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Markedness of passives and antipassives

From:Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
Date:Friday, March 23, 2007, 20:26
Somewhere, I seem to have picked up the idea that passive voice verbs
are marked and therefore do not occur as frequently or as "naturally"
in a given language as active verbs. I would like the community's
thoughts on how true this is.

One thing that makes me question this received wisdom is that I
remember reading somewhere about a language where passive
constructions actually do, contrary to expectation, occur in a
proportion similar to that of actives. Does anyone know what language
that might be (or of other such languages)?

Another reason is that there are some languages where passive
constructions, at least in certain contexts, evolve diachronically
into active ones; for instance, the ergative past tense constructions
in a lot of modern Indic languages. If passives are marked and
perceived as unnatural, how did they take over for the ancestral,
active, past tense paradigms? Were there sound changes or analogy or
something that destroyed the original past constructions?

Finally, are the same issues (markedness and naturalness) present
with antipassive constructions in ergative languages? I'm guessing
they are. The main reason I ask is that I'm working from an ergative
conlang and I would like to generalize antipassive forms, with the
result being accusative constructions.


Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>