Causative Constructions In The Avar Language


The paper addresses the study of causative constructions in the Avar language that change the valency of the verb, its composition and syntactic status. The verb and its causative form are involved in the formation of ergative and nominative constructions. The category of causative affects the grammatical system of the Avar language: it transforms intransitive verbs into transitive ones, increases the number of actant units of the verb, and transfers the verb from a stative to dynamic one. The transitive verbs differ from intransitives not only in a different set of actants, but in their combinatorial property as well. Comparative analysis of the causative of Avar and other related Caucasian languages ​​will help to find out the role and significance of causative constructions in the system of these languages, to reveal the nature and specifics of their functioning in languages ​​of different systems. The paper analyses causative verbs and their constructions in the Avar language. In addition, the paper shows the impact of the causative on the verb valency, since this category increases the number of actants. The study of causative constructions will shed light on the essence and nature of the causative as a grammatical category in the Avar language. The results of the study and the conclusions drawn will help to comprehensively characterize the causative constructions in the Avar language, which is of both theoretical and practical relevance.

Keywords: Causative constructions, ergative, nominative, subject, object


Causation is typically defined as a semantic category that refers to events or phenomena that cause other events or phenomena. Causative semantics can be expressed by various linguistic means: lexical, morphological, and syntactic ones. One of the main means to express the category of causation in the Avar language is the verb. The paper describes causative constructions of the Avar language and the constructions they form.

A causative construction can be represented as a model that typically involves two elementary participants (the causator and the object of causation). During causative transformation, both the semantic and syntactic structure of the sentence change.

Problem Statement

In the Avar language, transitivity/causative and intransitivity/non-causative are conveyed using similar formal means. The obligatory elements of causative constructions with the finiteness of the predicate are the subject of the action encoded by the name in the ergative, and the direct object encoded by the name in the nominative.

Encoding of the causative participant in causative constructions differs with regard to transitivity and intransitivity of the basic verbs and morphological indicator of causation.

The considered causative verbs and the constructions formed by them differ in the type of causation as well.

The hierarchy of syntactic relations in causation usually implies that when intransitive verbs are causated the causative participant takes the highest of the remaining positions – the vacant position of the direct object.

Research Questions

In the Avar language, syntactic constructions denoting causation are actively functioning. The internal structure of sentences containing these constructs is complex. In syntactic constructions denoting causation, the main component is the causative verb, which, in fact, forms the core of these constructions.

In Avar, the causative is closely related to the category of transitivity/intransitivity The category of causative means that an action is performed through a person who obliges to perform an action. The causative is formed from both transitive and intransitive verbs by adding to the latter the auxiliary verb to make. A significant part of Avar verbs are not marked morphologically in terms of expressing transitivity/intransitivity.

In the Avar language, causative opposition is formed by two verbs, one of which is an ordinary verb, and the second, formed by joining the infinitive of the verb ‘to make’ to the stem of the infinitive, denotes an action aimed at causation of a certain action or state. Phonetic changes occur: the final vowel drops out in the target form of the verb, and the auxiliary verb loses its initial consonant: ‘to write’ ‘to write’ + ‘to make’ = ‘to force to write.’ Generally, causation can also be expressed analytically: ‘to force to write’, ‘to force to close’ (about the eyes), etc. (Magomedov, 2000). For example: ‘The boy ran’ and ‘The father made the boy run.’ In the first sentence, the subject actantis the subject. In the second sentence, the subject () in the central syntactic position of the subject is omitted, and the position of the subject actant is occupied by thecomponent, which in no way can retain the position of the subject. In the second sentence, the actant also remains the subject. It is apparent that the differences between these two sentences are due to certain differences, which can be defined as differences in the syntactic rank of the latter as a component of the syntactic structure of a sentence – ergative and nominative.

All Avar verbs are typically covered by causative correlations. However, some verbs stand outside causative correlations, since they denote actions that our speech consciousness habitually interprets as uncausable, for example: ‘dream’,‘to be born’, etc. Such verbs denote actions that occur by themselves.

The Avar language does not have a supplementary causative opposition, in contrast to, for example, the Russian language: –, –, etc. In this case, the members of the causative pair are mixed-root verbs.

