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Re: Mediopassive/labile verbs; was: very confused - syntax question

From:Lars Henrik Mathiesen <thorinn@...>
Date:Sunday, July 4, 1999, 17:01
> Date: Sun, 4 Jul 1999 12:11:24 -0700 > From: Sally Caves <scaves@...>
> Exactly. You say: the rose smells good; the fish tastes salty (not: > I taste the fish to be salty, I smell the rose to be good). And it's > NOT the same as "I wash," or "I get up" which is what I think the > traditional middle voice expresses. Trask has this definition for > "medio-passive": "A construction in which an intrinsically transitive > verb is construed intransitively with a patient as subject and receives > a passive interpretation: This fabric washes easily. My new book is > selling well." Trask also directs you to "labile verb" and "middle > voice," which is why I wondered if the mediopassive and middle voice > were ever interchangeable. As for thinking the mediopassive was > sometimes called the middle voice, I call upon the authority of other > linguists on the list who so defined it last year. Unless I misunder- > stood. I recall a discussion that Matt participated in in which I > got the impression that "the fish cooks slowly" was in the middle voice. > Slowly, I'm refining my knowledge of this stuff.
When discussing Indo-European languages, which is what I mostly see, middle and medio-passive denote the same inherited, morphologically marked 'setting' in verb conjugation (for the category 'voice'). The general term is medio-passive, because that was the original meaning: reflexive or passive according to verb sense and context. It's called middle in Greek because Greek developed a separate passive. It's also possible to talk about middle and passive senses of the mediopassive voice. (The original mediopassive (in this sense) was lost in Germanic, but the North Germanic languages developed a new one by encliticizing a reflexive pronoun --- a bit like the Romance 'lavarse' and so on. But in most cases this has now been specialised to a passive sense, to the extent that 'lavarse' has to be expressed as active voice + reflexive object pronoun again.) But I'm talking about morphologically marked forms here. Trask is talking about a specific type of labile verb. A 'mediopassively labile' verb is not in the mediopassive voice when it's constructed intransitively --- it just takes on a meaning reminiscent of that voice in other languages. In fact, this type used to be called 'unergative', but that name is so bad that I can well understand that Trask found another. Lars Mathiesen (U of Copenhagen CS Dep) <thorinn@...> (Humour NOT marked)