Print

Print


Nik Taylor <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>"Mike S." wrote:

>Is that the difference between middle and passive?  What do you mean by
>"totally inexpressible"?  Do you mean that it's grammatically impossible
>to state the agent?

Yes, exactly.  Consider:

Passive voice:
(1a) Newspapers were now being sold (by the new store owner).
(1b) The plane was flown (by the old pilot).

Middle voice:
(2a) The newspapers were selling like hotcakes. *(by the new store owner)
(2b) The plane flew to New York. *(by the old pilot)

[English does not have a true middle voice construction but
does have various irregular verb usages and idioms which
approximate it--sometimes.]

With the passive voice, expressing the agent is optional
using an oblique phrase.  With the middle, it's grammatically
impossible to state the agent; however, the agent is still
part of the meaning of the verb.  (2a) doesn't imply that the
newspapers were selling themselves, but the identity of the
agent simply isn't relevant enough to indicate, or is unknown.

One other thing that is confusing is that sometimes languages
use a "middle voice" idiomatically, or somehow it gets
confused with other voices.  For example, some languages
might use the middle voice idiomatically to express "I wash
(myself)" which is really reflexive (likewise, note how
French and German like to use *reflexives* to express
the *middle voice* construction.)  In fact, probably no
natlang is totally regular with whatever voices they have.

Another source of confusion is when removing the patient, it
sometimes gets interpreted as middle, e.g. "I am eating my
meal" vs. "I am eating".  The latter is either anti-passive
or anti-middle voice.

The above terminology is all borrowed from Morneau's _Lex Sem_.
I am not sure if his usage of these terms is 100% universal,
but I favor it because it's rigorous, precise, and exhaustive;
other people may use terms differently sometimes, especially,
it seems, when talking about the Greek middle voice.  So beware!



>> Incidentally, while this construction sounds odd to the English ear,
>> "I paint myself (-on) the teeth", it sounds perfectly fine
>> to francophones.
>
>And Spanish-speakers, as in signs in countless public restrooms "Lávese
>las manos" :-)
>
>I wonder, is this a general Romance feature?

I'm not sure enough to hazard a guess, but wouldn't be
surprised.



>I'll have to contemplate how Uatakassi does this.  I'm leaning towards
>person = ergative, part = absolutive for volitional acts on the body
>(like washing, etc.), and simple intransitives with the person expressed
>by a genitive for nonvolitional acts (like, breaking bones).  For
>example:
>
>The man washed his hands
>Famatazna nlakusal natluniki
>Past-wash-them man-erg hand-pl ("The man washed the hands")
>
>The man broke his legs
>Fakunifna uafbaskai nlakusaf
>Past-break-them leg-pl man-gen ("The man's legs were broken")
>
>Of course, if the man *deliberately* broke his legs, then it would be:
>Fakunifna nlakusal uafbaskai
>Past-break-them man-erg leg-pl

I like this distinction; nice and precise, and it makes the
cases earn their keep!


Regards

---   Mike