Particularly interesting is formation of causation with the help of the reflexive pronoun‘oneself’ and the particle -: ‘He made himself laugh’.‘I forced myself to read,’ etc.

Although a causative is considered to be a transitive verb formed from a transitive verb, in the Avar language, causative is formed through affixation of both transitive and intransitive verbs.

The transitivity-intransitivity category is associated with semantic differences that lead to the delineation of the types of sentences, which include different subject-object relations. In the Avar language, the nuclear construction of a sentence with a predicate verb of intransitive semantics can be two-term:‘Mother has come’, where the prefix class and number indicator- of the verb-predicateis coordinated with the subject in the nominative, which coincides with the subject of the action in this sentence.

In contrast to the above, the nuclear constructions of sentences with predicate verbs of transitive semantics exhibit various case forms of subject actants. Such sentence constructions consist of three or more sentence components. For example: ‘The boy broke a stick.’ ‘Brother loves his sister.’ ‘The boy has a hat.’ ‘Children saw the sea’. In all the above sentences, the predicate verbs,,, andexhibit transitive semantics. By their prefix class and number indicators, they are coordinated with the subjects in the nominative,,, and which are simultaneously objects of action in the sentence. In textbooks on the Avar language, such members of the sentence are classified as objects and refer to the principal part of the sentence since in the sentence structure they play the role of its mandatory components.

Haspelmath (1993) considers that ‘this phenomenon occurs almost universally in many languages, and it sounds very convincing in terms of semantics. The causative participant is the patient of the causation, and thus it predictably takes the position of the direct object’.

In the Avar language, the causative is closely related to the category of transitivity/intransitivity. The category of causative implies that an action is performed via a person who obliges someone to perform an action. The causative is formed from both transitive and intransitive verbs by adding to the latter an auxiliary verb ‘to make’. In this case, the final vowel - is omitted in the infinitive, and the auxiliary verb is used without the initial consonant-: ‘to read’ + ‘to make’ =‘make read’,‘to work’ + ‘to make’ =‘force to work’, etc. Therefore, the causative is a fused form of the infinitive and the auxiliary verbto make’. In addition, the Avar language has causative forms of descriptive nature formed by means of the same auxiliary verb and infinitive. In this analytical combination, the auxiliary verb takes on the meaning of ‘to force.’ No phonetic changes occur in causative forms of descriptive nature, as was observed in the previous method of causative formation. For example: ‘to force to learn’, кьижизе гьавизе ‘to force to sleep’, etc. According to the same model, the causative is formed from both transitive and intransitive verbs, that is, this method of forming the causative is common to all verbs in the Avar language. In descriptive causative forms during conjugation, the auxiliary verb ‘to make’ is usually subject to change. In the Avar language, the synthetic method of causative formation is more commonly used, which replaces the analytical method (Charachidzé, 1981).

It should be noted that causative forms are formed from both transitive and intransitive verbs. For example: ‘to force to buy a book’, кагъат хъвазибизе ‘to force to write a letter’, ‘to force to the son sleep,’ ‘to force children to run,’ etc. Causatives are always transitive, irrespective of whether they are derived from transitive or intransitive verbs. In this case, the auxiliary verb, which is always transitive, may be critical. When the causative is formed from transitive verbs, the causative form becomes, as it were doubly transitive (Dumézil, 1933). For example: ‘This is the book that the student’s teacher made him to read.’ This phrase contains two objects – and. The first object is in the form of the locative of series I, and the second object is represented by the nominative. The subject of the action is in the ergative case. The verb action is expressed by the participle formed from the causative form of the transitive verb. In causative verbs, the causator is always and necessarily endowed with activity.

Consider other examples: ‘The student read the book’ and ‘The teacher forced the student to read the book.’ For the convenience of presentation, call the first verb verb A, and refer to the second as verb B. The semantic relations between verbs A and B are simple and easily fit into the formula ‘B is the causation of A’. Formal-grammatical relations between verbs A and B can be considered as types of causative oppositions.

The most common type of causative opposition is derivational opposition. In this case, the meaning of causation represents the derivational meaning of the model, and its formant is the above-mentioned verb. Verb B is a derivative of the verb A, and its lexical meaning can be interpreted through the meaning of the verb A according to the formula ‘to be subjected to an action indicated by the verb A’.

