Feature GB410: Is there any neutral alignment of flagging?



Are S, A, and P arguments flagged identically (i.e. are they neutrally aligned)? 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. Reply with 1 if none of the three arguments is overtly flagged (i.e. if all three arguments are zero-marked). In case of differential flagging systems, reply with 1 if any of the subsystems (e.g. a particular tense) shows neutral alignment. Reply with 1 if only nouns or only pronouns shows neutral alignment. Reply with 1 also if some or just one personal pronoun shows neutral alignment. Reply with 1 if a substantial class of nouns shows neutral 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.
  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 1 if there is never overt flagging of any of the three arguments S, A, and P.
  4. If there is a special flag for A or P, check whether it is used in all contexts. In particular, be aware of differences in marking conditioned by a pronoun vs. noun distinction, person, animacy, definiteness, etc. (this situation is known as differential argument marking). Code 1 even if only some pronouns or only some nouns (e.g. the indefinite ones) are identically flagged in all the three argument roles S, A, and P. If, however, a small random class of nouns is not flagged for phonological or morphological reasons, ignore this class.
  5. If there are differences in flagging conditioned by TAM distinctions, consider the distribution in individual TAM contexts. Code 1 if S, A, and P are flagged identically in some TAM categories.
  6. Code 0 if A, P or both are always marked differently than S.


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

Imonda marks animate P arguments with a special ‘goal’ marker glossed as -GL (see example c). However, when one considers inanimate arguments, S, A, and P are unmarked and thus show neutral alignment (cf. c. and d). Imonda is coded as 1 for both GB410 and GB408.

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-DL-PST
‘He chopped down two trees.’  (Seiler 1985: 81)
(Abbreviations: CO coordinator, GL goal)

Yakkha (ISO 639-3: ybh, Glottolog: yakk1236)

In Yakkha all S and P arguments are in the unmarked nominative case, as in (a), (c) and (d). The A argument of the third person is marked with the ergative clitic =ŋa, as in (b), the first and second person A arguments are in the unmarked nominative, as in (e). Yakkha is coded as 1 for GB410, as the flagging of the first and second person pronouns is neutrally aligned. Furthermore, Yakkha is 1 for this question GB409 because of the ergative alignment of flagging with third person arguments.

a. uŋci ‘3NSG’ as an S argument
nhaŋa     uŋci hani    hani    ta-ya-ma-ci=hoŋ      ka  lab-a-ma.
and.then  3NSG quickly quickly come-PST-PRF-DU=SEQ  1SG seize-PST-PRF
‘So they came quickly and got me down.’ (Schackow 2015: 537)

b. uŋci ‘3NSG’ as an A argument
uŋci=ŋa  kaniŋ kheps-a=ha.
‘They heard us.’ (Schackow 2015: 330)

c. ka ‘1SG’ as an S argument
ka  maŋcwa=be khe-me-ŋ=na.
1SG water=LOC go-NPST-1SG=NMLZ.SG 
‘I go to fetch water.’ (Schackow 2015: 127)

d. ka ‘1SG’ as a P argument
ka  ijaŋ cem-me-ŋ-ga=na?
1SG why  cut-NPST-1SG.P-2.A=NMLZ.SG
‘Why do you cut me?’ (Schackow 2015: 111)

e. ka ‘1SG’ as an A argument
ka   chem  chept-wa-ŋ=na.
1SG  song  write-NPST[3.P]-1SG.A=NMLZ.SG
‘I will write a song.’ (Schackow 2015: 121)

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

In Makasae-Makalero the core arguments are never overtly flagged, this is true for both pronominal (a-c) and nominal (d) arguments. Thus S, A and P are always flagged identically yielding the neutral alignment. Makasae-Makalero is coded as 1.

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.)

Schackow, Diana. 2015. A grammar of Yakkha. (Studies in Diversity Linguistics 7.) Berlin: Language Science Press.

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 * GB408 Is there any accusative alignment of flagging? * GB409 Is there any ergative 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?

To display the datapoints for a particular language family on the map and on the classification tree, select the family then click "submit".

You may combine this variable with a different variable by selecting on in the list below and clicking "Submit".

Customize map markers:
0 absent 525
1 present 1218
? Not known 147



Name Glottocode Family Macroarea Contributor Value Source Comment