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Impersonal Passives and Quirky Case in Subject-Prominent Languages (was: Copula)

From:Eldin Raigmore <eldin_raigmore@...>
Date:Monday, March 19, 2007, 20:31
On Mon, 19 Mar 2007 14:30:38 +0000, R A Brown
<ray@...> wrote:
>Elliott Lash wrote: >>>Which would mean the copula has a passive form - I >>>suspect there are none. >>I suspect that what you meant by 'passive form', is >>'occurs in a passive construction'...then I'd agree >>with you. However, Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Old >>Irish all have intransitive verbs that can be >><morphologically> passive (i.e. the same form as >>passive transitive verbs), but of course, this form is >><syntactically> and <semantically> used in an >>impersonal construction. > >So in fact did Latin, e.g. >itur - one goes, they go, we go etc etc (Fr. on va) >ventum est - one came, people came, they came etc etc > >They're called impersonal passives since there is no subject. > >What I should have stated more clearly is that if a verb is transitive, >then we must be able to have a passive form in which the direct object >of the active verb is the subject of the passive form. it does not mean, >of course, that other verbs may not in a particular also have a passive >construction. > >Therefore if 'me' was the direct object of "It is me", then we would be >able to have a passive construction *"I is been by it" - we cannot (cf. >He sees me ~ I am seen by him). >---------------------------
Some cased languages have some verbs which lexically select that their subject, or their object, must be marked with a case that reflects the noun- phrase's semantic role, rather than its grammatical relation. In many such languages, such "quirkily cased" subjects or objects do not change case during passivization. Sticking, for the moment, to "syntactically accusative" languages, that is, if the active form of a clause has a quirky (non- nominative or non-ergative) agent or subject, then the passive form's demoted agent will retain the case it has in the active form; or, if the active form of a clause has a quirky (non-accusative or non-absolutive) patient or primary object or direct object, then the corresponding noun-phrase in the passive form of the clause will keep that same case. Among some such languages (e.g. Icelandic IIANM), the active clause's quirky- cased object will be promoted to be the subject of the passive clause, even though it retains its quirky case. Among others (e.g. German IIANM), however, the quirky-cased object can't be promoted to subject, and so the passive clause is "impersonal", that is, it has no subject. Is the above correct? ObConLangs: Has anyone got conlangs that do both? That is, whose conlangs' "quirky objects" do get promoted to subject under passivization, and whose conlangs' "quirky object" clauses become "impersonal" when passivized?


R A Brown <ray@...>