Speech-act participant

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Speech-act participant (abbreviated SAP) refers to 1st or 2nd person to the exclusion of 3rd person.


Certain subsystems of a language’s grammar are sensitive to speech-act participants. (They do not distinguish between 1st or 2nd person, but contrast them both with third person (non-speech-act participant).)

In Sahaptin, the ergative case appears on 3rd person nouns only if the object is a speech-act participant (Rude 1997):

ɨwínš-nɨm=naš i-q̓ínun-a
man-ERG=1SG 3nom-see-PST
The man saw me.

ɨwínš-nɨm=am i-q̓ínun-a
man-ERG=2SG 3nom-see-PST
The man saw you.

If the object is not a speech-act participant, the 3rd person noun may not be marked by ergative case:

ɨwínš i-q̓ínun-a miyánaš-na
man 3nom-see-PST child-ACC
The man saw the child.
(*ɨwínš-nɨm i-q̓ínun-a miyánaš-na)


Local (e.g. Andrews 1985)


  • Andrews, Avery. 1985. The major functions of the noun phrase. In Language Typology and syntactic description, vol. 1. Clause structure, ed. by Timothy Shopen, pp. 62–154
  • Rude, Noel. 1997. On the history of nominal case in Sahaptian. In International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 63, No. 1. University of Chicago Press, pp. 113–143

Other languages

German Sprechaktteilnehmer