A secundative language is a language in which the indirect objects of ditransitive verbs are treated like the direct objects of monotransitive verbs. This language type was called dechticaetiative in an article by Edward L. Blansitt, Jr. (from Greek dekhomai "take, receive" and an obscure second element, unlikely kaitoi "and indeed"), but that term did not catch on. Secundative languages contrast with indirective languages, where the indirect object is treated in a special way.
Ditransitive verbs have two arguments other than the subject: a theme that undergoes the action and a recipient that receives the theme (see thematic role). In a secundative language, the recipient of a ditransitive verb is treated in the same way as the single object of a monotransitive verb, and this syntactic category is called primary object. The patient of a ditransitive verb is treated separately and called secondary object.
In secundative languages with passive constructions, passivation promotes the primary object to subject.
Most secundative languages are found in Africa. However, English, which is primarily indirective, arguably contains secundative constructions, traditionally referred to as dative shift. For example, the passive of the sentence John gave Mary the ball is Mary was given the ball by John, in which the recipient rather than the patient is promoted to subject. This is complicated by the fact that some dialects of English may promote either the recipient (Mary) or the patient (the ball) argument to subject status, and for these dialects The ball was given Mary by John (meaning that the ball was given to Mary) is also well-formed. In addition, the argument structure of verbs like provide is essentially secundative: in The project provides young people with work, the recipient argument is treated like a monotransitive direct object.
- Trask, R. L., A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics (1993), Routledge, ISBN 0-415-08628-0
- Malchukov, Andrej & Haspelmath, Martin & Comrie, Bernard (eds.) 2010. Studies in ditransitive constructions. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.