Logo: MPI Conference on
Ditransitive Constructions
Theme: Conference on Ditransitive Constructions


In recent years, ditransitive constructions (i.e. constructions formed by verbs like 'give' that take a Theme and Recipient arguments as well as other verbs with similar morphosyntactic behaviour) have been increasingly studied from a broadly cross-linguistic perspective, and alignment research has broadened its perspective from monotransitives to ditransitives (Dryer 1986, Siewierska 2004, Haspelmath 2005a, 2005b, Margetts & Austin 2007).

Yet our knowledge of ditransitive constructions is still skewed in favor of better known (mostly European) languages. For many of the less known languages, detailed descriptions (especially of syntactic properties) are still lacking. An ongoing project on the typology of ditransitives conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (B. Comrie, M. Haspelmath, A. Malchukov) is trying to provide a comprehensive cross-linguistic account of ditransitive constructions (see project website <>), with respect to coding properties (including issues of differential argument coding; cf. Kittilä 2006 on case, Haspelmath 2004 on agreement), syntactic properties (which of the objects aligns with the monotransitive Patient w.r.t. passivization, relativization and the like), as well as lexical splits (different verbs selecting for different constructions). As grammars provide at best a partial coverage of these issues, the Leipzig Ditransitive Project strives to fill the gaps through the use of the Questionnaire on Ditransitive Constructions <>, primarily addressed to fieldworkers.

In this context we invite abstracts for a Conference on Ditransitive Constructions at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 23-25 November 2007. We especially encourage contributions providing a systematic description of ditransitive constructions in individual, little-known languages (perhaps guided by the Questionnaire), based on original fieldwork. But papers dealing with ditransitive constructions in better known languages, or from a comparative or general theoretical perspective, are also welcome. We are hoping to publish an edited volume including a position paper and 20-odd selected surveys of ditransitive constructions in typologically diverse languages on the basis of conference presentations.



Comrie, Bernard & Haspelmath, Martin. 2005. Ditransitive Konstruktionen in den Sprachen der Welt: Projektbeschreibung.

Dryer, Matthew S. 1986. "Primary object, secondary objects, and antidative." Language 62:808-45.

Haspelmath, Martin. 2004. "Explaining the Ditransitive Person-Role Constraint: a usage-based account." Constructions
2/2004, 49 pp.

Haspelmath, Martin. 2005a. "Argument marking in ditransitive alignment types", Linguistic Discovery
3.1: 1-21.

Haspelmath, Martin. 2005b. "Ditransitive Constructions: The Verb 'Give'." In: Martin Haspelmath & Matthew S. Dryer & David Gil & Bernard Comrie (eds.) World Atlas of Language Structures. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 426-29.

Kittilä, Seppo. 2006. "The woman showed the baby to her sister: On resolving humanness-driven ambiguity in ditransitives". In Case, Valency and Transitivity, Kulikov, Leonid, Andrej Malchukov and Peter de Swart (eds.), 291-308.

Margetts, Anna and Peter K. Austin. 2007. "Three participant events in the languages of the world: towards a cross-linguistic typology." To appear in Linguistics.

Siewierska, Anna. 2004. Person. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.