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Re: Test for middle voice?

From:R A Brown <ray@...>
Date:Sunday, November 20, 2005, 22:34
Henrik Theiling wrote:
> Hi! > > R A Brown <ray@...> writes:
>>... >>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! :-) >
good :)
> 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'?
Not really.
> I.e., is > 'Peter fills' grammatical and will it be understood to be containing > an ellipsis of an object being filled?
"Peter fills" sounds unfinished; it wants an object. It would not be sound grammatical, except in a context in which the ellipsis is clearly 'understood'. In fact off-hand I can't really think of just such a situation (no doubt one of our readers will ;) But "the cup fills" is IMO just as likely (or unlikely) as "Peter fills". It also has an ellipsis - "With what?" But I can just imagine it being said maybe during a scientific demonstration or a conjuring trick. "Look - the cup is filling!"
> 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?
There is, arguably, a syntactic distinction in that one usage requires a direct object complement & the other requires a prepositional phrase complement. But these are normally regarded as subcategorizations of the _lexical_ item, i.e. they are semantic distinctions. The termination -(e)s and the form 'is' are markers of the 3rd person singular of grammatically active forms of a verb. My dictionary list 'fill' as a transitive verb with various different (tho related) meanings, and as an intransitive verb with the meanings 'to become full', 'to become satiated'. They have different valencies, as well as different diatheses.
> > 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 --
That's correct - diathesis is done according to semantic properties. if it can have control, it's active, if it can't, it's
> middle. So there is no middle voice in English.
No, not in the _grammatical_ sense of voice.
> 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.
Yes, I thinks so. > What about 'Tea
> drinks more easily than water when you have a cold'?
:-) Yes, indeed, although I have never heard that; but as we know from the frequent YAEDTs, it would be a misguided to say that would never occur in a language spoken over such a wide area as English is. Could any Romance language (or German) use a reflexive in that context (Tea drinks itself more easily....)? =================================== Andreas Johansson wrote: [snip] > > Looking in a Swedish lexicon, it seems _diates_ covers both voice and diathesis. > It may be the same in German. > > The way to distinguish is apparently to speak of _morfologisk diates_ vs > _semantisk diates_. I've never met 'diathesis' used in English for any meaning other than _semantisk diates_. On the other hand, I have found 'voice' used in both the morphological and the semantic meaning which, as I have said, seems to me a confusing usage. It reminds me of the vocoid/contoid and vowel/consonant business. Some of us use vocoid & contoid for phonological distinctions and vowel and consonant for phonetic distinctions. Others use just vowel & consonant, and then have to make clear whether they mean a 'phonological vowel' or 'phonetic vowel'. But as I have, IMO it is more helpful to distinguish in English between 'diathesis' (semantic feature) and 'voice' (grammatical category). -- Ray ================================== ================================== MAKE POVERTY HISTORY


Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>
Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Isaac Penzev <isaacp@...>