Hi Jazz, because it was a novelty to me, it doesn´t mean that it is a novelty in general.
The subject is interesting, as I said before, meaning that it may work as a mind aid in certain cases. Nice to learn that you are a TEFL student, so in many cases you must know more of English than I do, I study it as a hobby indeed.
Thanks for sharing with us, and when I make mistakes feel free to teach me.
One site more I found on the subject:
How to tell whether a verb is ergative
Here’s a straightforward test to check whether a verb is ergative, assuming you’re a fluent native speaker. Say the following sentence: “The (actor) (verb)ed the (object), therefore the (object) (verbed)”. If the sentence sounds natural and logical, and the conclusion is obvious, then the verb is ergative. If the sentence sounds strange, or the conclusion seems really bizarre, then the verb is not ergative.
Example 1. Paint. The sentence is: “The painter painted the wall, therefore the wall painted.” The conclusion sounds extremely bizarre. Walls aren’t known for their painting ability, after all. This verb is not ergative.
Example 2. Shatter. Sentence: “The rock shattered the window, therefore the window shattered.” The sentence sounds natural, and the conclusion is so obvious it doesn’t even need stating. This verb is ergative.
Example 3. Bake. “I baked the bread, so the bread baked.” Ergative.
Example 4. Swallow. “The spy swallowed the poison, so the poison swallowed.” Huh?!
Of course, this method assumes you are fluent in the language; it basically assumes that deep down in your subconscious language processing center, you already know whether the verb is ergative or not.
Some Verbs Have Both Ergative and Non-Ergative Senses
Let’s look at the example of “cook”. Is “cook” ergative? Actually, it’s a very strange verb, as you can see by comparing these two sentences:
Dinner is cooking.
Mom is cooking.
Unless the house is on fire, the verbs in these sentences have very different meanings! Even though, structurally, the sentences are identical. So what’s going on? Cook actually has two senses which seem almost identical. Each sense might be defined as, “to heat food up to prepare it”, but in the first example above, the sense is transitive (admits an object) and ergative, and in the second sense, the verb is intransitive (doesn’t admit an object).
So in the example, “Does your mom cook, and if so, what does she cook?” the two uses of “cook” are actually different senses. That might seem weird, since they seem at first glance like very similar senses, but they can’t be the same– one is ergative and one is not. Similarly, saying “I want a wife who can cook” vs. “I want a wife who can cook Italian food”, the senses of “cook” are very subtly different. After all, most people don’t care whether their wives are cookable… Man, English is hard!
Another interesting example is “walk”. The common sense of “walk”, as in, “to walk around the city”, is not ergative. But a more obscure sense as in, “to walk the dog”, is ergative. “I walked the dog, therefore the dog walked.”