When the starting point in constructing a causative derivational opposition is the verb A, the corresponding verb B is formed by adding the verb (the phenomenon of occasional postfixation). If the verb A is used first to construct a causative derivational opposition, the related verb B is formed by adding the verb (phenomenon of occasional postfixation). However, if the verb B is the starting point, the verb A is formed omitting the verb (postfix) (phenomenon of occasional depostfixation, which is a type of reverse derivation).

Particular attention should be paid to pairs of multiple verbs connected by causation relations, which are characterized by typical differences in the morphemic structure. In this case, the suffixes, etc. indicate the verb A, and the same suffixes and the verb indicate the verb B: ‘to read’ – ‘to force to read’; ‘to run’ – ‘to force to run’, etc.

When the causative is formed from an intransitive verb, the causative participant, who is a person forced to act, is expressed by the name in the nominative and takes the position of a direct object. A causator, a semantic agent for expressing an initiator or a person endowed with power and forcing to act, regardless of transitivity or intransitivity of the original verb, is always formalized by a name in the ergative.

Causatives formed from intransitive verbs are coordinated with the objects of action. For example: ‘I saw a boy who was forced to run by his father’. In this phrase, the participle is derived from the causative form of the intransitive verb ‘to run’. The class and number values of the participle with its prefix (e-) and suffix ​​is coordinated with the object. The subject of action does not have the coordination of the participle.

In the Avar language, the category of transitivity/ intransitivity (repetition/singularity) is closely related to continuance/non-continuance; therefore, this interaction should be revealed to understand the nature and meaning of these categories (Bechert, 1971).

Continuous forms of verbs (hereinafter – cont.) are formed in the following ways: 1) from the stem of non-continuous verbs using the suffixes ‘to ask’ – (cont.); ‘to read’ – (cont.); ‘to write’ – (cont.); ‘to ask’ – (cont.); ‘to run’ – (cont.); 2) ablative changes in the root morpheme with a simultaneous transfer of stress from the first syllable to the second one: ‘to knock’ – (cont.).

The examples provided show that ablaut alternation and stress are grammatical means used to distinguish continuous verbs from non-continuous ones. In addition, the phonetic structure of the verb base during formation of continuous verbs undergoes major changes.

Bokarev (1949) noted that the most important feature of the meaning of continuous verbs is not the characteristic of action itself, but the characteristic of the subject's attitude to this action, an indication that the subject is in the process of performing it; the correct translation will not be ‘to perform an action’, but ‘to be in the process of performing an action, in the state of its implementation.

The causative can be considered one of the types of voice opposition, namely, the opposition of non-volitional/ volitional. This type of voice opposition implies the opposition of the meaning of the verb in terms of non-volitional/volitional, but also complication of the incentive basis with the auxiliary verb to do. In addition, these forms differ in terms of class and number coordination with the subject-object actants: ‘to sleep’ – ‘to force to sleep’; ‘to come’ – ‘to force to come’; ‘to give’ – ‘to force to give’, etc. For example: ‘The boy went to bed’ and ‘The mother went to put the boy to sleep (to force the boy to sleep)’.

In a sentence, class and number indicators act as syntactic coordinators that connect the corresponding components. The grammatical, syntactic connection model is primary in connection of components in a sentence. For the Avar language, a connection model is class and number coordination. All other means (particles, postpositions, introductory-modal words, etc.) perform auxiliary functions – they strengthen communication, clarify logical relations, and play a stylistic role (Magomedov, 2016).

In binominal sentences, the prefix class and number indicator of the predicate verb corresponds to the subject:

I have come (says the man),

I have come (says the woman),

I have come (says a creature, for example, in fairy tales),

We have come (say men, women, and other creatures).

In sentences of this type, the subject is the subject of action in the nominative form, and the semantics of the predicate verb is intransitive.

In binominal sentences, the predicate verb can also be represented analytically – the participle and the linking verb (in the present perfect tense) and the participle and the linking verb (in the present imperfect tense), each of which has its own class and number indicator. For example:

He has come (class I),

She has come (class II),

He (she, it) has come (class III),

They have come (plural).

In all examples, the subject is expressed by the nominative pronoun, and the predicate verb is in the form of the present perfect tense. The verbal forms of this tense are presented analytically – the participle and the linking verb, which have prefix class and number indicators.

