A ditransitive construction is a monoclausal construction containing a verb of physical or mental transfer and three arguments: an agent, a theme (i.e. the thing that is transferred) and a recipient or addressee (cf. Malchukov et al. 2010). The most frequent physical transfer verb is ‘give’, so when different ditransitive verbs show a different pattern, this chapter focuses on the behaviour of ‘give’ (as in Haspelmath 2005d, the corresponding WALS chapter). In this chapter, we consider the coding of the theme (T) and the recipient (R), comparing it to the coding of the patient (P) in monotransitive (agent–patient) clauses. The marking of the agent is almost always identical in monotransitive and ditransitive clauses, so we leave it aside here. Word order in ditransitive clauses is dealt with in the next chapter.
When comparing the coding of the recipient and theme with the monotransitive patient, there are five logical alignment possibilities, of which only three are relevant in practice: the pattern with identical coding of patient and theme, and special coding of the recipient (called indirect-object or indirective construction), the pattern with identical coding of patient and recipient, and special coding of the theme (called secondary-object or secundative construction), and the pattern in which the theme and the recipient are coded identically and in the same way as the patient (called double-object or neutral construction).
Figure 1. The three main ditransitive alignment patterns
The three patterns are illustrated with English examples in (1a-c). As in most pidgins and creoles, the monotransitive patient is zero-coded here, so we find overt (prepositional) coding only in the indirect-object construction (on the recipient, to) and in the secondary-object construction (on the theme, with). The double-object construction in (1c) has no overt coding of the objects.
In many languages, personal pronouns show different coding, so for the purposes of this chapter, we only consider the coding of full noun phrases.
The three main constructions are the three values shown on the map. The secondary-object construction is almost inexistent, and many languages have both the indirect-object construction and the double-object construction.
In the creoles of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions, the most widespread pattern is the double-object construction (or neutral alignment). This is the case independently of the lexifier. We find this pattern not only in English-based creoles (cf. 2a-b), but also in French-based (cf. 3) and Ibero-Romance-based creoles (cf. 4a-b), despite the fact that the Romance lexifier languages lack a double-object construction and use a preposition (a/à, para) to code the recipient.
The predominance of the double-object construction in these languages has been noted by Bruyn et al. (1999) and explained in universalist terms, but Michaelis & Haspelmath (2003) have pointed out that a substratist explanation is more likely, given that the West African and Bantu substrate languages of Atlantic and Indian Ocean creoles tend to show the double-object construction (see also Michaelis 2008).
In Asian and Melanesian creoles, by contrast, the indirect-object construction is much more common, as illustrated by (5a-c).
Indirect-object constructions are also found in some Atlantic creoles, but usually in varieties that are closer to the lexifier. In Louisiana Creole, the traditional construction is a double-object construction similar to (3), and “the indirect object construction is the more recent construction” (Neumann-Holzschuh & Klingler 2013).
For some constructions, the classification as indirect-object or secondary-object requires further discussion. One case concerns languages which have variable coding of monotransitive patients and where the patient marker is also used as the recipient marker. This is illustrated by Ternate Chabacano, where inanimate patients are uncoded (cf. 7a), but human patients are coded with the preposition kon (cf. 7b) (see Chapter 57). Recipients are treated unlike themes and inanimate patients, but like human patients in that they are coded by the preposition kon (cf. 7c).
It was decided to compare the coding of the ditransitive construction to the coding of the monotransitive construction with inanimate patients, because patients are more typically inanimate. Thus, the Ternate Chabacano pattern is classified as an indirect-object construction.
Another pattern requiring discussion is a serial verb construction with the verb ‘give’. This is not uncommon in Atlantic pidgins and creoles, under the influence of Niger-Congo languages (cf. 8) (see also Chapter 86).
If the serial verb giv is regarded as a kind of recipient marker here, as seems reasonable, then this is an indirect-object construction. Occasionally, this construction is even used when the main verb is ‘give’ itself, so that there are two instances of ‘give’, and an indirect-object construction results:
But it is also possible that the ‘give’ verb in second position is the main verb, and the first verb is regarded as a theme marker. In (10), the ‘take’ verb does not translate as ‘take’, but only adds a nuance of deliberateness to the meaning (see Chapter 85).
Thus, this construction is classified as a secondary-object construction (value 3). It is the only construction of this kind in our data.