Feature GB408: Is there any accusative alignment of flagging?



Are P arguments flagged differently from S arguments (i.e. do they show accusative alignment)? Flagging covers any kind of argument marking on the argument itself (e.g. by case or adposition marking). The marking can be phonologically free or bound. The marking of A arguments is not relevant for establishing whether there is any accusative flagging or not, it is the difference between S and P flagging that results in 1. In case of split flagging systems (specifically, differential object marking), code as 1 if any of the subsystems (e.g. only nouns or only pronouns, or a particular group of nouns) shows accusative alignment. Note that although alignment types are occasionally associated with entire languages (e.g. when one says that "Dyirbal is an ergative language"), they in fact apply only to individual constructions. This question asks only about the alignment of flagging, the alignment of indexing or of any other construction is irrelevant for this question.


  1. Consider the section in the grammar that deals with nominal morphology, argument marking and/or basic clause structure. If no such section exists, consider examples of transitive and intransitive clauses, identify overt arguments in different roles (S, A, and P) and study their marking. The special P flag is often called accusative, but it can be labeled differently (e.g. dative or oblique).
  2. Check whether any of the S, A or P arguments are flagged in any context. Consider only the major predicate class, ignore any verbs with non-canonical/special flagging (e.g. the so-called ‘dative-subject’ or experiencer verbs). Consider only independent clauses.
  3. Code 0 if there is never overt flagging of any of the three arguments S, A, and P.
  4. Code 0 if S and P are always flagged identically, this includes cases with no overt flagging (i.e. zero marking).
  5. If there is a special flag for P, check whether it is used in all contexts. In particular, be aware of differences in flagging conditioned by a pronoun vs. noun distinction, person, animacy, definiteness, etc. (this situation is generally known as differential object marking or DOM). Code 1 even if only some pronouns or only some nouns (e.g. the inanimate ones) are flagged differently when they are P arguments. If, however, a small random class of nouns does not take a particular flagging for phonological or morphological reasons, ignore this class.
  6. If there are differences in flagging conditioned by TAM distinctions, consider the distribution in individual TAM contexts. Code 1 if P is flagged differently from A in some TAM categories.
  7. The so-called tripartite flagging pattern (S flagged differently from A and differently from P) receives 1 for both GB408 and GB409.


Imonda (ISO 639-3: imn, Glottolog: imon1245)

Imonda flags only animate P arguments with a special suffix glossed as -GL, as in (c). Inanimate Ps are unmarked, as in (d). This is sufficient to code Imonda as having accusative alignment of flagging, though this alignment type is restricted to animate arguments. Imonda is coded as 1 for both GB408 and GB410.

a. aia-l      agõ-l-i       e-uagl-ual-n
father-NOM woman-NOM-CO  DU-go-DU-PST
‘His father and his wife went away.’ (Seiler 1985: 180)

b. ti   ed    he-li-f
tree PROX  CL-lie-PRS
‘The tree lies over there.’ (Seiler 1985: 159)

c. aia-l       edel-m    ue-ne-uõl  fe-f
father-NOM  human-GL  CL-eat-PL  do-PRS
‘Her father habitually eats humans.’ (Seiler 1985: 165)

d. ti    he-ual-n
three cut-DU-PST
‘He chopped down two trees.’ (Seiler 1985: 81)
(Abbreviations: CO coordinator, GL goal)

Makasae-Makalero (ISO 639-3: mkz, Glottolog: maka1316)

In Makasae-Makalero the core arguments are not flagged. This is true for both pronominal (a-c) and nominal (d) arguments. Makasae-Makalero is coded as 0.

a. Ani hai mu’a-li’an. 
1SG NSIT ground-fall
‘I already fell down.’ (Huber 2011: 146)

b. Ani ei  pase.
1SG 2SG beat
‘I beat you.’ (Huber 2011: 218)

c. Ei  ani pase.
2SG 1SG beat
‘You beat me.’ (Huber 2011: 218)

d. Ina-uai  ni-mata      uaro
mother-HON  REFL-child   wash
‘The mother is washing her child’ (Huber 2011: 391)
(Abbreviations: NSIT new situation)

Further reading

Comrie, Bernard. 2013. Alignment of Case Marking of Full Noun Phrases. In Matthew S. Dryer & Martin Haspelmath (eds), The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Haspelmath, Martin. 2005. Argument marking in ditransitive alignment types. Linguistic Discovery 3(1).

Haspelmath, Martin. 2019. Indexing and flagging, and head and dependent marking. Te Reo (The Journal of the Linguistic Society of New Zealand) 62(1). 93–115.


Huber, Juliette. 2011. A grammar of Makalero: A Papuan language of East Timor. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. (Doctoral dissertation.)

Seiler, Walter. 1985. Imonda, a Papuan Language. (Pacific Linguistics: Series B, 93.) Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.

Other alignment of flagging questions * GB409 Is there any ergative alignment of flagging? * GB410 Is there any neutral alignment of flagging?

General questions about case marking * GB070 Are there morphological cases for non-pronominal core arguments (i.e. S, A or P)? * GB071 Are there morphological cases for phonologically independent personal pronominal core arguments (i.e. S, A or P)? * GB095 Are variations in marking strategies of core participants based on TAM distinctions?

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Name Glottocode Family Macroarea Contributor Value Source Comment