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Re: Test for middle voice?

From:Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>
Date:Sunday, November 20, 2005, 13:02

R A Brown <ray@...> writes:
> Mark J. Reed wrote: >... > > Yes, but I believe Ray's point was that it is not syntactically > > distinguished. The "middle voice" verbs you cite are > > indistinguishable in form from their active counterparts. > > Absolutely - spot on!
Oops. My problem might be than AFAIK German has no good word for 'voice'. I always use 'Diathese' in German for English 'voice'. That might even be wrong, since most of the time I do linguistics in English, but anyway, it seems to have blinded me.
>... > What Henrik is writing about is diathesis, and I have not said that > there is no 'middle' diathesis in English. Indeed, I believe that some > analyses of English postulate more than just three diatheses.
Sorry for the confusion then. I will properly distinguish voice from diathesis in the future! :-) Please allow me another thought to clarify my understanding of English grammar. Don't hit me. :-) Speaking of syntax only: isn't 'the cup fills' at least a wee bit syntactically distinguishable from 'Peter fills the cup'? I.e., is 'Peter fills' grammatical and will it be understood to be containing an ellipsis of an object being filled? If so, I agree -- the distinction is purely semantical. But if it is either ungrammatical, or possible to be interpreted as a (strange) situation where Peter fills in the way a cup would, then there is a syntactical distinction, isn't it? But ok, my L2 intuition tells me that the selection of the diathesis is done according to semantical properties of the subject, not by syntax -- if it can have control, it's active, if it can't, it's middle. So there is no middle voice in English. I will never claim so again! :-) 'Peter drinks' is clearly active. You can't say 'Tea drinks', right? So it also depends on the verb. What about 'Tea drinks more easily than water when you have a cold'? **Henrik


Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
R A Brown <ray@...>