Monthly Archives: April, 2019

Himmelmann’s Tagalog Potentive and Stative Verb Paradigms

This is more or less an evaluation of Nikolaus Himmelmann’s two works :

  1. How to miss a paradigm or two: Multifunctional ma- in Tagalog (2006)
  2. On statives and potentives in western Austronesian (mostly Tagalog (2004)

This post quotes or paraphrases heavily from the first work, with such quotes or paraphrases indicated using italicized text below. The terms that I differ with Himmelmann are:

  1. imperfective. I will be using nonperfective.
  2. dynamic. This will be replaced with fientive, following Williams’ Hebrew Syntax, page 57 (2007).
  3. voice. This will be replaced with orientation, following Himmelmann’s The Philippine Challenge To Universal Grammar (1991). The case role realization depending on verb types for each of the orientations are: image

Going back to Himmelmann’s work, he observed:

This chapter explores some of the problems created by these items for grammatical analysis and the structure of descriptive grammars, using the multifunctional prefix ma- as its primary example. As further illustrated in section 2, this prefix occurs in formations that have been termed adjectival, involuntary action, potential, abilitative, stative, etc. The major goal of this chapter is to propose a coherent systematics for the multiple uses and functions of this prefix.

To date the nature of this affix has been misunderstood because analysts have failed to notice that it participates in two different, but related paradigms. On the one hand, ma- serves as the marker for potentive dynamic verbs in undergoer voice (section 5). On the other hand, it marks basic statives (section 6).[Himmelmann #1, page 489]


The main goal of this contribution is to bring some basic order to the fairly broad and, on first sight at least, somewhat heterogeneous range of uses and meanings associated with these forms. I will argue that the different uses can be grouped into two semantically and morphosyntactically quite different construction types, which I will call STATIVE (proper) and POTENTIVE, respectively.[Himmelmann #2, page 1]

And Himmelmann’s primary goal is to devise a paradigmatic structure which will serve as evidence for such an order:

Here we will be concerned with evidence for and from paradigm structure, a kind of evidence which has always been applied without much discussion in the case of Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic languages but which is often not used outside this group of languages. In particular with regard to putatively agglutinating languages such as Tagalog, little use of paradigms is made, probably based on the assumption that straightforward compositionality on the formal side is also mirrored by straightforward compositionality on the content side.

Although Tagalog paradigms lack the generality characterizing inflectional paradigms in Indo-European languages, they are still paradigms in adhering to the principle of constant correlation or proportionality (x relates to x’ as y relates to y’, regardless of the formal details). The morphological and semantic parameters underlying these correlations are essential in uncovering the language-internal systematics of multifunctional affixes such as ma-. [Himmelmann #1, page 488-489]


The main results of his work are listed below, with comments.

  1. A by-product of this exercise will be the recognition of the fact that next to aspect/mood and voice, dynamicity – the distinction between dynamic and stative predicates – is of fundamental importance to Tagalog grammar (section 7). [Himmelmann #1, page 489]

    I agree.

  2. Viewed crosslinguistically, Tagalog is somewhat remarkable in making a rather strict distinction between statives proper (eventualities which principally exclude the involvement of an agentive argument) and potentives (eventualities which principally include an agentive argument which however lacks control). In most languages in which a dynamicity distinction is grammaticized, there is a simple binary opposition between dynamic and stative formations, with most of the eventualities requiring potentive forms in Tagalog being expressed by stative forms.

    The forms in the two paradigms partially overlap. In particular, the two forms which only consist of the prefix ma-, i.e. patient voice potentive and basic stative voice, are very hard to distinguish semantically. The only way to distinguish them is syntactic, via the overall construction in which they occur and the voice alternations allowed for by this construction, as illustrated with example (40) above: “ang dahun ay nadàdalá ng tubig” ‘the leaf was being carried along by the water’. [Himmelmann #1, page 518]

    I agree with the Tagalog description. This can be extended to Philippine-type Austronesian languages I guess. I am not as intuitive and informed with other languages especially non-Philippine type languages, apart from what I can read and research.

  3. The analyses advanced in the preceding sections imply an elaborate system of basic verbal affixations, summarized in Table 6. In addition to aspect/mood inflection, this system involves distinctions with regard to voice, dynamicity (dynamic vs. stative) and control (potentive vs. non-potentive). It is paradigmatically organized in that each form conveys a fixed set of morphosyntactic features, obligatorily choosing one feature from each of the basic dimensions aspect/mood, voice, dynamicity and control. That is, a form such as i-lakad ‘walk with, use in walking’ is not just the conveyance voice form of lakad, it is the dynamic, non-potentive, non-realis, perfective conveyance voice form of lakad.

    Table 6 basically collapses the information given in Tables 2, 3 and 5. For the sake of clarity, aspect/mood alternations have not been included (see Tables 2 and 5). That is, strictly speaking each formative in Table 6 represents a set of four derivations. For example, -an represents BASE-an, RDP1-BASE-an, -in-BASE-an and -in-RDP1-BASE-an. [Himmelmann #1, page 518]

    The details of this paradigm is incorrect for the reasons that will be mentioned below. I will provide as well a replacement paradigm table below with more detailed explanations and examples.


Furthermore, he summed up his investigation into whether paradigms exists in Tagalog as follows:

The aspect/mood and control alternations form inflectional paradigms, for two reasons. First, they are highly general, each formation implying the existence of the complementary one(s) (i.e. a non-potentive forms implies the existence of a potentive one, etc.). Second, there are clearly unmarked or basic forms for these alternations (non-realis perfective for aspect/mood, non-potentive for control). The voice and dynamicity alternations, on the other hand, show derivational features in that they are less general, less productive and exhibit quite a few formal and semantic idiosyncrasies. Still, they are also paradigmatically related to each other because of the constant correlations holding across all cells of Table 6. In section 3, the term derivational paradigm was introduced to capture both their derivational features and their paradigmatic relatedness.

The results that I am more directly interested in is his evidence in grouping the different ma› uses, as well as his evidence in the way he organized his paradigm table (his table 6), where statives, potentives and non-potentives are distinct and separate.


To start, he reviewed the semantic range of words marked with ma› or its variant mà› (with secondary stress/lengthened vowel) which I put in a table below. He made a distinction between variable ma› and invariable ma›, with variable ma› referring to those with aspect/mood alternations (realis, nonrealis), and invariable ma› to those limited to just either the realis mood or nonrealis mood only and no other prefix. Based on their semantic coherence and correspondence to grammatically relevant categories also found in other languages, he grouped those words using variable ma› into 5 sets of uses:

No Usage Example
1 Bodily conditions or emotion states matakot / natàtakot, magùgútom / nagùgútom, mapipe / napipe, mabuhay / nabuhay, mamatay / namatay, matulog / natulog
2 Some positional predicates (being in or getting into the position denoted by the base). maupó / naupó,
mahigá’ / nahigá’, tàtayó’ / tàtayó’
3 Perception predicates or acts of perception. màkita / nàkita

Involuntary actions (actions occurring without the full control of the actor, or actor is enabled to perform by virtue of outer circumstances). These include:
a) spontaneous reactions/actions over which the actor has no control
b)accidental actions which the actor physically controls but did not intend to carry out.
c) inanimate effectors not being in control of the action triggered by them.

màbigkas / nàbigkas, madalá / nadalá / nadàdalá / madàdalá
5 Ability or opportunity to perform/carry out an action. In realis mood, this conveys that an actor succeeded or managed to carry out an action despite a number of obstacles. mabili / nabili / bibili / bibili , mapàpanoód / napàpanoód,
mapunó / napunó

And 2 sets for those using invariable ma›:

No Usage Example
1 Qualities or properties when used as attributes or predicates (does not alternate with na- in realis perfective contexts) maliít,
2 Locational predicates: consist of na- plus a deictic element or a prepositional phrase introduced by the general locative preposition sa (restricted to realis form na-, only na- never ma-) nàroon,


Before he created a paradigm for multifunctional ma›, Himmelmann at first looked at aspect/mood paradigm and revisited the reasons why they form a paradigm. Then he moved on to prove that orientation also forms a paradigm. A summary of evidence advanced in [Himmelmann #1] and my comments on them in blue follows.

For the Aspect/Mood Paradigm

  1. The only obvious paradigm in Tagalog which is similar to inflectional paradigms in Indo-European languages is the aspect/mood paradigm already mentioned in the preceding section (see below) and illustrated for variable ma- in Table 1. Aspect/mood alternations are not restricted to words prefixed with variable ma- but occur in a large number of other morphologically complex formations, in particular words marked with voice affixes (also called focus affixes in the Philippinist literature). [page 497]

    This is an uncontroversial statement but I need to include to set the background of the study.

