Alternations of Icelandic

Alternations
Alternation name Description Examples Verbs
U
n The dative is usually used for animate objects and the accusative for non-animate objects. Maybe this should rather be viewed as DOM. Another way of construing this is to say that the dative is a beneficiary and the accusative is a theme/patent (see Barðdal 2001: 148ff.).
(18)
Mamma þvoði strákinn.
mamma-n
mother-the.nom
þvoði
washed
strák-inn
boy-the.acc
‘The mother washed the boy.’
3
U
n In the Nom-Dat alternant the nominative argument is the syntactic subject and the dative is the syntactic object, while in the Dat-Nom alternant the Dat is the syntactic subject and the nominative argument is the syntactic object.
(220)
Aðdáendabréf hafði borist mér from ...
aðdáendabréf
fan_letter.nom
hafði
had
borist
received
mér
I.dat
frá
from
‘A fan letter had come to me from ...’
3
C
y This alternation involves a simple verb and a corresponding verb with an -st suffix, which originates in the reflexive pronoun sik (which first became -sk and then later -st in the history of Icelandic). When occurring in the Reciprocal Alternation, there is a meaning of reciprocity involved.
(26)
Mennirnir og strákarnir hittust.
mennir-nir
men-the.nom
og
and
strákar-nir
boys-the.nom
hittu-st
met-refl/rcp
‘The men and the boys met.’
17
C
y Transitive verbs can alternate with intransitive ones by means of adding a -na suffix to the verbal stem and by using a different stem vowel of the verb.
(36)
Rúðan brotnaði.
rúða-n
glass-the.nom
brotnaði
broke
‘The window broke.’
2
C
y Transitive verbs can alternate with intransitive ones by means of adding a -ja suffix to the verbal stem. (-ja does not mean anything in Modern Icelandic anymore). The -ja is not found in the infinitive, present tense, but not the past tense.
(39)
Óvinurinn dó.
óvinur-inn
enemy-the.nom
died
‘The enemy died.’
1
U
n This is a systematic alternation found for some ditransitive verbs. It involving two objects which may alternate between [Dat+Acc] and [Dat+til-L.gen]. This is the variant with [Dat+til-L.gen].
(53)
Við réttum bækurnar til barnanna.
við
we.nom
réttum
handed
bækur-nar
books-the.acc
til
to
barna-nna
children-the.gen
‘We offered the books to the children. / We handed the books over to the children.’
1
U
n This is a systematic alternation found for some ditransitive verbs. It involving two objects which may alternate between [Dat+Acc] and [Dat+til-L.gen]. This is the variant with [Dat+Acc]
(55)
Stelpan sendi ömmu sinni blómin.
stelpa-n
girl-the.nom
sendi
sent
ömmu
grandmother.dat
sinni
her.dat
blóm-in
flowers-the.acc
‘The girl sent her grandmother the flowers.’
1
U
n Here the basic verb selects for a dative object and a directional argument. The derived variant construes the source as an object and the original object as an instrumental.
(61)
Hann hellti glasið fullt með vatni.
hann
he.nom
hellti
poured
glas-ið
glass-the.acc
fullt
full
með
with
vatni
water.dat
‘He filled the glass with water.’
3
U
n Transitives can be formed from intransitives, which means that we have a systematic alternation between transitive and intransitive uses of the same verb.
(66)
Ég blikkaði hana.
ég
I.nom
blikkaði
blinked
hana
her.acc
‘I winked at her.’
1
U
n Several intransitive verbs in Icelandic can occur in the Caused-Motion construction with a dative object and directional phrase (see Barðdal 2001a: Ch. 6).
(68)
Loksins hóstaði hann þessu upp úr sér.
loksins
finally
hóstaði
coughed
hann
he.nom
þessu
this.dat
upp
up
úr
out_of
sér
self.dat
‘Finally, he coughed it up.’
2
U
n This transitive verb alternates with an intransitive variant, and there is no marking on the verb. The subject of the intransitive becomes the object of the transitive and changes its case marking from nominative to accusative.
(103)
Vatnið sýður.
vatn-ið
water-the.nom
sýður
boils
‘The water is boiling.’
1
U
n These are intransitive verbs with accusative subjects which seem to be derived from corresponding transitive verbs with accusative objects.
(80)
Bátinn rak.
bát-inn
boat-the.acc
rak
drifted
‘The boat drifted.’
7
U
n This alternation between an expletive and a personal pronoun in the masculine is found with zero-valent verbs like weather verbs. It is typically found with verbs of heavenly omission.
(100)
Hann rigndi.
hann
he.nom
rigndi
rained
‘It rained.’
1
U
n These are intransitive verbs with dative subjects which seem to be derived from corresponding transitive verbs with dative objects.
(110)
Bátnum hvolfdi.
bát-num
boat-the.dat
hvolfdi
capsized
‘The boat capsized.’
