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The applicative ([ ˈaplikaˌtiːf ], from the Latin applicātum 'added' ) is the derived form of a verb which, compared to the non-applicative verb, has an additional non-self-acting participant. If the non-applicative verb is already transitive , the direct object can be replaced by the new participant in the action. The formation of the applicative is a case of diathesis .

The term was already in the 17th century by missionaries in Central America used (verbos applicativos) , the Uto-Aztec languages explored.

Applicative in German

An applicative verb in German is z. B. loaded . While some on a wagon loads , loads to the car with something . In this case the non-applicative verb laden is transitive, i.e. it has a direct object . In the case of laden , the cart , which is not directly involved in the action and is used as an adverbial definition of the goal in the sentence, is introduced as a new direct object through the application formation with loading . He displaces the previously existing object, which in turn becomes an adverbial definition.

In the case of an intransitive verb, such as going , the applicative prefix be also adds a direct object (that which is committed ), but does not displace anything from this position.

Applicative in other languages

Many other languages ​​also have applicative forms. In some the system is much more complex than in German. Several examples for languages ​​with applicative morphology are presented below. For the sake of clarity, the interlinear glossing is shown in a simplified manner.


The isolated language Ainu (spoken in Japan ) has an applicative prefix that can introduce local adverbial definitions as an object. This example is taken from the work of David A. Peterson (2002), see literature.

poro cise e -horari
big House Applicative living
"He be a great home lives."


The Ju language Juǀ'hoan (spoken in the southwest of Botswana ) has a fairly simple system. It only uses a suffix -a , which, similar to the German be , can form different applicative. If a verb is already transitive, the newly introduced object does not replace the direct object, as in German, but is inserted into the sentence as a secondary object .

For this case study data from the grammar of Patrick J. Dickens (2005) are used, see literature.


In the following example, a location is included as an object.

Aíá nǀóá- á ´msì tzí
my mother cooking- applicative food secondary object open
"My mother cooked the food outside (literally: in the open)."


However, with the same suffix, the tool with which an action is performed can also be introduced as an object in the sentence.

ǁohm- a ǃaìhn ǀˀáí
my father case- applicative tree secondary object Axe
"My father felled the tree with an ax."

Hakha Lai

In the Sino-Tibetan language Hakha Lai (spoken in the west of Myanmar ) there are seven different applicative suffixes . They differentiate the type of adverbial definition that is incorporated into the sentence as a new direct object.

The data for this case study are taken from the work of David A. Peterson (2002), see literature.


If an action is carried out together with someone, this can be integrated as a direct object with the suffix -pii .

kalaw ʔan-ka-thloʔ- pii
my field seven me -hacken- comitative .Appl.
"They hacked my field together with me ."


The tool with which an action is carried out can be integrated as a direct object with the suffix -naak .

tiilooŋ khaa tivaa kan-Ø- tannaak
boat this flow we- it -überqueren- Instrumental .Appl.
" We crossed the river in a boat ."

Allative / Malefactive

With the suffix -hnoʔ verbs are formed that include a target or a victim of an action as a direct object.

kheeŋ ʔa-ka-hloʔn- hnoʔ
dishes seven me -werfen- allative .Appl.
"She threw dishes at me ."

Benefaktiv / Malefaktiv

The suffix -piak denotes verbs that emphasize a beneficiary or victim of an action.

maʔ khan vantsuŋmii = niʔ tsun tleempii ʔantiimii tsuu ʔantaat ʔan-Ø-taat- piak = ʔii ...
then this Angel = Ergative this large wooden plate like you said this they grind seven it -schleifen- benefactive case .Appl. = and
"Then the angels sanded and sanded the so-called large wooden plate for him and ..."

Additional benefit

Verbs are given the suffix -tseʔm when an action is done in favor of the person carrying out the action and additionally in favor of the person to be emphasized. As far as is known, such an applicative construction is unique worldwide.

thiŋ ʔa-ka-laak- tseʔm
Wood er mich -schleppen- Add.Benefaktiv.Appl.
"He also carried wood for me (not just for himself)."


If it is to be expressed that the agent performed the action in front of someone in terms of time or space, the suffix -kaʔn is used. Like the additional-benefit-construction (see above), the priority construction can only be found in the Hakha Lai.

booy ʔa-kan-ton- kaʔn
leader er us -treffen- Prioritiv.Appl.
"He met the leader before us ."


If the agent leaves someone or something behind before or after performing the action, he or she can be included as a direct object in a verb with the suffix -taak . The reliquitive construction is also very rare, but it may still be found in a few other languages.

ʔalaw ʔa-kan-thloʔ- taak
his field er us -hacken- Relinquitiv.Appl.
"He left us and hacked his field."

Classic Nahuatl

Classical Nahuatl has a few applicative suffixes , namely -lia , -ia / - (l) huia .

  • Nicchihuilia cē calli. "I'm building him a house."
  • Nimitzixquilia tōtoltetl. "I'll fry you an egg."


  • Patrick J. Dickens: A Concise Grammar of Juǀˀhoan . (Sources for Khoisan research 17) Köppe-Verlag, Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-89645-145-6 .
  • David A. Peterson: Applicatives. Extended new edition of the dissertation, 2002. Not yet published.
  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.) With the collaboration of Hartmut Lauffer: Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 4th, revised and bibliographically supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 .
  • Michael Launey, Christopher Mackay: An introduction to classical Nahuatl , ISBN 978-0-521-51840-6 (hardback), ISBN 978-0-521-73229-1 (pbk)


  1. See the book by Launey and Mackay, pp. 203 and 204