  2. [M]any words prefixed with ma- allow the aspect/mood alternations illustrated in Table 1 with the base takot ‘fear’. The formative ma-, which is the conventional citation form of the prefix, is the basic or non-realis form which contrasts with the realis formative na-. Accented reduplication (the vowel in the reduplicated syllable is distinctly long) signals imperfective aspect in either mood. As we will see in section 3 below, this aspect/mood alternation is found with many other affixed formations in Tagalog. In fact, it is so general that these alternations can be (and have been) called aspect/mood inflection. In ("baká ngá kayó ‘y matakot") matakot is a non-realis perfective form (also called the base form) while natàtakot in ("natàtakot silá") is a realis imperfective form.


    Strictly speaking, then, the formations to be investigated here may carry the prefixes ma- or na-, the changing nasal indicating a regular realis/non-realis alternation as it is also found in many other Tagalog prefixes (e.g. maki-/naki-, maka-/naka-, mag-/nag-). Thus, when speaking about ‘the prefix ma-’, reference does not pertain to a specific formative of the shape /ma/ but rather to the complete inflectional paradigm given in Table 1. In this section, any formative which belongs to this paradigm is glossed simply as MA, as in the preceding two examples. [page 490]

    This is what is referred to in #1 above as “already mentioned in the preceding section”.

For an Orientation Paradigm

  1. It is widely, though not unanimously, agreed that there are four basic voices in Tagalog, i.e. actor voice, patient voice, locative voice and conveyance voice. The latter three share a number of morphological and syntactic properties which makes it convenient to refer to them collectively as undergoer voices. While there is essentially only a single formative for each of the undergoer voices, there are a number of distinct formatives for actor voice. Table 2 lists the major affixes signaling these voices and the alternations marking aspect (perfective vs. imperfective) and mood (realis vs. non-realis). It illustrates only the two most important actor voice formatives, -um- and mag-. All other actor voice prefixes (e.g. maN-) follow the pattern of mag- (non-realis m alternating with realis n). [page 498]


    As mentioned at the start, I use the term orientation and not voice. It is true that there are more than one initiative orientation formatives. But this is a superficial analysis since these are surface forms only. There is actually only one formative, ‹um›, for initiative orientation. The reason this is not apparent is due to truncation. This is attested by the table below, using some of those forms. Notice that ‹um› is irregular in the nonrealis nonperfective, realis perfective and realis nonperfective.


  2. As can be gleaned from Table 2 (and also from Table 1), the marking of the aspectual distinction is completely general and transparent: Accented reduplication of the first CV unit of the stem marks imperfective aspect. Perfective aspect remains formally unmarked, regardless of voice.

    The formal manifestations of the realis/non-realis distinction are somewhat less transparent and, more importantly, closely linked with voice marking. Thus, while in the undergoer voices, realis is signaled by the infix -in-, there is no clear exponent for realis mood in -um-actor voice. In mag-actor voice, realis/non-realis is conveyed by the alternation between m and n already familiar from the aspect/mood paradigm for ma-. [page 498]

    As mentioned above, this is a superficial analysis, and failed to mention what truncation has done to the eventual formatives. Had truncation been considered, it would be very clear that realis mood is indicated by the infix ‹in› and nonrealis mood by its absence just like in the non-initiative orientations. Additionally, the m› and n› alternation of the other initiative orientation affixes are just the base of the visible tip of the full affixes after truncation, and if we put back the clipped segments, it is clear mood and orientation are not signaled by this m› and n› alternation but by ‹in› and ‹um› respectively.

  3. Not all formations are formally compositional in that each morphosyntactic feature (aspect, mood, voice) is conveyed by a separate formative. Perfective aspect and non-realis mood are actually implicated by the absence of a particular formative. Furthermore, the realis patient voice forms (binilí, binìbilí) lack a separate voice formative as does the non-realis imperfective form (bìbilí) in the -um-paradigm.

    This lack of formal compositionality is a very important diagnostic for paradigmatic organization. One major principle for paradigms is the principle of constant correlation (Seiler 1966: 197) or proportionality (Uhlenbeck 1985): binilí relates to bilhín as does binilhán to bilhán, magbilí to bilhín as nagbilí to binilí, etc., regardless of the particular formatives involved. [page 498]

    I disagree with the following:

    1. Some of the formations are not fully compositional:
      1. Although perfective aspect and non-realis mood lacks marking, these are in opposition to the other pair of values (nonperfective ‹R› and realis ‹in›) which are compositional and make them compositional.
      2. Also, his analysis failed to consider truncation as a process. It failed to take note of the pattern of truncation throughout the paradigm, for example, the absence of ‹in in realis perfective terminative orientation (e.g. binilí).
      3. Also, although the lack of ‹um› in nonrealis nonperfective initiative orientation (e.g. bìbilí) is mentioned, it did not mention the irregularity in the forms of nonrealis nonperfective (e.g. bìbilí) and realis nonperfective (e.g. binìbilí) compared with all other orientation affixes by lacking ‹um›, with the regular forms being *bumìbili and *buminìbili respectively. Although Tagalog does not have these forms, Respectively, the realis perfective (“preterito”) has ‹um› and ‹in› (e.g. binacal, binmuhat, binmulig, inmagui), the realis nonperfective (“presente”) has reduplication ‹R›, ‹in› and ‹um› (e.g. binmabacal, guinmiguican, binmubuñag, inmiinum) and the nonrealis nonperfective (“futuro”) has ‹um› and reduplication ‹R› (e.g. bumabacal, guimiguican, simisiling). (Note: ‹um› becomes ‹im› if the vowel of the first syllable is ‹i›.) This shows that this feature got degraded in modern Tagalog. The paradigm itself was originally regular and the regularity is recoverable.
    2. I agree that there is a paradigmatic relation among the orientation formatives. However, I think he contradicted himself a bit when he said that the lack of formal compositionality is very important diagnostic for paradigmatic organization, yet asserted that a major principle for paradigms is constant correlation which disregards the formatives involved.
  4. While such correlations may hold both semantically (on the content side) as well as formally (on the expression side), the correlations on the content side are the ones of central importance. They presuppose (or imply) a grid of morphosyntactic features which are always conveyed together: Any given form which is part of the paradigm always conveys the triplet of aspect, mood and voice. There is no way of creating a form which conveys only one of these features. Thus, formations which convey two or more morphosyntactic features and are non-compositional in their formal makeup by their very nature imply paradigmatic organization. Applied to our current example this means that because the aspect/mood alternations remain constant across the different voices and their formal exponence is inherently linked to voice marking, voice itself becomes part of the paradigm. And it is in this sense – and only in this sense – that voice is paradigmatically organized in Tagalog. [page 498]

    I think he should have written “formations which convey two or more morphosyntactic features regardless of the compositionality in their formal makeup by their very nature imply paradigmatic organization”. It is the semantics and not the forms being fusional that convey paradigmaticity. Orientation is part of the paradigm because it participates in that grid of features which cannot be semantically separated from aspect and mood for each of the forms, although they may be separable formally. Orientation will not cease to be a part of the paradigm even if the formatives are uncovered to be fully compositional instead of fusional. That they are more fusional than compositional do not make them more paradigmatic.

  5. There are other diagnostic features of paradigmatic organization, most of which are not met by Tagalog voice alternations. They differ in this regard quite clearly from the aspect/mood alternations. Perhaps most importantly, voice alternations are not general in the same way as aspect/mood alternations. Aspect/mood formations are general, for example, in that for any given aspect/mood formation there are (almost) always three complementary ones (for a major exception, see the next section). Voice alternations are much less regular and predictable. Not many Tagalog lexical bases or derived stems are like bilí in that they co-occur with all five voice affixes illustrated in Table 2.9 Some bases typically occur only in two voice forms, others in three, etc., and while it is possible to make some generalizations about typical patterns based on the semantics of the base and the voice affix there are many exceptions to such patterns (cf. Himmelmann 1987: 129–145). Consequently, one voice form does not imply the existence of another voice form.

    Another basic characteristic of paradigms according to Bybee (1985: 50–58) is the existence of a formally and semantically basic, unmarked form. Such a basic form is easily identifiable for the aspect/mood alternations (i.e. non-realis perfective). In contrast, there is no evidence for a basic voice formation from which the other voices are derived.

