Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: Test for middle voice?

From:tomhchappell <tomhchappell@...>
Date:Sunday, November 20, 2005, 22:44
--- In, Aidan Grey <taalenmaple@Y...> wrote:
> > Heya folks, > > I want to incorporate middle voice into my conlang, but seeing as
I'm an L1 English speaker, it's hard for me to see it. I know that "Water fills the cup" is a middle voice (at least, it is according to Rick Morneau's 'Lexical Semantics'), but I have no idea how tell when another verb is, or should be. Can anyone help me with a simple test? You know, one of those sentences where if the verb makes sense in spot X, then it must be a middle?
> > Any additional info or description of the middle voice, to help
me clarify, is great. Heck, I'd even be ecstatic if someone could test me on it, so I can get the distinction down....
> > Thanks in advance, > > Aidan
Second: Try to check out M.H. Klaiman's "Grammatical Voice". He divides the world's types of voice-systems into about three or four super-types, which I will try to remember; * Derived Voice Systems such as English has, which fundamentally promote and demote arguments into and out of various grammatical relations; (Applicatives and Anti-Passives are also part of this super-type); * Basic Voice Systems such as Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and Fulani have, which concern themselves with affectedness and control; * Hierarchical Voice Systems, a major type of which are Inverse Voice Systems, such as Algonquian and Tiwan languages have; * Pragmatic Voice Systems, among them Information-Salience Voice Systems, such as some Mayan languages and many Philippine languages. --- "Middle Voice" is chiefly a feature of Basic Voice Systems. Certain verbs are nearly always in the Middle Voice. The Middle Voice implies that the subject, or its interest(s), is/are affected, or has an interest in whatever is affected, by the situation expressed by the verb. So, for instance, "I fear the Greeks" might be in the middle voice, since I am more affected by my fear than the Greeks are. --- First: Even if two languages both have unquestionable middle voices, a sentence that in one of them might be put in the middle voice, might not be translated into the middle voice in the other. A paper I have at home somewhere -- unfortunately I have to hunt it up to find out either title or author -- lists about eleven semantic situations that are likely to be expressed morphosyntactically in middle voice if it is available. My favorite is: If the subject is the patient of part of the predicate, but the agent of a different part, then the predicate is likely to be put in the midddle voice. Most common example; The subject is the patient of the verb, but the agent of the adverb-of-manner. Most common example; Adverb-of-manner = Easily. "This wood cuts easily". Others: "This car drives smoothly". Other possibilities; subject is patient of main verb, but agent of auxiliary verb. Example: "I'm going to get myself screwed, blewed, and tattooed." ----- Another situation commonly expressed in the middle, is a verb which is inherently reciprocal. The examples I remember are "They embraced" and "they kissed". ----- I also remember that saying "a cloud hovered over the town" or "the door remained open all day" might be put in the middle voice. The reason is that the cloud and the door are inanimate. If the opposite of these sentences had happened, it would be because there subjects had been the patients of some outside forces. But their remaining where they were was a quasi-agentive or semi-active kind of lack-of- activity, or at least lack-of-being-a-patient. (Did you get that? It was kind of hard to put into words. Basically it means they weren't agents and they weren't patients, so neither active voice nor passive voice were appropriate, and what did that leave? You guessed it -- middle voice.) ---- Finally, if a human just kind of wanders around in a daze or fugue or fog, maybe lost in thought or meditating on his or her girlfriend or boyfriend (or worried about losing his job or thinking about buying a new car), this "wandering" might be put in the middle voice, since it's not really under the human subject's control; nor under anyone else's, either. ----- Those are several sufficient conditions to put something in the middle voice. Basically they amount to two; 1. The subject is the agent of part of the predicate and the patient of another part; or 2. The subject is neither the agent nor the patient of the predicate. However, whether any of them actually /require/ the middle voice is language-dependent; and I definitely do not believe I have exhausted the set of situations where a middle voice might be recommended. Tom H.C. in MI