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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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Hi,

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

Molly broke the china.

The china broke.

China breaks easily.

These are the kinds of very technical grammar terms that most native speakers do not know. That includes me. So, I found the following definitions, and thought I'd try to give you the best answer I could.

I'm sure there are people on the Forum who are familiar with these terms, and can give you a much better answer.

Best wishes, Clive

Ergative verbs are found in sentences where the verb affects the subject:


The sun melted the butter.
Here, we have a sentence with a standard subject, a transitive verb and a direct object.


The butter melted.
Here, the subject was the object of the original\sentence. The butter didn't melt itself- it required the heat of the sun. This is an ergative verb use, where the subject of the intransitive form of the verb would be the object of the transitive form of the verb.

Molly broke the china.

The china broke. This seems to me to fit the definition.

China breaks easily. I'm less sure about this general statement. Perhaps it is also ergative, in that it's just 'peope or accidents' rather than Molly that performs the action.

____________________

Some languages (e. g. Sanskrit and Classical Greek) have a middle voice. 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. In Classical Greek, the middle voice is often reflexive, denoting that the subject acts on or for itself, such as "The boy washes himself." or "The boy washes." It can be transitive or intransitive. It can occasionally be used in a causative sense, such as "The father causes his son to be set free." or "The father ransoms his son."

Molly broke the china.

The china broke.

China breaks easily.

I don't really understand this definition's idea of a 'passive action'. Nevertheless, it seems to me that 'break' is not a verb that really can be considered a passive action. So, I'd say that none of your sentences are in middle voice.








Hello Anon

Are you testing our knowledge about linguistic terms?

"Ergative" is originally the term used to refer to the case of the subject in the transitive sentences of ergative-absolutive languages like Georgian and Basque. In those languages, the nouns are marked by an "ergative-case marker" when they come to the position of subject in a transitive sentence and otherwise the nouns are marked by an "absolute-case marker". You can see this argument more clearly by comparing two sentences:
1. The woman(erg) loved the man(abs).
2. The man(abs) arrived.
So roughly speaking, "ergative verbs" in ergative-absolutive languages is synonymous to "transitive verbs" in nominative-accusative languages such as English. However, some English linguists use the term "ergative verbs" to refer to special verbs that can be used both in transitive and intransitive ways without significant difference in the meaning. Take "break" as the example:
3. Someone broke the china.
4. The china broke.
If English were an ergative-absolutative language, the subject in the sentence #3 should take the ergative case. This might be the reason theses amphoteric verbs were named as "ergative verbs". So, more precisely speaking, when it is used as an English grammar term, "ergative verbs" refers to some intransitive verbs that can be used as a transitive verb. "Unaccusative verbs" is another term used to refer to the same things. This term was created on the ground that the subjects of such intransitive verbs are in the accusative case when they are in the original transitive sentences.

It is said English has about 600 ergative verbs. Examples are : alter, balance, beat, begin, bend, bleed, boil, burn, burst, change, circulate, close, commence, dash, decrease, increase, diminish, drop, dry, embark, end, explode, fade, fill, form, freeze, gather, grow, harden, improve, increase, issue, melt, open, pass, roll, separate, shake, shine, shiver, shoot, slip, spread, start, stir, stop, split, spread, start, tear, thaw, thicken, turn, twist, upset, etc.. In contrast to these ergative verbs, verbs like "arrive", "jump", and "dance" are obligatorily intransitive and therefore the subjects of these verbs couldn't take an ergative case if English were an ergative-absolutive language. So these genuine intransitive verbs are called "unergative verbs".

"Middle verbs" is another term for a special class of verbs that can be used both transitively and intransitively. Middle verbs and ergative verbs somewhat overlap with each other, but their concepts are different. Let's take your three sentences.
3. Someone broke the china.
4. The china broke.
5. China breaks easily.
"Break" in the sentence #4 is an ergative verb. It is used in a sentence describing an event that a certain china broke. On the other hand, "breaks" in the sentence #5 is a middle verb. It is used in a sentence describing a quality or property of china, that is, the sentence #5 says that china has a quality of being easily broken.

Many amphoteric verbs can be both an ergative verb and a middle verb. But some amphoteric verbs can be used only a middle verb. Take "sell" as an example.
6. The book sells well.
7. They sold the book in the university bookstore.
8. The book was sold in the university bookstore.
9. (*) The book sold in the university bookstore.
"Sell" in the sentence #6 is a middle verb and it describes the quality of "the book". The sentence #7 describes an event and the sentence #8 is a passive version of the sentence #7. We cannot make a sentence like the sentence #9 to mean the same as the sentence #8. The ergative verbs are commonly used to describe a change of the state of the subject, while the middle verbs are commonly used to describe the quality or the state of the subject.

paco
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
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.

In Greek, it takes the same form as the passive voice, except in the aorist. It has the sense of "doing something for the speaker's advantage". It's usually impossible to translate in a readable way.

MrP
AnonymousHi

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

Molly broke the china.

The china broke.

China breaks easily.

The china broke. (Ergative verb)

China breaks easily. (Middle construction)
Paco2004Hello Anon

Are you testing our knowledge about linguistic terms?

"Ergative" is originally the term used to refer to the case of the subject in the transitive sentences of ergative-absolutive languages like Georgian a...
paco
A good text. Where find did you find it?
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
MrPedanticIn 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"?

MilkyA good text. Where find did you find it?
What do you mean? I wrote what I know.
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?

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