An "ergative verb" is a verb that can either take two nouns (a subject and an object) or only one (a subject), where the object of the two-noun form corresponds to the subject of the one-noun form.

That sounds more complicated than it is: an easy example is "break" in English. If used with only one noun, the subject is the thing that breaks: "the window broke". But if used with two nouns, the object is the thing that breaks: "Marcus broke the window".

Does Latin have any verbs which can interchange the roles of their subject and object like this?

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    This is not what "ergativity" means (at least not in its technical sense). Ergativity is when the agent of a transitive verb is in an oblique case and its logical direct object is unmarked, as in Basque, Georgian, Urdu etc. etc. – fdb Sep 10 at 9:51
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    @fdb: the question seems to be about the phenomenon of “ergative verbs”, not about the terminology, which Draconis did not come up with (see the discussions on the Wikipedia article). Many linguistics terms have multiple meanings – sumelic Sep 10 at 15:39
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    Perhaps of interest (especially J. Lawler's well-informed comments):… – fdb Sep 10 at 16:02
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    This is indeed rather unfortunate but that’s how things are in linguistics. Ergative is also used to describe English verbs like break: He broke the vase. The vase broke. This is particularly common in some theories of formal syntax, e.g. generative syntax (GB, MP). This use is not common in linguistic typology though. – Alex B. Sep 10 at 23:13
  • 2… citing… . @alex-b, this warrants an answer. And an example. – Nick Nicholas Sep 11 at 3:41

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