    These differences point to the fact that the voice alternations have more characteristics of derivation than inflection. In particular because of their lack of generality, it is widely believed that they do not form a paradigm. In this view, the concept paradigm is limited to inflectional paradigms on the assumption that inflectional paradigms are always totally general (i.e. every base subcategorized for the paradigm occurs in all forms considered to be part of the paradigm). But, as Seiler (1966: 197) points out, this is not even true for the prototypical paradigms of Latin. Not every Latin verb has a supine form and not every Latin noun occurs in vocative case. Furthermore, as just stated, the fact that voice marking is formally intertwined with aspect/mood marking in such a way that all three morphosyntactic features always come in a package implies an extended aspect/mood and voice paradigm, even though the voice alternations are much less regular and general than the aspect/mood alternations. [page 499-500]

    There are two things incorrect here:

    1. These arguments are self cancelling, in that they are contradictory. Tagalog, which has defective/missing formatives, is said to not meet this paradigmaticity yet Latin, which also has missing forms, is said to have paradigms in spite of it. My position is that, as long as constant correlation and proportionality can be demonstrated, they form a paradigm in spite of missing forms. The absence of such forms is just something to be investigated, understood and explained in spite of it being a paradigm.
    2. There is a basic, unmarked form without orientation affixes. Just remove them and you have the base word, and those base words have neutral orientation. These are marked “Non-oriented” or unoriented in my paradigm, following mood (nonrealis/irrealis) and aspect (non-perfective/imperfective).
  6. This is not to deny that there are significant differences between the two types of alternations. In order to capture these differences, one could say that aspect/mood alternations form an inflectional paradigm while voice alternations form a derivational paradigm. As opposed to inflectional paradigms, derivational paradigms are characterized by a lack of generality which in turn implies a more important role for semantic and pragmatic factors in accounting for the actually occurring forms (for example, whether a given base occurs in conveyance voice depends very much on the compatibility of the meaning of the base with the meanings of conveyance voice formations). Importantly, not all derivational formations are paradigmatically organized. To the contrary, derivational formations typically do not involve paradigms.

    Derivational formations which are paradigmatically organized, on the other hand, involve two or more categories, obey the principle of constant correlation along different dimensions and consist of forms which are formally not fully compositional. In the most clear-cut cases, they are formally intertwined with alternations which are clearly inflectional, as just illustrated for the Tagalog voice alternations. [page 500-501]

    There is hesitation here on whether derivations can have paradigms or not. I think whether orientation is derivation or inflection is a totally separate issue and does not matter here. In the end, what matters is that the relations between the forms are paradigmatic.

  7. [A]lthough voice marking may be less general and regular than aspect/mood marking it is still surprisingly productive and widespread when looked at from the point of view of Standard Average European. For example, it is not an exception that an apparently semantically intransitive base such as lakad ‘walk, gait’ allows for all four basic voice formations: (15) matulin siyáng lumakad.  ‘He walks fast.’  (16) nilakad ng mga bata’ ang buóng sampúng milya. (17) huwág lakaran ang damó. ‘Don’t walk on the grass.’  (18) huwág mong ilakad ang bagong sapatos. ‘Don’t use the new shoes in walking.’. That is, although for most lexical bases only a subset of voice formations is conventionalized and frequently used, it would appear that almost all lexical bases have the potential to occur in all basic voice formations if the resulting formation “makes sense” in both semantic and pragmatic terms. [Himmelmann pages 501-02]

  8. [B]ecause of its intimate formal link to aspect/mood marking, voice marking is also paradigmatically organized, despite the fact that it is essentially derivational. This in turn will provide an important lead for the further systematization of ma-words. [page 497-498]

    This is the main take-away in this section, that orientation marking is intimately connected with aspect/mood marking, although the jury is still out on whether its derivation or inflection. Aspect, mood and orientation participates in a paradigm.

  9. I will follow here the basic assumptions of a WORD-AND-PARADIGM approach to morphology. Most importantly, rather than talking about morphemes as minimal units of form and meaning, I will speak of (bound) formatives – i.e. formal units attaching to lexical bases – which in a given morphosyntactic context may convey (or realize) such and such a bundle of semantic and/or syntactic features. It is only in this framework that the term multifunctional affix has a straightforward and consistent interpretation, i.e. a formative which occurs in a multitude of morphosyntactic contexts conveying a number of different bundles of semanto-syntactic features. In morpheme-based morphology, strictly speaking there cannot be a multifunctional morpheme since morphemes are units of meaning and form (so a multifunctional affix is either polysemous or “represents” two or more homonymous morphemes). [page 489]

    I would suppose this is one reason why the paradigm arrived at is incorrect. Tagalog affixes are both formatives and morphemic/polymorphemic. It’s the combinations of individual morphemes that creates each individual formative in the paradigm.

To summarize, I agree that there are four basic orientation affixes, that they form a paradigm, and they are intertwined with aspect/mood paradigms. Orientation affixes form a paradigm because (a) each form presuppose the existence of other forms from which it differs on some particular axis, like initiative, terminative, translative and locative, (b) this semantic difference is consistent and proportionate across the grid, and (c) it participates with other features that are confirmed paradigmatic, like aspect and mood.  However, I disagree that there are several initiative orientation affixes. I think there is only one (‹um›), with the others only its derivatives when combined with realis mood ‹in› and the other affixes. My opinion is that the affixes are quite transparent provided truncation is taken into consideration. I disagreed in that I think orientation is fully compositional, provided one takes into account the truncation process that is happening in the background. I concede that Tagalog has some irregular forms, but earlier stages of other related languages (Old Hiligaynon) points to a regular form in that same part of the paradigm in its earlier stage as a language.


Himmelmann split the uses of ma› into potentives and statives, noting where the term "potentive" came from:

The only problem that actually exists with regard to this category is the appropriate name for it. Potential, aptative and volitive are among the terms that have been used for this category, none of which is really satisfactory in characterizing exactly this set of uses. Here I follow Rubino (1997) in using the new term potentive to refer to formations which convey both involuntary action and ability readings. [Himmelmann #1, page 505]

How he split the uses of ma› and his evidence for splitting them into two separate paradigms and their placements in their respective paradigms are listed below, with my comments in blue:

  1. There are five different uses of variable ma-, i.e. expressions conveying a  bodily condition or emotional state, position, perception, involuntary action, and the ability to perform an action. Only two of these, i.e. bodily condition or emotional state and position, have semantically related invariable uses. Again, while this is not strong evidence, it may contribute to an argument for combining the five different uses of variable ma- into two higher-level groupings, the first consisting of bodily condition/emotional state and position, the second of perception, involuntary action and ability. [page 494]

    In my opinion, this seeming semantic relation between variable ma› and  invariable ma› for uses #1 & #2  vis-a-vis none for uses #3, #4 and #5 does not count as an evidence and is purely accidental. Although use #1 between variable and invariable ma› is related, use #2 is not. This will be the subject of another post.

  2. The last two uses of ma-, the ability and the involuntary uses, share an important property: They occur with exactly the same set of bases. That is, in principle all of the preceding six examples are ambiguous between an ability and an involuntary reading. To illustrate, example ("nadalá ko ang libró" ‘I took the book by accident.’ ) also means ‘I was able to carry the book’ in addition to ‘I took the book by accident’. Conversely, example ("kung màbibili iyán." ‘If that can be sold.’) also means ‘if that happens to be sold’ or ‘if that is sold by accident’.[page 494]

    These two uses are linked by the fact that they overlap more or less completely. Any formation which allows an involuntary action reading (in any of the various senses distinguished) usually also allows an ability reading and vice versa. (Endnote: As noted above, in some instances the two readings are distinguished suprasegmentally, unaccented ma- typically conveying an ability meaning, accented mà- an involuntary one.)

    While it is rare crosslinguistically that involuntary and ability uses are conveyed by the same form and far from obvious how they are linked semantically, use of the same formative for both uses is extremely common and widespread in western Austronesian languages, regardless of the shape of the formative… There is a broad consensus in the literature that the involuntary action and ability uses form a single category. [page 505]

    This is the semantic evidence to group together uses #4 & #5 separate from uses #1 & #2 of variable ma›. I agree with this grouping.

  3. Unlike perception predicates, the remaining two semantic classes of ma- marked expressions, i.e. expressions conveying a bodily condition or emotional state and positional predicates, do not fulfill the criteria for patient voice formations and also fail to show any of the [voice] correspondences in a regular and general fashion. Instead, they occur in a set of very different alternations.

