Henrik Theiling wrote:
> Hi!
> R A Brown <[log in to unmask]> writes:

>>What Henrik is writing about is diathesis, and I have not said that
>>there is no 'middle' diathesis in English. Indeed, I believe that some
>>analyses of English postulate more than just three diatheses.
> Sorry for the confusion then.  I will properly distinguish voice from
> diathesis in the future! :-)

good  :)

> Please allow me another thought to clarify my understanding of English
> grammar.  Don't hit me. :-)
> Speaking of syntax only: isn't 'the cup fills' at least a wee bit
> syntactically distinguishable from 'Peter fills the cup'? 

Not really.

> I.e., is
> 'Peter fills' grammatical and will it be understood to be containing
> an ellipsis of an object being filled?  

"Peter fills" sounds unfinished; it wants an object. It would not be
sound grammatical, except in a context in which the ellipsis is clearly
'understood'. In fact off-hand I can't really think of just such a
situation (no doubt one of our readers will ;)

But "the cup fills" is IMO just as likely (or unlikely) as "Peter
fills". It also has an ellipsis - "With what?" But I can just imagine it
being said maybe during a scientific demonstration or a conjuring trick.
"Look - the cup is filling!"

> If so, I agree -- the
> distinction is purely semantical.  But if it is either ungrammatical,
> or possible to be interpreted as a (strange) situation where Peter
> fills in the way a cup would, then there is a syntactical distinction,
> isn't it?

There is, arguably, a syntactic distinction in that one usage requires a
direct object complement & the other requires a prepositional phrase
complement. But these are normally regarded as subcategorizations of the
_lexical_ item, i.e. they are semantic distinctions.

The termination -(e)s and the form 'is' are markers of the 3rd
person singular of grammatically active forms of a verb. My dictionary
list 'fill' as a transitive verb with various different (tho related)
meanings,  and as an intransitive verb with the meanings 'to become
full', 'to become satiated'. They have different valencies, as well as
different diatheses.
> But ok, my L2 intuition tells me that the selection of the diathesis
> is done according to semantical properties of the subject, not by
> syntax -- 

That's correct - diathesis is done according to semantic properties.

if it can have control, it's active, if it can't, it's
> middle.  So there is no middle voice in English.  

No, not in the _grammatical_ sense of voice.

> I will never claim
> so again! :-)  'Peter drinks' is clearly active.  You can't say 'Tea
> drinks', right?  So it also depends on the verb.  

Yes, I thinks so.

 > What about 'Tea
> drinks more easily than water when you have a cold'?


Yes, indeed, although I have never heard that; but as we know from the 
frequent YAEDTs, it would be a misguided to say that would never occur 
in a language spoken over such a wide area as English is. Could any 
Romance language (or German) use a reflexive in that context (Tea drinks 
itself more easily....)?

Andreas Johansson wrote:
 > Looking in a Swedish lexicon, it seems _diates_ covers both voice and 
 > It may be the same in German.
 > The way to distinguish is apparently to speak of _morfologisk diates_ vs
 > _semantisk diates_.

I've never met 'diathesis' used in English for any meaning other than 
_semantisk diates_. On the other hand, I have found 'voice' used in both 
the morphological and the semantic meaning which, as I have said, seems 
to me a confusing usage.

It reminds me of the vocoid/contoid and vowel/consonant business. Some 
of us use vocoid & contoid for phonological distinctions and vowel and 
consonant for phonetic distinctions. Others use just vowel & consonant, 
and then have to make clear whether they mean a 'phonological vowel' or 
'phonetic vowel'.

But as I have, IMO it is more helpful to distinguish in English between 
'diathesis' (semantic feature) and 'voice' (grammatical category).

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