Passive agents: prototypical vs. canonical passives

Anna Siewierska and Dik Bakker

in Canonical Morphology and Syntax

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199604326
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746154 | DOI:
Passive agents: prototypical vs. canonical passives

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Anna Siewierska and Dik Bakker seek to establish whether passives with agents are more canonical than those without agents by examining to what extent the former coincide with other canonical properties of passives. They also explore whether the interplay between the properties of passive agents may be viewed as constituting part of the passive canon. Drawing on a sample of 279 languages, they show that passives with canonical passive subjects coincide with overt agents, syntactic non-obligatoriness of the agent (if expressed), more frequent agent expression, oblique encoding of the agent, and agents which are semantically agentive and lexical. The same set of agent properties coincide with the presence of passive verbal morphology. By contrast there appears to be no correlation between the type of verbal marking of the passive, synthetic vs. periphrastic, and agent expressibility or its encoding. In sum the investigation is suggestive of canonical passives being agentive.

Keywords: agent; inverse; morphology; passive; syntax

Chapter.  16387 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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