    Tagalog is well known for allowing voice alternations in expressions for what would appear to be semantically intransitive activities, such as ‘run’, ‘dance’ and so on, as shown in examples (16)-(18) above. And there are in fact expressions for bodily conditions or emotional states which at least formally appear to be voice-marked. That is, next to matakot ‘afraid’ in (1) there is also ikatakot and katakutan: (32) "ang pagkalunod ng Kastila’ ay  ikinatakot ng tatlóng magkakaibigan." ‘The drowning of the Spaniard frightened the three friends.’  (33) "kinatàtakutan siyá ng mga tao dito." ‘People here are afraid of him.’ (34) "hindí nilá nàlàláman kung dapat katakutan ang aswáng." ‘they did not know whether a vampire was really to be feared’. These formations differ quite clearly in form and meaning from the potentive forms. In place of the prefix ma-,  which occurs in all potentive forms, there is another prefix, i.e. ka-. Conveyance voice (prefix i-) and locative voice (suffix -an) marking as well as aspect/mood marking (reduplication, realis undergoer infix -in-), however, are the same as in the other paradigms. [pages 508-510]

    This is the formal evidence to separate uses #1 & #2 from the other uses of variable ma›: each of the two groups shows up in a different orientation alternations. I agree that uses #1 & #2 do not have patient roles, simply because they are statives. However, I disagree that they do not show orientation formations or correspondences in a regular and general fashion:

    1. See my tables 5 and 7 below to see how regular and general stative ma› formations are, including terminative orientation.
    2. It’s actually his “potentive” paradigm that shows irregular orientation formations. See my tables 5, 6 and 7 below on how potentive ma› and maka› were split to two paradigms and how they really look like.

    Overall, the failure of stative ma› to show orientation correspondences in a regular and general fashion is an indication that the paradigm he devised is incorrect.

  4. All these [stative] formations principally exclude the involvement of an agent, i.e. an entity which is represented as intending to bring about a given state of affairs (and usually also controlling much of the action(s) required for bringing it about). Instead, causes for experiencing a given emotional or bodily state are typically inanimate things or abstract states of affairs. This constitutes the major difference to the potentives. In potentive formations, there always is a potential agent implied even if in the specific state of affairs referred to by a potentive form this agent is presented as not being in full control. Forms referring to states of affairs which principally exclude the involvement of an agent are called stative formations, those which principally allow the involvement of an agent, dynamic formations. [page 510]

    I disagree. Ma› statives in initiative orientation, even for “causes for experiencing a given emotional or bodily state”, can have causes that need not be inanimate things or abstract states of affairs. I am not referring here in the sense of maka› being stative ma›’s initiative orientation form and having stative uses. Take for example the following three sentences:

    1. ‘UST student, hinihinalang namatay sa hazing.’
    2. ‘Dalawang sundalo namatay sa bakbakan sa Sulu’
    3. ‘Tulong na pinansyal sa pamilya ng pulis na namatay sa pakikipagsagupa sa New People’s Army sa Mountain Province, ibinigay.’

    The experiencers of the verb namatay in these sentences suffered from animate and concrete, real-life causes with which the experiencers have agent-like active interaction. There is also a subtype of stative ma›, mapag›, where a seeming actor is involved:

    1. ‘Dito nagsisimula ang pagiging mapagtaka ng mga bata’
    2. ‘’Kumain ka ng marami’ sambit nya na ikinapagtaka ko.’

    Because causes of any stative can be in any form (inanimate or animate, abstract or concrete), they should not be stressed too much as a difference with potentives, because potentives’ causes for being involuntary or inability can be the very same type of causes.

  5. In a stative formation such as na-galit siyá ‘she was/got angry’ the subject (siyá) is an experiencer. In a corresponding experiential potentive formation such as nà-kita siyá ‘she was/got seen’, the subject is the stimulus of a perception/visual experience, not the perceiver/experiencer. The perceiver, if overtly expressed, has to be coded as a genitive (nà-kita siyá ng aso ‘the dog saw her’). Statives with ma-/na-, on the other hand, generally do not allow genitive arguments. If one wanted to add the object of the anger to nagalit siyá this would have to be marked as a locative (e.g. nagalit siyá sa aso ‘she was angry with the dog’). [page 510-511]

    This is the syntactic evidence to distinguish the two groups. To add further:

    1. In an experiential “potentive” formation such as nà-kita siyá ‘she was/got seen’, the subject is not just a stimulus but also an (unintentional) theme / patient / recipient.
    2. On ma› statives, they might have a similar looking genitive-marked argument (e.g. nagalit siya sa akin ng ginising ko ‘she got angry with me when I woke her up.’) but this is not a real genitive marker, just the homophonous marker nang since it can be transferred to the start of the sentence and has to be re-spelled (Nang ginising ko, nagalit siya sa akin ‘when I woke her up, she got angry with me’).
    3. When he said that "statives with ma-/na-, on the other hand, generally do not allow genitive arguments", he should clarify whether he is referring to one of the orientations of ma› formative or it’s the entire stative ma› paradigm that is incapable of taking a genitive arguments, because only the initiative orientation ma› is incapable of taking genitive arguments, the other orientations can.
      1. ‘Kinagalitan niya ang aso’ (Locative)
      2. ‘Ikinagalit niya ang pagngatngat ng aso sa tsinelas.’ (Translative)  
  6. It is also uncontroversial that potentive ma- formations are patient voice forms because they regularly alternate with potentive formations in other voices. Thus we find maka- for potentive actor voice, as in (25), ma- -an for potentive locative voice as in (26), and ma-i- for potentive conveyance voice as in (27): (25) "at hindí makabaríl sa kanyá" ‘(The man got bitten by the ants) and wasn’t able to shoot at him.’ (26) "kung inyóng mapagtiisán iyán" ‘if you (are able to) endure this …’ (27) "nailuto ko na" ‘(Good heavens, you will have to say it is not possible to return the rice, because) I already happened to cook it.’ .

    Viewed from the point of view of voice formation, this means that for a given voice, there are always two forms, a non-potentive one involving one of the affixations listed in Table 2 and a potentive one, which always includes ma (or na in realis mood). This is illustrated for conveyance voice by the following two examples: (28) (a) iniluto’ ko na ang manók  ‘I already cooked the chicken.’, (b) nailuto’ ko na ang manók ‘I already happened to cook the chicken.’.

    Note that the overall structure of the two preceding examples is absolutely identical. In particular, there is no change in the number or the marking of the core arguments. The correspondence shown in these two examples is absolutely regular and general: For every voice form denoting a controlled action there is a corresponding form which denotes the involuntary performance or the ability to perform this action. The basic correspondences are listed in Table 3. [pages 505-506]


    I do not agree with any of the above.

    1. The putative potentive forms are in the wrong orientation, such as ma› is not in terminative orientation but in initiative orientation, ma- -an is not in locative orientation but still in initiative orientation, and ma-i- is not in translative orientation but also still in initiative orientation. The reason is that all of them starts with m›. Excluding these potentive forms under consideration, there is no verb affix in non-initiative orientations that starts with m› (see my table 2 below for examples).
    2. maka› can’t be the initiative orientation counterpart of ma› since all verbs with formatives in the initiative orientation retain the rest of the formative except for the initial consonant m›. As an example, in the paki› paradigm, while maki› is the initiative orientation form, the ‹aki› segment is retained in terminative, translative and locative orientation forms (refer to my table 2). So for maka› to be in Himmelmann’s potentive paradigm, all the non-initiative orientation forms must have the ‹aka› segment in these forms. But that is not what we see in Himmelmann’s potentive paradigm, shown on the right side of my table 3.image

      Also, he did not provide explanation why there is a ‹ka› in maka› and its absence in the non-initiative orientations. Thus, his stative ma› non-initiative orientations do not directly correspond to any of his potentive ma› non-initiative orientations. I think the irregularity of the forms binili (realis perfective terminative orientation) and bibili (nonrealis nonperfective initiative orientation) made him believe that forms do not have to correspond in the same regular way as meanings. His earlier analysis of Ratahan, which shows a similar table on page 53, has possibly been carried over to his Tagalog analysis and retrofitted. I will show below that the correspondence in non-initiative orientations between stative ma› and his potentive ma› is only indirect. And lastly, stative causative maka› has non-inititiave orientation forms (see my tables 6 & 7): (terminative orientation : paka› ‹in, translative orientation : ipaka› , locative orientation : paka› ‹an) that is distinct from his potentive ma› undergoer forms. That is distinct still from potentive maka› forms (initiative-terminative orientation : maka› ‹in, initiative-translative orientation : maika› , initiative-locative orientation : maka› ‹an) which are all in initiative orientation. Example sentences for galit:

      1. ‘Talagang nasasaktan din kami kapag kami ay napagalitan at dahil kung ano man ang naikagalit ng aming guro ay hindi namin sinasadya at hindi namin nais na sila’y magalit samin.’
      2. ‘Si Ricardo  ay hindi na makaalis sa bangko dahil sa malimit niyang pagliban ay nakagalitan siya ng kaniyang puno.’

