I am making a split ergative language, and I am struggling a lot on it.

So, I am doing a Dyirbal-type pronominal split, where 1st and 2nd person are nominative-accusative and everything else is ergative-absolutive. So here is an example (just making this up, this is just an example as I don't want to share my language yet), assume this is VOS

Musu hama tani

so, Tani would be a 1st person pronoun, so it would be marked:

Musu hamanai tani

Where -nai is a accusative marker, and Tani is nominative and lacks a marker. But if you switch Tani to Kata, the third person pronoun:

Musu hamago katasha

Where -go marks the Absolutive case, and -sha marks the Ergative Case.

But when you go into intransitives

Yasi tanisha

And this is where I am just getting confused. Can someone help explain how exactly split ergativity works, preferably using some rushed sample conlang to indicate to me where I am going wrong and how I can fix it, or just modify what I have shown you in a way to fix it up and make it actually work. Because I am struggling to make both systems work together, as I understand them pretty well individually, but, again, putting them together is just making it rough for me.

This is just stressing me out.

  • It will help us readers if you translate your examples. Dec 22, 2023 at 7:17

1 Answer 1


With a special absolutive case marker (-go in your example) you go beyond plain split ergativity where nominative and absolutive are typically identical. So the question boils down if the subject of an intransitive sentence should be nominative or absolutive. My gut feeling says nominative, but as a conlang designer you are free to take the other choice as well. You can even go further to tripartite alignment by creating a special intransitive case for the subject of intransitive sentences.

  • 1
    I was thinking of using Tripartite Alignment as it simplifies things, but I ultimately feel Split-Ergative is best for the language I am working on, it just feels right. Might just ultimately decide to do it though. Thanks for the answer. Dec 20, 2023 at 19:27

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