3
U
n This construction is an intransitive alternant of a transitive verb, and it denotes a property of the subject referent, one of the characteristics of middles.
(116)
Málningin þekur vel.
málning-in
paint-the.nom
þekur
covers
vel
well
‘The paint covers well. / The paint has good covering qualities.’
1
C
y This construction is coded with an -st form, originally a cliticization of the reflexive pronoun. The alternation mostly involves simple transitive verbs which becomes intransitive through the addition of the -st morpheme, denoting a middle reading, but this construction can also have intransitive verbs as input.
With some verbs he former subject be added as accusative argument optionally (cf. ex.147).
(117)
Teppið þvæst vel.
teppi-ð
carpet-the.nom
þvæ-st
washes-refl/rcp
vel
easily
‘The carpet washes easily.’
29
C
y This alternation involves a simple verb and a suffixed variant of this same verb, which has developed from the reflexive pronoun. There is no formal difference between this construction and the Mediopassive (middle) construction.
(129)
Þau settust.
þau
they.nom
settu-st
sat-refl/rcp
‘They sat down. (lit. They sat themselves).’
6
C
y The passive construction is regularly formed in Icelandic with the accusative object promoted to subject, changing its case to the nominative, and with the verb complex occurring with the auxiliary 'be' and the past participle of the main verb.
(139)
Veggurinn var þakinn.
veggur-inn
wall-the.nom
var
was
þakinn
covered
‘The wall was covered.’
44
C
y Originally, this impersonal passive was only found for intransitive and monotransitive verbs, but has during the last 15–20 years been extended to transitive predicates, resulting in what has been called the "New Passive" in Icelandic (cf. Barðdal & Molnár 2003). The new passive does not promote the object to subject position but keeps it in situ. Example:
Það var keypt bókina (it was bought book-the.acc). This is a systematic alternation found for all predicates, not tied to any specific verb classes.

The standard story is that only unergatives can occur in the Impersonal passive and not unaccusatives. This, however, seems to be changing and unaccusatives are gradually getting more accepted in this construction. Dative Subject predicates are not found in this construction, or any other passive construction for that matter.
(143)
Það var horft á stelpuna.
það
it
var
was
horft
watched
á
on
stelpu-na
girl-the.acc
‘The girl was being watched.’
68
U
n A subset of verbs in Icelandic have a choice between genitive objects or prepositional objects.
(151)
Ég leitaði hans lengi.
ég
I.nom
leitaði
looked
hans
he.gen
lengi
long
‘I looked for him for a long time.’
1
C
y The passive construction is regularly formed in Icelandic with the genitive object promoted to subject, keeping its case marking, and with the verb complex occurring with the auxiliary 'be' and the past participle of the main verb.
(221)
Konunnar var beðið.
konu-nnar
woman-the.gen
var
was
beðið
asked
‘The woman was proposed to.’
3
C
y The passive construction is regularly formed in Icelandic with the dative object promoted to subject, keeping its case marking, and with the verb complex occurring with the auxiliary 'be' and the past participle of the main verb.
(158)
Honum var hjálpað.
honum
him.dat
var
was
hjálpað
helped
‘He was helped.’
15
U
n These are intransitive verbs with genitive subjects which seem to be derived from transitive verbs with genitive objects.
(113)
Þess getur í gömlum bókum.
þess
it.gen
getur
mentions
í
in
gömlum
old.dat
bókum
books.dat
‘It says in old books. / It is mentioned in old books.’
1
U
n These are transitive verbs with dative subjects and accusative objects which seem to be derived from ditransitive verbs with an indirect dative object and an accusative direct object.
(244)
Þeim gaf góðan byr.
þeim
them.dat
gaf
gave
góð-an
good-acc
byr
wind.acc
‘They received good wind.’
1
C
y This an impersonal passive has the mediopassive -st suffix on the verb and not the ordinary passive morphology.
(275)
Það fannst lykt af birninum.
það
it
fann-st
found-refl/rcp
lykt
smell
af
of
birni-num
bear-the.dat
‘They could smell the bear.’
5
C
y This construction is a weak transitive, which alternats with a strong intransitive.
(94)
Ég sökkti bátnum.
ég
I.nom
sökkti
sank
bát-num
boat-the.dat
‘I sank the boat.’
2
U
n Some transitive predicates alternate between selecting for a direct object and a prepositional object. This alternation is the variant with the prepositional object.
(13)
Stráknum líkaði við nýja leikfangið sitt.
strák-num
boy-the.dat
líkaði
liked
við
with
nýja
new.acc
leikfang-ið
toy-the.acc
sitt
his.acc
‘The boy liked his new toy.’
2
U
n Some transitive predicates alternate between selecting for a direct object and a prepositional object. This alternation is the variant with the direct object.
(298)
Ég hugsaði það.
ég
I.nom
hugsaði
thought
það
it.acc
‘I thought that thought.’
3