      Overall, what Himmelmann proposed conflicts on two counts with the regularity of other paradigms. Therefore, Himmelmann’s potentive paradigm can be split into two because they do not belonging in the same paradigm: (a) the initiative orientation maka›, belonging to the paka› paradigm and (b) the ma› potentives in undergoer roles (which are in fact in initiative orientation) belonging to the pa› paradigm. The same can be said of his stative ma› paradigm.

    3. From the point of view of orientation formation, there are 3 alternatives that we have uncovered: (a) a primitive paradigm, (b) a causative paradigm with two subtypes: non-potentive and potentive, and (c) a stative paradigm. More details of these will be looked at below, including subtypes of each.
  7. In all likelihood, uses of ma- which clearly are patient voice formations are also potentive formations. There are two major pieces of evidence for patient voice status: a) the ma- formation regularly corresponds to a patient voice formation with -in; and b) it allows for the overt expression of an undergoer subject and a non-subject actor marked as a possessive or genitive argument…… These criteria are fully met by perception predicates (‘see’, ‘hear’, ‘feel’, etc.). The following two examples show the base diníg ‘audible’ first in potentive patient voice meaning ‘hear’ and then in non-potentive patient voice meaning ‘listen to’:(29) "nang màriníg itò ng Kastila’" ‘When the Spaniard heard this, …’ (30) " dinggín mo ang maestra."  ‘Listen to the teacher.’. [page 507]

    1. I do not agree that ma› is clearly a terminative orientation formation. I agree with the two information as facts but them being evidentiary support is only superficial. I have explained it down below as an instance of “stacking”, and works very similar to case stacking.
    2. Causative ma› does not necessarily mean potentive formations. I have given the reason and details in the previous number’s comment, where I have shown that causative ma› have two subtypes (so far): non-potentive and potentive.
  8. A further morphosyntactic correlate pertains to actor voice forms. Potentives easily allow actor voice derivations with maka-, hence nakàkita siyá ng aso ‘she saw a dog’. No corresponding formations exist for statives. In fact, given that statives principally lack agent arguments one would predict that agent voice formations are impossible for statives. This prediction is true in that there is no general and regular actor voice formation for statives. However, it is false in that there are sporadic formations from statives which formally can be classified as actor voice formations because they also involve maka-. The base galit ‘anger’ is one of the bases which allow a clearly stative maka- derivation, makagalit meaning ‘to be the cause of anger, to give offence, to irritate’. In contrast to potentive actor voice formations, the subject of a stative maka- formation has to be an inanimate cause (some state of affairs or a thing) : "lahát ng kanyáng sabihi’y nakagàgálit sa akin". [page 511]

    I agree that there is no stative maka› because that would have to be derived from kaka› and that would be redundant: marking something stative when they are already marked stative. Another reason why there is no stative initiative orientation in his paradigm is that stative ma› is actually in initiative orientation, for reasons already discussed above. The terminative orientation of ma> is ka› ‹in. Additionally, I do not agree on four points:

    1. Stative ma› was put in “patient voice” when it should be in the initiative orientation (“actor voice”) row. The label “actor voice” is misleading since both stative and fientive verb paradigms are being displayed in one table.
    2. Statives can have agent-like arguments marked as subjects, like in one subtype of stative, the causative stative kapa›, although their paradigm formation is not as regular. Examples: “Napaalis ng MMDA sa mga lugar sa Metro Manila ang 36,000 na mga vendors.” “Ikinapaalis sa kanya sa bahay ni Juan ang kanyang pangungumit.” napa› is realis perfective initiative orientation and ikinapa› is realis perfective translative orientation of kapa›.
    3. I have already mentioned above that maka› and potentive ma› does not belong in the same paradigm. The difference between maka› and potentive ma› is not one of orientation but the presence of a dedicated stative marker ka›. maka› is stative causative from paka› while potentive ma› is from the base causative form pa› which can include stative and non-stative (e.g. potentive) meanings depending on the base word.
    4. maka› is analyzed as being in two paradigms when it should just be in one separate paradigm by itself as a subtype of causative pa›. Because his stative maka› formally belong in the same paradigm as his potentive maka›, it again indicates some flaw in his potentive vs. stative paradigm. I will provide an analysis below how maka› can belong in the same paradigm yet seems to have these two meanings.
    5. He seems to emphasize that subjects of "actor voice" verbs need to be in actor role for potentives as well as statives. This orientation actually is about the origin of the action, that’s why I use the term "initiative orientation". It just so happens that is is the actor or agent in fientive verbs. The originator of the action in stative verbs need not be an actor role, and normally is in experiencer role.
  9. Semantically, actor voice statives are difficult to distinguish from conveyance voice statives in that both refer to the cause for a given state. However, they differ syntactically. In conveyance voice, the experiencer is expressed by a genitive phrase, not by a locative phrase. Compare the preceding example (35) "lahát ng kanyáng sabihi’y nakagàgálit sa akin" ‘Everything he says irritates me.’ with: (36) “ikinagalit niyá akó.” ‘She got angry at me (I was the reason for her being angry).’  [pages 511-512]

    1. Again, the use of “actor voice” for statives is misleading.
    2. Distinguishing ikinagalit vs nakagagalit is not too difficult if we follow the formatives used. Nakagagalit is about the origin of what is causing such a given state, while ikinagagalit is what conveyed him to be in the given state. Although mentally they can both indirectly refer to a cause, the distinction being made between the two words is the originator of the cause versus the conveyer of the cause.
    3. ikagalit and nakagalit are not in the same orientation paradigms: ikagalit is in stative ka› and nakagalit is in stative causative paka›.
  10. With regard to productivity, the stative actor voice forms are the least common of all stative formations and whenever they occur they often take on somewhat specialized meanings. Thus, for example, makagalit is ‘irritate, antagonize, give offense’ rather than plain ‘make angry’. Furthermore, the stative actor voice derivations are often conventionalized in one of the four aspect/mood forms, for example, naka-àawa’ ‘arousing pity, pitiable’ (< awa’ ‘mercy, compassion’) or nakàka-litó (or naka-lìlitó) ‘confusing’ (< litó ‘confused, at a loss’)

    The ma- prefix is considered the basic form which is simply glossed as ST(ATIVE). The actor voice prefix maka- occurs in parentheses to indicate its lack of productivity and the frequent occurrence of “defective” formations which do not allow aspect/mood alternations. In this regard it should be noted that all stative voice alternations – like all voice alternations in Tagalog – are not fully general in that they are not conventional with every stative base, with the exception that ma- occurs on every stative base. In addition to the basic ma-form, the conveyance voice forms are the most productive and widespread, occurring, for example, with all bases denoting emotions. Locative voice is distinctly less common. [page 512]

    Four points are incorrect here:

    1. As mentioned above, maka› is not part of the stative paradigm but part of the stative causative paradigm, a subtype of the causative pa›.
    2. maka› is not unproductive or defective in its aspect/mood paradigm by having just one form in realis nonperfective (naka-àawa’,naka-lìlitó) but all four aspect/mood forms can be found in the wild. The two forms not shown yet (apart from the realis nonperfective and nonrealis perfective forms) are the nonrealis nonperfective forms (maka-àawa’,maka-lìlitó) and the realis perfective forms (naka-àwa’,naka-litó) and found in such sentences as ‘Ang panukalang ito ay nakalito sa lahat halos ng naroroon’, ‘Iwasan ang mga kilos na makalilito sa atensyon ng mga tagapakinig.’
    3. I don’t think the meanings of maka› are specialized. I think it has more to do with translational difficulty because English and Tagalog does not have the same meaning building blocks and expressions, so, to avoid verbose yet exact meanings, a conventionalized translation is done. 
    4. The stative paradigm initiative orientation form is the stative ma›. It is not in terminative orientation as displayed in Himmelmann’s paradigm.
  11. The voice alternation test also provides important language-internal evidence for the problem of invariable ma- formations. Despite the fact that ma- here is invariable (does not alternate for aspect/mood), these formations partake in some of the stative voice alternations listed in table 5. In particular, most “quality” ma- formations allow derivations with ika- which occur in all four aspect/moods (they are rarely attested in texts, though). For example, there is ikaliít ‘get small on account of’, ikabuti ‘improve/get better on account of’, and ikagandá ‘be(come) beautiful on account of’. The following example illustrates the use of ikagandá as a main predicate: (41) "ikinagandá ko ang pagtina’ ng buhók ko." ‘I became beautiful because I dyed my hair (on account of dying my hair).’

