Print

Print


--- In [log in to unmask], Aidan Grey <taalenmaple@Y...> wrote:
>
> Heya folks,
>    
>   I want to incorporate middle voice into my conlang, but seeing as 
I'm an L1 English speaker, it's hard for me to see it. I know 
that "Water fills the cup" is a middle voice (at least, it is 
according to Rick Morneau's 'Lexical Semantics'), but I have no idea 
how tell when another verb is, or should be. Can anyone help me with 
a simple test? You know, one of those sentences where if the verb 
makes sense in spot X, then it must be a middle?
>    
>   Any additional info or description of the middle voice, to help 
me clarify, is great. Heck, I'd even be ecstatic if someone could 
test me on it, so I can get the distinction down....
>    
>   Thanks in advance,
>    
>   Aidan

Second: Try to check out M.H. Klaiman's "Grammatical Voice".  He 
divides the world's types of voice-systems into about three or four 
super-types, which I will try to remember;

* Derived Voice Systems such as English has, which fundamentally 
promote and demote arguments into and out of various grammatical 
relations; (Applicatives and Anti-Passives are also part of this 
super-type);

* Basic Voice Systems such as Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and Fulani 
have, which concern themselves with affectedness and control;

* Hierarchical Voice Systems, a major type of which are Inverse Voice 
Systems, such as Algonquian and Tiwan languages have;

* Pragmatic Voice Systems, among them Information-Salience Voice 
Systems, such as some Mayan languages and many Philippine languages.

---

"Middle Voice" is chiefly a feature of Basic Voice Systems.  Certain 
verbs are nearly always in the Middle Voice.  The Middle Voice 
implies that the subject, or its interest(s), is/are affected, or has 
an interest in whatever is affected, by the situation expressed by 
the verb.  So, for instance, "I fear the Greeks" might be in the 
middle voice, since I am more affected by my fear than the Greeks 
are.  

---

First:

Even if two languages both have unquestionable middle voices, a 
sentence that in one of them might be put in the middle voice, might 
not be translated into the middle voice in the other.

A paper I have at home somewhere -- unfortunately I have to hunt it 
up to find out either title or author -- lists about eleven semantic 
situations that are likely to be expressed morphosyntactically in 
middle voice if it is available.  

My favorite is:  If the subject is the patient of part of the 
predicate, but the agent of a different part, then the predicate is 
likely to be put in the midddle voice.

Most common example; The subject is the patient of the verb, but the 
agent of the adverb-of-manner.

Most common example; Adverb-of-manner = Easily.

"This wood cuts easily".

Others:

"This car drives smoothly".

Other possibilities; subject is patient of main verb, but agent of 
auxiliary verb.

Example:  "I'm going to get myself screwed, blewed, and tattooed."

-----

Another situation commonly expressed in the middle, is a verb which 
is inherently reciprocal.  The examples I remember are "They 
embraced" and "they kissed".

-----

I also remember that saying "a cloud hovered over the town" or "the 
door remained open all day" might be put in the middle voice.  The 
reason is that the cloud and the door are inanimate.  If the opposite 
of these sentences had happened, it would be because there subjects 
had been the patients of some outside forces.  But their remaining 
where they were was a quasi-agentive or semi-active kind of lack-of-
activity, or at least lack-of-being-a-patient.  (Did you get that?  
It was kind of hard to put into words.  Basically it means they 
weren't agents and they weren't patients, so neither active voice nor 
passive voice were appropriate, and what did that leave?  You guessed 
it -- middle voice.)

----

Finally, if a human just kind of wanders around in a daze or fugue or 
fog, maybe lost in thought or meditating on his or her girlfriend or 
boyfriend (or worried about losing his job or thinking about buying a 
new car), this "wandering" might be put in the middle voice, since 
it's not really under the human subject's control; nor under anyone 
else's, either.

-----

Those are several sufficient conditions to put something in the 
middle voice.
Basically they amount to two;
1. The subject is the agent of part of the predicate and the patient 
of another part; or
2. The subject is neither the agent nor the patient of the predicate.

However, whether any of them actually /require/ the middle voice is 
language-dependent; and I definitely do not believe I have exhausted 
the set of situations where a middle voice might be recommended.

Tom H.C. in MI