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Hi

Which sentence has an ergative verb and which is in the middle voice?

Molly broke the china.

The china broke.

China breaks easily.
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Comments  (Page 2) 
I see. It's good writing. Are you a student of linguistics?
MrPedantic
Milky
MrPedantic
In addition, I would say that we have no middle voice in English, in the sense in which the term is used in Ancient Greek grammar.

MrP

What term would you give to the English examples that some others have termed "middle voice"?

What examples?

This one, for example:

An intransitive verb that appears active but expresses a passive action characterizes the English middle voice. For example, in The casserole cooked in the oven, cooked is syntactically active but semantically passive, putting it in the middle voice.

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MilkyI see. It's good writing. Are you a student of linguistics?
No, I'm an engineer.

paco
Paco2004
MilkyI see. It's good writing. Are you a student of linguistics?
No, I'm an engineer.

paco
An engineer with a strong interest in linguistics, no doubt. Not many engineers would readily know such terms as "ergative" and "middle voice". Interesting.
MilkyNot many engineers would readily know such terms as "ergative". Interesting.
Really? What word do you think comes immediately before "ergative" in usual dictionaries? It is "erg", a word every engineer should know. So, in my opinion, it is not a surprise an English learning engineer inquires what "ergative" really means.

paco
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Paco2004
MilkyNot many engineers would readily know such terms as "ergative". Interesting.
Really? What word do you think comes immediately before "ergative" in usual dictionaries? It is "erg", a word every engineer should know. So, in my opinion, it is not a surprise an English learning engineer inquires what "ergative" really means.

paco

I see.We learn something every day. How about "middle voice"? Which word precedes that in your dictionary? ;-)
"Meddle"?
Milky
This one, for example:

An intransitive verb that appears active but expresses a passive action characterizes the English middle voice. For example, in The casserole cooked in the oven, cooked is syntactically active but semantically passive, putting it in the middle voice.

The SIL glossary presents the "middle voice" as:


a voice that indicates that the subject is the actor and acts


- upon himself or herself reflexively, or
- for his or her own benefit.

So in the Wiki example,

1. The casserole cooked in the oven

I would take "cooked" as ergative, rather than "middle voice". The "casserole" is the subject of an intransitive verb, but the patient of the action: it can't therefore be said to act "upon itself, or for its own benefit." The agent is the "oven"; or rather, the heat the oven produces. (The ultimate agent is the person who switches on the oven.)

I'm interested in Paco's case of the "middle verb", as in this example:

2. The china broke.
3. China breaks easily.

I wonder though whether we could say that in #3, the "quality-describing" nature of the sentence resides in the indefinite noun, rather than the verb.

We might also consider this pair:

4. The sabre-toothed tiger ate meat. (One tiger.)
5. Sabre-toothed tigers ate meat. (All tigers.)

If #3 is a middle verb, how do we regard the verb in #5?

It's interesting to note that the complementary structure (intransitive verbs used in a passive formation with active meaning) was once common:

6. I am come/he is arrived/etc.

Cf. also the earlier form of the present continuous passive:

7. The house is building = the house is being built [now obsolete]

MrP
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MilkyHow about "middle voice"? Which word precedes that in your dictionary? ;-)
In my dictionary, the entry "middle" is preceded by a phrase "a midday meal". In my humble opinion, it wouldn't be a surprise that English learning engineers have a midday meal, though you might disagree.

paco
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