with , providing evidence for the occurrence of DOM in Farsi. For instance, it has been asserted that is associated only with definite and/or specific objects, and it does not necessarily come after the other types of objects. Other linguists, however, have promptly given counterexamples from Farsi to refute such claims as lacking comprehensiveness. The present paper attempts to answer the question whether it is possible to resolve all those counterexamples against the object-marking role of by presenting a new theoretical basis, restoring the grammatical role to in Persian sentences with transitive verbs. Thus, by applying a theoretical framework that was first used by Judith Aissen elsewhere, the present analytical review shows how it is possible to settle almost all the disputes over DOM in Farsi.
Therefore, as noted above, our main research question is as follows: Is it theoretically possible to restore to its grammatical role as the case-marker of some direct objects in Farsi, resolving the counterexamples given so far in order to disprove claims about the occurrence of DOM  in Farsi? Our hypothesis is that with the help of a theoretical framework applied otherwise by Aissen, it is possible to do that.

2. Literature Review
The fact that whether DOM actually occurs in Farsi has long been the subject of discussions among linguists. Comrie (1989, pp. 132-133) associated the direct object's markedness in Farsi with the definiteness, and claimed that the Persian direct object is marked with only if it is definite. However, this is a claim that many other linguists have disputed over (e.g. see: Browne, 1970; Dabir-Moghaddam, 1990; Lazard, 1982, 1984; Lambton, 1984; Karimi , 1989, 1990; Natal Khanlari, 1999; Shokouhi & Kipka, 2003; Peterson, 1974; Roberts, 2005; Rahimian & Hajiani, 2009; Rasekh Mahand, 2010; Sadeghi, 1999).

3. Methodology
The American linguist Judith Aissen has attempted (2003) to explain DOM using the optimality theory, based on the harmonious alignment of the grammatical relation between the subject and the object according to the dimensions of animacy and definiteness (see Fig. 1).

Figure 1
Relative Markedness on the Scales of Animacy and Definiteness: (a) Animacy Scale: Human > Animate > Inanimate; (b) Definiteness Scale: Personal Pronoun > Proper Name > Definite NP > Indefinite Specific NP > Non-Specific NP (Aissen, 2003).








4. Results

The purpose of tables and figures in documents is to enhance your the readers’ understanding of the information presented in the document. It is much lucid and efficient
According to Aissen, “It is those direct objects which are most in need of being distinguished from subjects that get overtly case-marked. This intuition is sometimes expressed as the idea that the function of DOM is to disambiguate subject from object” (Aissen, 2003, p. 437). In the present paper, the very theoretical framework is applied to the current issue of DOM in Farsi, though surprisingly Aissen's view of DOM in Farsi does not differ from a properly challenged view by Lazard in this regard (Aissen, 2003, pp. 468-471).  
As Aissen noted, the more prominent the direct object is, the more likely it is to be case-marked, because “the function of DOM is to disambiguate subject from object” (Aissen, 2003, p. 437). Accordingly, if the prominence of the object is so much that it is not possible to clearly distinguish the subject from the object, the object must be marked compulsorily, and when the prominence of the object is less than this limit, the object can be marked optionally, and, finally, if there is no ambiguity in distinguishing the subject from the object, there is no need to mark the object (see the Table 1).

Table 1
Differential Object Marking in Farsi, Based on the  Relative Prominence  of  Object/Subject: A definite object  with a definite subject (either specific or unspecific) must  be  marked with "rā" (the first column); An indefinite , specific object with an indefinite subject (either specific or unspecific) must  be  marked with "rā, but with a definite subject, it can  optionally be marked with "rā" (the second column);  An indefinite, unspecific object with an indefinite, unspecific subject  must  be  marked with "rā ", but with an indefinite, specific subject, it can optionally be  marked with "rā ", while with a  definite subject, it is used either  with  or  without "rā ", depending on its dimension of  animacy (the third column).

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Article Type: Review - analytic article | Subject: Linguistics
Published: 2024/01/30

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