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Phaleran voices: active, passive, antipassive, etc.

From:Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Thursday, September 6, 2001, 6:26
Okay, so I've been working on Phaleran voices recently so
I can work on some more formidable translations that strike
me as beautiful/interesting/neat.  Here're the first tentative
advances in that direction.

Phaleran voices are, like all voices, basically ways for the language
to reflect different levels of emphasis of one grammatical role (agent,
patient, instrument, etc.) over another by changing the valence of the
verb.  In Phaleran, the actual number of these depends on whether
you are considering only verb morphology, noun morphology, or both.
The active voice is the morphologically null voice in some senses,
carrying no special marking on the verb, depending on whether you
think the transitivity markers are really more like voice markers. An
example might be:

    Syaseillu         eoi         gethasyonni
    PL.child.ERG 3SgObj  see.TR.3PlPfRe.S
    'The children looked at him/her'

All the other voices in some way take a verbal marker plus a special
matrix of cases.


The passive is used to subordinate agents of transitive verbs so as
to emphasize their patients.   The antipassive is just the reverse of this:
it subordinates the patient of transitive verbs to emphasize the agent
of the action. In either case, the transitive verb is changed to an intransitive
verb. Phaleran verbs uses the same detransitive verb marker-(a)bro- for
both voices and promotes the emphasized NP in question to the
absolutive case, while using different arrangements of case for the demoted
NP.  Phaleran starts out by deleting the transitivity marker and inserting the
voicing marker:

    Eo     [syaseinto]         gethabronni
    3SgS [PL.child.INST] see.DETR.3PlPfRe.S
    'He/She was looked at [by the children]'
    (Demoted agent takes instrumental case if used in the sentence)

    Syasei             [eotwo]   gethabronni
    PL.child-ABS [3SgDat] see.DETR.3PlPfRe.S
    'The children looked [at him/her]'
    (Demoted patient takes dative case if used in the sentence)

Note that some verbs may still express the distinction between a control
meaning ("look at") and a noncontrol one ("see") by using the dative in the
noncontrol construction.  In passive and antipassive constructions, the agent
-- which would normally be marked with the instrumental or absolutive cases,
as above respectively -- becomes the dative:

    Eo     [syaseiwo]            gethabronni.
    3SgS [PL.child.DAT] see.DETR.3PlPfRe.S
    'He/She was seen [by the children]'  (not: 'was looked at')

    Syaseiwo          [eotwo]   gethabronni
    PL.child.DAT   [3SgDat] see.DETR.3PlPfRe.S
    'The children saw.' (not: 'looked')

To make clear that the noncontrol meaning is meant, the demoted NP in the
passive (here, "syaseiwo") has to be used.  Otherwise, the passive will be


From the perspective of verbal morphology, these three "voices" differ
only in semantics.  What distinguishes them, as between the passive and
antipassive, is the corresponding nominal morphosyntax. One starts out by
deleting the the transitivity marker on the verb, and then inserting a voicing
marker, -(a)mi-.

    Syaseillu         eoni           gethaminni
    PL.child.ERG 3Pl-ProxO see.MID.3PlPfRe.S
    'The children looked at themselves.'
    (Here, the proximative pronoun shares the semantic weight with the
    verb marker, and thus acts here like a reflexive pronoun. The subject
    takes the ergative case, while the pronoun takes the objective case.)

    Syaseillu         gethaminni
    PL.child.ERG see.MID.3PlPfRe.S
    'The children looked at each other'
    (The subject takes the ergative case, and there is no object, although
    some dialects use the obviative third person pronouns as a reciprocative

    Syasei             gethaminni
    PL.child-ABS see.MID.3PlPfRe.S
    'The children got looked at/became looked at/let themselves be looked at'
    (The subject takes the absolutive case.)

Any questions or comments?

Thomas Wier | AIM: trwier

"Aspidi men Saiôn tis agalletai, hên para thamnôi
  entos amômêton kallipon ouk ethelôn;
autos d' exephugon thanatou telos: aspis ekeinê
  erretô; exautês ktêsomai ou kakiô" - Arkhilokhos


Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>