tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Apr 15 09:59:35 2002

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Re: middle voice

>>These examples all seem to illustrate the middle voice, where from "X 
>>Y" you get "Y kroinks".
>The term that I've heard is "unaccusative verbs" -- i.e., verbs with a
>subject, without and object, and where the subject is is an experiencer
>or... theme?  I forget the terms for those semantic roles, or theta roles,
>or whatever the syntacticians call them these days.

I've never heard the term 'unaccusative'.  (Then again, I'm only an amateur 
linguist.  However, I have contacts in the linguistics department of the 
local university, so I'll ask about this term.)  The term I've always heard 
used for verbs without objects is 'intransitive'.  In English, many (I'm 
tempted to say most) transitive/intransitive pairs are identical 
morphologically.  In Finnish, they're not, though the difference is often 
simply the final vowel of the (theoretical) verb stem.  In most romance 
languages, intransitive verbs can be made transitive by adding 'make' in 
front of them, i.e., I made this happen.  Similarly, transitives can be made 
intrasitive by adding the reflexive particle in front of them, i.e., 
(literally) I did this thing to myself.  This is not technically 
intransitive, but is usually translated into English with an intransitive or 
a passive.  I have just begun learning Albanian, and there is a 
medio-passive voice which seems to correspond to this last feature of 
romance languages - that is, it can be an intransitive, a reflexive, or a 
passive, depending on the situation (when translated into English, I mean).  
In Klingon, we can turn an intransitive into a transitive by adding {-moH}, 
and you can make a reflexive with {-egh}, but I don't know how you'd get an 
intransitive from a transitive.

>But one needn't say that one set comes from the other.  I have heard the
>term "middle voice" to refer to some bit of verbal morphology in Ancient
>Greek, but I was never sure whether it was all-and-only for unaccusatives,
>or only for unaccusatives that are derived from causatives, or
>what.  Anyhow, yes, these things are always a problem with a language that
>tries to fit all verbal arguments into a subject/object dualism, as most

As far as I can tell, the subject/object confusion with {-lu'}only occurs 
with pronominal prefixes:

X [verb] Y       Y verbs X
X vI[verb]       I verb X


X [verb]lu'      [something] verbs X
vI[verb]lu'      [something] verbs me

This seems to me not so much an isuue of an alteration of the pronoun's role 
within the sentence, as another shortcut using the pronominal prefixes (like 
the prefix trick)  Although the end result is indeed an alteration of its 
role, what I'm trying to express here is that the theoretical Klingon 
speakers who first began to use prefixes this way were not confused about 
the role of the prefix in the sentence, but rather taking a shortcut.  (Of 
course, this involves guessing what was going through MO's mind when he made 
this rule, but I think this is a pretty good guess.)

I see absolutely no problem with subject/object dualism here:  we have a way 
to express subjects without objects, and we have a way to express objects 
without naming subjects.  And when you think about it, a passive sentence in 
English may not mention the doer of the action, but there almost always is 
one.  Consider the difference between: 'the vase fell over' and 'the vase 
was knocked over'.  If there was no doer, most native English speakers would 
choose the first, whereas if there was, they would choose the second.  A 
passive sentence almost always indicates that there was doer, but doesn't 
usually mention it (although it can).  {-lu'} indicates that there was a 
doer, but the doer is unknown (or at least that the speaker prefers not to 
specify the doer).  (And of course, {-lu'} can also mean indefinite subject 
or general subject according to TKD, but unknown subject is the use we're 
dealing with when comparing it to passive voice.)

Basically, my point is, with transitive (or 'accusative', as I would guess 
the opposite of 'unaccusative' to be) verbs, there is always a 
subject/object dualism, whether the subject is expressed or not.  The 
meaning of the verb demands it.  The difference seems to be that we have a 
way to avoid explicitly mentioning the subject in English, whereas in 
Klingon, we have to indicate morphemically that the subject is unknown.

BTW, Romance languages also have an explicit passive voice, but it's not 
used as much as it is in English, the reflexive particle generally being 
preferred.  Finnish has one, too, but the subject can't be expressed - you'd 
have to use different forms to translate 'X was done' and 'X was done by Y'. 
  There is acually a form that means this, but it's not used as much as 
simply switching the order of the subject and object, since word order is 
quite free in Finnish.

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