Mallaeva (2007) notes that during formation of the causative form, its lexical semantics changes as much as the syntactic one. The cases of creating a transitional pair of intransitive are meant, for example: ‘to see’ – ‘to show’, ‘not to wake up’ – ‘to wake up’, etc.

In the Avar language, the construction of a sentence is also possible, in which there is a bilateral class and number reference of the verb (or verbal) form: The teacher loves children (literally). Here, the prefixal class-numerical indicator of the-analytical predicate verb is coordinated with the object of action, and the suffix – with the subject of action. The prefixal class and number indicatorin the auxiliary verb is also coordinated with the subjective actant in the nominative form.

Compare this sentence with the synonymous sentence The teacher loves children (literally).

The question arises: how are these two synonymous constructions related? Can they be considered the same type? This question can be answered positively. These constructions are sentences of the nominative construction.

The complexity of the question of the correlation of these structures is not fully overcome. Apparently, it is advisable to recognize constructions of the type and close in the number of similar components of sentences, similar word order in sentences, but different ratio of class and number indicators of predicate verbs with subject-object actants.

It seems obvious that the predicative minimum (nuclear sentence) is similar in both constructions and, therefore, sentences of the above type are nominative.

In both groups, predicate verbs have transient semantics. The sentences with the bilateral class and number coordination of the predicate verb with the subject and object indicate an average voice. The suffixal class and number indicator of the predicate verb is coordinated with the nominative subject, and the prefixal class and number indicator is coordinated with the nominative object. The nominative subject of action is characterized as a subject, and the nominative object of action is characterized as a direct object, i.e. the suffixal class and number indicator is relevant to the subject, and the prefix is relevant ​​to the direct object.

Thus, class and number indicators and their relevance play an important role in determining the syntactic essence of both individual members of the sentence and the whole sentence.

One of the most common ways of expressing causative semantics is to use analytical verb and auxiliary verb constructions that convey the causative meaning. The approach of B. Comrie is primarily applicable to such constructions, since it implies that causative constructions are the result of the reduction of two clauses. Comrie believes that during formation of an analytical causative structure, there is a contraction of the implied structure with the introduced element into the derivative sentence of a complex structure (Comrie, 1981).

The subject in causative constructions is typically an animated person capable of expressing will. If the subject is not a person, then the subject can be either an abstract noun or an object with the meaning of natural, physical or psychological force capable of affecting the situation.

There are causative constructions with a causator – an abstract force or a natural phenomenon. For example: ‘Fast rain.’

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to investigate the characteristic features of the Avar causative verbs and the constructions they form. It is also important to show the role of causative verbs in the language structure and to differentiate the causative forms by their functional manifestations in the Avar language.

Research Methods

The study employs the inductive method of analysis: specific observations of the language are systematized and generalized into theoretical provisions. The syntactic, semantic-contextual and statistical methods were also significant for achievement of the study purposes. The semantic-contextual method is used to consider lexical-grammatical groups of causative verbs in literary texts.


The results of the study can be used in theoretical courses in the syntax of the Avar language. In addition, the main conclusions and provisions of this paper may be useful in the development of textbooks and teaching materials on the Avar language for university students in the Republic of Dagestan.

The theoretical relevance of the study lies in the fact that it contains materials that can significantly clarify the data on causative constructions available in the linguistic literature.

The data obtained will close the gaps in the study of the syntax of causative constructions in terms of semantic syntax.


The results of the study yield the conclusion that causative is a special kind of transitive verb in the Avar language. The causative formed from a transitive verb requires the introduction of a second object into the construction (the first object is always present in transitive verbs). The causative formed from an intransitive verb requires the introduction of an object into the construction that cannot be used with a simple intransitive verb (Dumézil, 1933). In other words, the causative forms of intransitive verbs are always transitive, that is, the intransitive verb turns into a transitive one through the causative form.

The majority of Avar verbs are not marked morphologically in terms of expressing transitivity/intransitivity. Differentiation between these categories is based on their semantic characteristics and syntactic use, which affects the structure of the phrases or sentences formed.


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Magomedov, D., & Magomedov, M. (2021). Causative Constructions In The Avar Language. In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Knowledge, Man and Civilization - ISCKMC 2020, vol 107. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 2260-2267). European Publisher.