    Stative actor voice derivations with maka- are also possible with “quality”- denoting bases, as in makaliít ‘(inanimate) cause for someone or something to become small(er)’, makagandá ‘(inanimate) cause for someone or something to become beautiful’, or: (42) "Nakabuti sa kanyá ang gamót." ‘The medicine benefited him (did him good).’ Locative stative voice derivations with ka–an do not occur with these bases, probably because there is a very productive homophonous derivation denoting abstract qualities (e.g. kaliitán ‘smallness’, kabutihan ‘goodness, kindness’, kagandahan ‘beauty’), which does not belong to the stative voice paradigm.


    The fact that invariable ma- formations partake in stative voice alternations lends further support to the analysis of invariable ma- as a defective member of a single stative ma- paradigm rather than considering it a homonymous formation totally unrelated to variable ma- formations. [page 515-516]

    [O]ne could acknowledge the obvious semantic communality that both ma- formations denote states and consider invariable ma- formations defective members of a single class of ma- marked words. This is implied in Bloomfield’s solution (1917: 288f) who suggests that invariable ma- formations form a subclass of “special static words” within the larger class of maformations. [page 503]

    I agree that use #1 of invariable ma› belongs to the stative paradigm. Two points:

    1. Again, maka› is not the initiative orientation of stative ma›. Rather, ma› itself is the initiative orientation.
    2. Stative locative orientation do occur, you just have to know what you’re looking for. For example, the realis perfective kinaliitan and nonrealis nonperfective kakaliitan are used in these sentences:
      1. ‘Yung mga kinaliitan kong damit tinatabi ko pa, kasi baka pumayat pa ako eh.’
      2. ‘Kakapalit lang nya ng school shoes nya at ito yung kinaliitan nya masakit na daw.’
      3. ‘Yung bath tub bili na nang pang matagalan. Wag yung mga mamahalin o kaya kakaliitan agad kasi matagal na gagamitin.’

      I can think of kaliitan as a verb, but looking for example in the wild is more difficult as it is orthographically identical with kaliitan ‘smallness’ but the verb has stress on the last syllable.

  12. variable ma- formations are voice-marked and allow for voice alternations. More specifically, ma- formations partake in two different voice paradigms, being either patient voice potentives or basic statives. Potentives and statives differ not only in terms of their semantics – potentives denote dynamic eventualities, statives states – but also with regard to argument structure: Potentives, at least underlyingly, involve an agent or effector, statives don’t. [Himmelmann #1, page 516]

    I agree that the formative ma› partake in two different orientation paradigms, the causative pa› (with subtypes potentive and non-potentive) and the stative ka›. However I disagree on two points in that ma› paradigm also has orientation alternations in a different sense that what Himmelmann thinks:

    1. potentive maka› has separate orientation alternations from both potentive ma› and stative ma›.
    2. the ma› in potentive ma› and stative ma› paradigms is in initiative orientation for both of them. The terminative orientation for stative paradigm is ka› ‹in, for non-potentive causative it’s pa› ‹in, and for potentive-causative is ma› ‹in.
  13. The distinction between statives and potentives …… also has a number of morphosyntactic correlates which can be most easily shown by contrasting stative expressions with corresponding potentive ones. A particularly clear illustration of the difference is provided by potentive perception expressions since these involve an experiencer rather than an agent in the strict sense and thus are rather similar to expressions for emotional or bodily states which also  involve experiencers…. That is, the basic alignments of semantic roles and syntactic functions is very different in potentives and statives even though both formations may denote experiences. Table 4 summarizes the differences. [Himmelmann #1, page 510-511]

    When [ma-prefixed words denoting acts of perception] are used as predicates, thing perceived appears in subject position (marked by the specific article ang or one of its alternates), while the perceiver appears in a genitive or possessor phrase.…The fourth set of ma-words denotes involuntary actions. If the action is semantically transitive, the undergoer occurs in subject function, while the actor appears in a genitive or possessor phrase, just as in the case of perception predicates.… Again, words affixed with ma- in this sense [ma- deoting the ability or opportunity to carry out an action] are undergoer-oriented in that the undergoer occurs in subject function. [Himmelmann #1, page 492-493]


    It does look like those basic alignments do apply but the scope of potentive verb class is actually larger than just ma› and maka› and also include other verbs with pa› derived bases, such as makapag›, makapagpa›, mapa›, mapang›, etc. Therefore, it is difficult to definitively say if the alignments in his table 4 hold across all of them without an exhaustive study.

  14. This system allows us to systematize the different uses of variable ma- …. These can now be seen to fall into two higher level categories, potentive and stative, as detailed in Table 7. Note that this  higher-level distinction is based primarily on language-internal evidence(different voice alternations, different argument structure, etc.) and is not simply an instantiation of a putatively universal scheme. [Himmelmann #1, page 518]


    The place of positionals and locationals in this distinction is not quite straightforward. Their placement here in the stative column is tentative. [Himmelmann #1, page 522, Note 17]

To summarize, (1) I think potentives as a group exists, but the exact details of Himmelmann’s potentive paradigm is incorrect: (a) The scope of such potentives cover not just ma› and maka› but also other verbs with pa› derived bases, such as makapag›, makapagpa›, mapa›, mapang›, etc. (b) Potentives paradigm are only productive as and exists in initiative orientation. (c) Potentives are a subtype of causatives, which has other subtypes which we can call as non-potentives as a group. (2) The concept of statives is correct but the paradigm details are also not correct. (a) The scope of statives cover not just ma› but also other verbs with ka› derived bases, such as kapag›, kapagpa›, kapa›, kapang›, etc. (b) maka› is not a part of stative paradigm. (c) Statives paradigm are productive, and that ma› is in initiative orientation. I will show how I think the paradigms should look like below.

Potentive vs Non-Potentive Paradigm Correspondence/Contrast:

Himmelmann asserted that there is ample evidence to support this. I have listed down below those that he mentioned:

  1. There is a constant  semantic ratio in that -um- relates to maka- as -in to ma-, etc., independent of the formal make-up of these forms. [page 506-507]

    Yes, but this has another, different explanation.

  2. The correspondence between potentive and non-potentive forms is very general. For almost all potentive forms there is a corresponding non-potentive one and vice versa. (See Table 2 above.) [page 507]

    This has another, different explanation.

  3. The alternation between the two formations is also syntactically and semantically absolutely regular: The number and coding of arguments in both constructions is identical and the meaning difference always pertains to ability or lack of control. [page 507]

    Again, this has another, different explanation.

  4. The potentive/non-potentive distinction constitutes an obligatory choice in Tagalog grammar. That is, there is no neutral way to say ‘I broke a glass’ in Tagalog. Either I did it on purpose, in which case a non-potentive form has to be used. Or it was an accident, in which case it is necessary to use the potentive form (see also Wolff et al. 1991: 305f). This (part of the) paradigm is thus a truly inflectional paradigm in the sense established in section 3 (Wolff et al. 1991: 284, in fact, speak of potential inflection)…… Depending on the meaning of the base, it is of course also to be expected that a potentive patient voice formation regularly alternates with other potentive voice formations. The following example shows diníg in potentive actor voice: (31) "at nakàriníg siyá ng mga huni ng ibon" ‘… and then he heard some birds chirping.’ [page 507-508]

    I would agree if potentive verbs are expanded to include other verbs with pa› derived bases, such as makapag›, makapagpa›, mapa›, mapang›, etc. If not, Himmelmann’s potentive/non-potentive obligatory choice is a direct result of an arbitrary paradigm since other paradigms that fit the data better can be created that does not have this binary choice anymore. See below for more details.

  5. Perception predicates semantically fit the non-potentive – potentive distinction: The potentive forms refer to unplanned, casual, non-directed perceptions, the non-potentive forms to perceptions which are controlled in the sense that attention is consciously directed towards a given input. The major difference between the action predicates such as ‘shoot’ and ‘cook’ and a perception predicate such as diníg is that the latter usually occurs with potentive affixation, while the former are more frequently found with non-potentive affixation.

    The fact that perception predicates appear in two different formations which vary with regard to intentionality or control will not come as a surprise to typologically informed readers. Similar differences are found in languages which have grammaticized the distinction between dynamic (or active) and stative eventualities (see, for example, Mithun 1991). Two points are to be noted here. First, many existing descriptions of Tagalog set up a special verb class for perception predicates, assuming that there is a special maka-/ma- inflection for these verbs (e.g. Schachter and Otanes 1972: 288, 296) and thus missing the generalization that there is a highly general potentive/non-potentive alternation for predicates of nearly all semantic classes. Second, as will be seen shortly, potentives including nondirected perceptions are strictly to be distinguished from “truly” stative eventualities in Tagalog.[page 508]

    Agree, but potentives must be expanded and not as conceived by Himmelmann.

