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Ergative construction in Pashto Posted by on Jan 9, 2019 in language

In general, in ergative languages, the verb agrees with the object of a sentence. We are familiar with the subject-verb agreement in the English language, but many Russo-Germanic languages have the ergative construction in them.

Pashto is a semi-ergative language because it has ergative construction in the past and other perfect tenses only when the verb is transitive, taking a direct object. In this case the verb agrees with the object in number and gender. The subject is in the oblique case. For example:

I read this book
Ma da ketab wolwust/wolwustalo
ما دا کیتاب ولوست/ولوستلو

In the above sentence, the verb “wolwust” agrees with the object “ketab”. Ketab is masculine singular, if I change it to masculine plural, the verb will change with it, as seen in the sentence below:

I read those books
Ma da ketaboona wolwostal
ما دا کیتابونه ولوستل

You ate an apple
Ta yawa manna wahkwarala
تا یوه مڼه وخوړله

In the above sentence, the object which is apple is feminine singular, the verb wahkwarala agrees in number in gender with the object. Let’s change the object into feminine plural and see how the verb changes accordingly:

You ate apples
Ta manni wahkwarali
تا مڼې وخوړلې

In Pashto, every noun has a number and gender and the suffix of verb changes with number and gender. You’ll want to recognize and memorize the endings:

  • و is used at the end of the verb when the object is masculine singular
  • ل is used at the end of the verb when the object is masculine plural
  • ه is used at the end of the verb when the object is feminine singular
  • ې is used at the end of the verb when the object is feminine plural

Note: In the past perfective, the ل before و can be dropped (synthesised) when the object of the sentence is masculine singular or feminine singular.

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