Inverse systems and person hierarchy effects

Heather Bliss, Elizabeth Ritter, Martina Wiltschko

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Inverse systems are systems of argument deployment belonging to the family of voice constructions that also includes Indo-European passives and Austronesian voice alternations. In inverse systems, when transitive verbs agree with their arguments, the agreement is determined by the arguments’ person (and animacy) specification, rather than by their grammatical relations. Additionally, verbal affixes are employed to encode the relation between the arguments indexed by the agreement markers and their grammatical relations. This chapter explores the empirical and theoretical underpinnings of inverse systems and their relation to the person hierarchy. We show that neither inverse systems nor the person hierarchy should be viewed as a unified phenomenon, either across languages or within a single language. Consequently, analyses of inverse systems in different languages vary in their treatment of the facts considered. We describe the types of analytical claims that have been made about inverse systems of North American languages, with a view to highlighting the range of variation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of North American Languages
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781351810272
ISBN (Print)9781138628748
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (all)
  • Social Sciences (all)


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