To summarize, I think there is a better paradigm than the potentive paradigm that Himmelmann created. I have explained it in more detail down below.

For Stative vs. Non-Potentive Paradigm Correspondence/Contrast:

  1. As in the case of both non-potentive and potentive dynamic voice alternations (see Table 3), the inherent link with aspect/mood inflection provides the major formal evidence for the view that the formations listed in Table 5 form a derivational paradigm. [The] productive derivational relations between stative and dynamic formations. That is, lexical bases are not limited to occurring in either dynamic or stative formations. In principle, i.e. inasmuch as the resulting formation makes sense semantically and is useful pragmatically, all lexical bases can occur in either paradigm. Hence, there are dynamic derivations from bases typically denoting states and vice versa. For example, takot ‘fear’ – which usually occurs with stative affixations – also allows for dynamic derivations as in : (37) "Huwág mong takutin ang bata’." ‘Don’t frighten/scare the child!’ (38) "Sino ang tumakot sa iyó?"  ‘Who frightened you?’. And conversely, usually dynamic putol ‘cut’ also allows for stative derivations as in : (39) "Ikapùputol ng mga sangá ng kahoy ang malakás na hanging itó."  ‘This strong wind will cause many branches of trees to break off.’. Consequently, there are constant correlations across dynamic and stative formations (e.g. tumakot relates to ikatakot as pumutol to ikaputol, etc.), which in turn suggests that the dynamic and stative paradigms themselves are also in a paradigmatic relationship (see below, Table 6). [page 513-514]

    I agree.

  2. Positional predicates with ma- do not only mean being in a given position but also getting oneself into a given position. For example, maupó’ does not only mean ‘be seated’ but also ‘seat oneself, sit down’. This second meaning is somewhat unexpected in that ‘sit down’ clearly involves an agentive argument. Not surprisingly then, there is also a dynamic form umupó’ ‘sit down, sit on’. It is hard to tell whether there is a real semantic difference between dynamic umupó’ and stative maupó’ in the reading ‘sit down’. In fact, the two forms are interchangeable in many contexts. Thus, both maupó’ kayó and umupó’ kayó are used for ‘sit down!’ (imperative). Note that the two forms differ in their other readings. Only maupó’, but not umupó’, also means ‘be seated’. And in contrast to stative maupó’, dynamic umupó’ also means ‘sit up (as when getting up from bed)’. [page 517]

    maupó’ kayó as ‘sit down’ is a rough, quick translation, more like a paraphrase and distorts the meaning a bit. maupó’ kayó and umupó’ kayó are translatable only as ‘be seated (down)’ and ‘sit (down/up/on)‘ respectively, so the difference is obvious to see and determine which one is stative or fientive.

To summarize, there is a stative paradigm that is distinct from the non-potentive paradigm as illustrated in Himmelmann’s Table 2.

Diagnostic for Distinguishing Potentives vs Statives

Since any lexical base can appear with either stative or fientive formatives and consequently “stative basic voice and stative actor voice are formally identical to potentive patient voice and potentive actor voice, respectively”,  Himmelmann provides a means to distinguish them:

  1. In context, if an agent is overtly expressed or its participation is clearly implied, the form is unambiguously to be interpreted as a dynamic one. Otherwise, a stative interpretation is the default interpretation. [page 514]

    Not entirely. There are stative subtypes, like causative statives, that allow agent-like interpretation of subjects so this is not an absolute rule. And because it is not an absolute rule, this should never ne used as a diagnostic for distinguishing dynamicity and control paradigms.

  2. For ma- with inanimate effectors,  there are two pieces of formal evidence for analyzing a given ma-formation as potentive patient voice rather than stative.

    1. First, only potentives allow the overt expression of an argument marked by the genitive marker ng. Basic statives do not allow genitive-marked arguments but only locative marked ones.
    2. Second, voice alternation test … provides important language-internal evidence for the problem of invariable ma- formations.

    [page 514-515]

    I think this needs further clarification.

    1. Statives, basic or derived, allow a genitive marker in non-initiative orientations.
    2. I think its mainly the orientation and their argument marking that distinguishes a dynamicity and control paradigms and their subtypes.


It is evident from my comments that I think Himmelmann’s paradigm is incorrect, which I reproduced below, Table 2, which was taken from [Himmelmann #2].


To summarize the reasons:

  1. All of Himmelmann’s potentive ma› undergoer roles are in the wrong orientation. They are in initiative orientation since all of them starts with m›, including all the putative potentive non-initiative orientation formatives that start with m›. Excluding this paradigm under consideration, there is no verb affix in non-initiative orientation affixes that starts with m› while all non-initiative orientation affixes in potentives start with m›. See My Table 3. image
  2. maka› can’t be the initiative orientation counterpart of ma› since all verbs with formatives in the non-initiative orientation retain the rest of the formative except for the initial consonant m›. See the examples in My Table 2. Only initiative orientation has m› and all non-initiative orientations retained the ‹ag› part of the initiative orientation formative. Potentives non-initiative orientations should have ‹aka›. 
  3. No explanation was provided why there is a ‹ka› in maka› that is absent in the undergoer voices.
  4. Potentive ma› and maka› do not belong in the same orientation paradigm, but they do belong in the wider potentive paradigms that includes other verbs with pa› derived bases, such as makapag›, makapagpa›, mapa›, mapang›, etc.  
  5. Statives can have agent arguments, especially if they are causative statives and stative causatives, which are different from each other and also have a regular paradigm. In fact, maka› is stative causative initiative orientation.
  6. Maka› cannot be in two paradigms: not in the stative paradigm and should be in the causative paradigm. We can use orientation alternation and form as a guide to prove this.
  7. All four forms for aspect/mood can be found in the wild for maka›. Apart from maka-litó and naka-lìlitó, the two other forms exists. The nonrealis nonperfective forms (maka-àawa’,maka-lìlitó) and the realis perfective forms (naka-àwa’,naka-litó) can be found in such sentences as ‘Ang panukalang ito ay nakalito sa lahat halos ng naroroon’, ‘Iwasan ang mga kilos na makalilito sa atensyon ng mga tagapakinig.’ .
  8. Although a potentive paradigm does exists, the similarity and correspondence in distinction with potentives can be explained differently without involving a Himmelmann-type potentive paradigm. The correspondence in orientation between the paradigms is not formally direct, only indirect through semantics.
  9. Stative ma› do show orientation correspondence in a regular and general fashion as opposed to his analysis. Stative locative orientation do occur, you just have to know what you’re looking for. For example, the realis perfective kinaliitan is used here: ‘Yung mga kinaliitan kong damit tinatabi ko pa, kasi baka pumayat pa ako eh.’ I can think of kaliitan as a verb, but looking for example in the wild is more difficult as it is orthographically identical with kaliitan ‘smallness’. I have already indicated above that it is the potentive ma› that do not show orientation correspondence in a regular and general fashion. This is the reverse of his position.
  10. Stative ma› does not exclude implied agents and is not limited to only inanimate things or abstract states of affairs.   


Let’s work it how the correct paradigm should look like. I will be creating a series of tables to show how to arrive at the correct paradigms. To interpret the tables, bear in mind the following:

  1. We know that the orientation affixes are applied to the verb base and the verb base can be a root word or a derived word. If it’s a derived word, then there would be layers of affixes and root, shown by the layers of {   }
  2. Affixes are shown using guillemets: ‹infix›, prefix› and ‹suffix. An affix can also show layers, in that an infix applied later will be inside another infix, like ‹‹um›in›. This is a better representation than ‹um›‹in› because it eliminates other interpretations like, they were infixed at the same time, or that ‹in› is infixed after ‹um› but is not infixed after the initial consonant. 
  3. Truncated segments re shown by (  ).
  4. The table shows three stages of the formative separated by → :
  5. (a) the relationship between affixes and the verb base showing the layers of affixation and bases
  6. (b) the formative showing what was and truncated, and
  7. (c) the remaining formative after truncation.
  8. I have included only orientation and mood in the paradigm, and not aspect as different Philippine languages have different way of marking nonperfective, and pluractionality is only marked in Bikol.
  9. As everybody knows already, the realis Mood infix ‹in› is applied before the orientation affixes are subsequently applied. (This might not be the case with Ilokano.)

