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

From:Lars Henrik Mathiesen <thorinn@...>
Date:Tuesday, July 6, 1999, 15:57
(I've totally lost track of who said what by now...)

IMO, what confounds this discussion is the use of the word voice.
Voice normally means some type of morphological marking or analytical
construction that shows whether the subject is agent or patient or

For my money, the English sentences we are discussing have finite verb
forms in the active voice, which can be construed either transitively
or intransitively. The term 'mediopassive' here denotes a _class_ of
these 'labile' verbs, _not_ a voice. For this class, the sense of the
intransitive construction is 'mediopassive' compared to the transitive
--- another class is called 'causative' because the sense of the
_transitive_ construction is 'causative' compared to the intransitive.

The morphology and syntax of a English verb construed transitively is
exactly the same across the classes of labile verbs, and indeed for
pure transitive verbs as well. The same goes for intransitive uses. I
see no reason for claiming that a subset of the labile verbs are in
some special magical 'mediopassive voice' when used intransitively.

Also, this classification is arguably purely descriptive, by which I
mean that we do not have to assume that language users classify verbs
this way --- they may have a pair of 'lexicon entries' for each labile
verb, giving the separate meanings of transitive and intransitive
uses. Trask's 8 classes then describe the logically possible relations
between a pair of senses, or at least those found in English.

On the other hand, Jennifer's language has a morpheme that gives a
verb form a sense that is either reflexive or passive according to the
nature of the subject. This is in fact exactly what the voice called
mediopassive in PIE did, and what mediopassive voices do in many other
languages, so I don't really know why this sense of the word is being
dismissed as irrelevant.

Lars Mathiesen (U of Copenhagen CS Dep) <thorinn@...> (Humour NOT marked)