Let start from the basic. This is the core paradigm, which applies to all verbs:


The above table indicates that for each word, realis mood is applied first before any orientation affix is added. This is the regular affixation order for Tagalog and Bikol. Even Bisayan verbs from derived bases follow this order. However, Bisayan languages have the reverse order for verbs from simple bases. Terminative suffix for Bikol, Sugbuhanon, Hiligaynon, and Samarnon is ‹on. In other languages and dialects in Bikol (Rinconada, Miraya) and Visayas (Kiniray-a, dialects of Sugbuhanon and Samarnon) it is ‹ǝn instead of ‹in.


The core orientation affixes are applied either to simple bases, derived bases or phrasal bases. Derived bases can be  categorized into 5 types, four of them illustrated in the below table.


The fifth, “everything else” is a catch-all for those that can’t be included in any of the four above, so would be a heterogeneous group. All these basic derived bases have subtypes as well. I will not be showing here the subtypes for pag› and paŋ›.

However, the only ones involved in Himmelmann’s works are ka› and pa› derived bases, the paradigms of which are numbered #1 and #2 above. As you can see, the initiative nonrealis formative is ma› for both ka› and pa›.

Below are further paradigms showing how both ka› and pa› can be applied on derived bases. Ka› have 4 subtypes and Pa› has 8 subtypes. How productive these combinations are remains to be investigated. Also, I need to provide example sentences to really prove that these forms can exist in normal conversations, as some of the forms with ? marks are confusing in that the forms by itself may exists in the other paradigms.




One subtype of ka› is ka› on pa› derived bases, as in ka›{pa›  }. Vice versa, one subtype of pa› is pa› on ka› derived bases, as in pa›{ka›  }. Presented side by side, ka› and pa› formatives and the two combinations would look like below, which shows a causative and non-causative type of statives and stative and non-stative type of causatives.


Maka› being a stative causative counterpart of causative ma› is the reason why it behaves similarly to causative/potentive ma›.  Maka› is in the initiative orientation of Himmelmann’s potentives and statives because that is it’s correct orientation. While all the ma› formatives (ma›, ma› ‹an, mai›) in both of Himmelmann’s potentives and statives are in the wrong orientation. This also explains why there is a ka› in maka›, which is not explained in Himmelmann. Furthermore, this is the reason why statives ma› have no maka› counterparts. Adding a stative on top of an already stative meaning does not make sense as it is redundant, although adding a causative over another causative makes sense.

The differences of the above stative paradigms with Himmelmann’s statives are:

  1. Statives have four types, with causative statives just one of them.
  2. Primitive statives paradigm is the base from which all the other stative types are derived.
  3. Ma› is in initiative orientation instead of in the terminative orientation.
  4. Maka› is not part of the stative paradigm at all, but that of the causative, specifically, its subtype stative causative.
  5. Maka› is part of just one paradigm, stative causative, and never straddle several paradigms.

As for the differences between Himmelmann’s potentives and my paradigms:

  1. There is no single potentive verb class. The two types of verbs in this class belongs two different paradigms:
    1. maka› is part of the stative causative verb paradigm.
    2. ma› is part of the primitive causative verb paradigm.
  2. Primitive causatives paradigm is the base from which all the other causative types are derived.
  3. All of the non-initiative orientation formatives in Himmelmann’s potentives are in primitve causatives initiative orientation. It is not shown above, but will be shows in the next table.
  4. Potentives as a group of verb or a unitary paradigm does not exist.


I mentioned that potentives is a result of orientation stacking, not different from case stacking. The below table shows paradigm for involuntary action and ability verbs. These verbs are located in the green cells in My Table 7. As indicated, all these verbs were from pa› derived bases, which themselves came from bases already inflected with orientation affixes.


This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. There are a lot more potentive paradigms where orientation stacking happens, with 5 subtypes, each further subtypes for some of them, for a total of 17. This is not exhaustive as I’m sure I can still extend them with a few more:





This case stacking is not just limited to pa›. It also happens to pag›:


Orientation stacking is the reason why potentives or involuntary action and ability verbs mean and behave like they do. The derived base is already carrying an orientation affix but then subsequently was applied with initiative orientation affix. Contrast the following three pairs of sentences:


Except for the verbs, the pairs have the same exact same structures for each pair. The second sentence in each pair are causatives in terminative, translative and locative orientation respectively. These verbs are formed in differently. Let’s have a look first at the non-initiative orientations which are formed in the following normal or ordinary way on pa› derived bases:


Take note that the bases are simple roots. Potentives, the first of the pairs above, however are formed differently:


In involuntary action and ability verbs, the base is derived. The derived base contains an orientation affix which already indicates the case role of the verb. So, the formatives for these ma› potentives then literally mean the following in the a/b sentence pairs:


Potentive verbs mean that the subject will also play undergoer roles. The involuntary aspect in the meaning stems from the use of pa› when compared with pag›.

Potentive verbs, since they are all applied with initiative orientation, can not have derived bases already with initiative orientation as shown by My Table 15. At least in Tagalog and Bikol.


The above also explains why potentive verbs appear in initiative orientation. They cannot appear in non-initiative orientation outside of the derived bases in either Tagalog or Bikol as shown by the following tables. Whether they can appear in non–initiative orientation depends on looking at other related languages if those are possible.


Missing Pai›

Two of the forms in Mt Table 10 seem not to exist in Tagalog: *pa›ibili and *p‹in›aibili which come from the combination *pa›i and *p‹in›ai. It does not exist in Bikol as well. A quick look at Rubino’s Ilokano grammar, Wolfenden’s Hiligaynon grammar, Wolff’s Sugbuhanon grammar and Romualdez’ Samarnon grammar showed nothing as well. I will check later their Spanish grammars.

However, these forms exists in Sugbuhanon when I check Wolff’s Cebuano dictionary, where there is a pahi- entry for the words balu, ígù, matngun. Example for pahibalu:


In Edgie Polistico’s list of Cebuano Affixes, he has the forms mahi› and nahi› for these:



Beato De la Crus and David Zorc have this comment in their A Study of Aklanon Dialect Volume One, page 67:

3,3. THE ACCIDENTAL MOOD (p-) states that an action takes place completely by happenstance. It has come down by usage generally unmarked by an aspect morpheme, though on some occasions (mostly of deep or archaic use) it can occur with either na- or ma- respectively. Most commonly, however, some other element in the sentence or clause expresses the time of the action. The general forms, then, are:

     hi–      [nahi—]


And in Volume Two, those prefixes have these definitions on pages 252 and 267:


[Happenstance verb prefix denoting future or unreal accidental action. ] [G. 67-68, 95] [D. 19, 22]  Indi nakon ikaw mahilipatan. / I’ll never forget you./

nahi—(pfx) [Oak] 

(Happenstance verb prefix denothig present or real
accidental action. ] [G. 67 -68, 95] [D. 19, 22)

These forms, pahi›, mahi› and nahi› were the same forms as pai›, mai› and nai›, the difference being the loss of h as I have mentioned in another post.

Why does maka› behaves like its in two paradigm?

Himmelmann included maka› in both his potentive and stative paradigms. Quoting Himmelmann:

Potentives easily allow actor voice derivations with maka-, hence nakàkita siyá ng aso ‘she saw a dog’… The base galit ‘anger’ is one of the bases which allow a clearly stative maka- derivation, makagalit meaning ‘to be the cause of anger, to give offence, to irritate’. In contrast to potentive actor
voice formations, the subject of a stative maka- formation has to be an inanimate cause (some state of affairs or a thing):
[Himmelmann #1, page 511]

I said above that it is in stative causative paradigm only. So how is it possible for maka› to have actor and no actor in different constructions? It’s because it does not actually refer to an actor. Being pa› and derived from bases with ka›, it just means “to cause to be in a state”. So the cause may have volition (actor) or may not have volition (natural force or process), and doesn’t even have to be a force (a reason).

Below are the possible derivation of maka› verbs. As expected, only the initiative orientation forms make sense.


This is another evidence that maka› is not the “actor voice” of undergoer potentive ma› forms, because maka› has those forms as well: makabaril, maikabaril and makabarilan.


In Bikol, the same formatives are present, with very few differences. The first noticeable difference is that there is no vowel lengthening in potentive ma›. This is because ma:› is the nonrealis imperfective initiative formative of pag›. a few of the derived bases are less common , especially those involving pag› forms.

Among Bisayan languages, Tagalog ma:› is present as maha›, plus there are a few more pa› derived bases, and ka› seems much more common. I will expand this section in the coming days.


I learned a lot from Himmelmann about paradigms, and have recast his paradigms to suit the way I understood how Tagalog, Bikol and Bisayan languages work. One thing I learned is that by paying attention to the forms first, one will be rewarded with better explanations rather than by going by meaning of the forms first. Correspondence in in paradigms does not guarantee correct paradigms. One must pay attention to the forms first, especially in agglutinating languages.