MIDDLE AND PASSIVE VOICE
kimmo.huovila at helsinki.fi
Fri Oct 26 16:54:08 EDT 2001
Mike Sangrey wrote:
> On Thu, 2001-10-25 at 13:45, Kimmo Huovila wrote:
> > (Nor does the assertion that no one else is involved in the case of the
> > middle seem plausible. One typical middle construction (if I remember
> > correctly, this is what Kemmer argued) is the type 'this book sells
> > well' - where clearly others are involved. It is people who sell the
> > book.)
> True, there's other people involved, but! When I buy something at the
> grocery store there is other people involved, too: stockers, vegetable
> growers, on and on and on.
Sure. But I meant the agent. If you think of roles in a commercial
transaction, you have buyer, seller, tender, and the thing bought.
'Sell' happens to code, in the active voice, the seller as the subject
and agent. But not in the case of 'the book sells well'.
> Quite obviously--in my example, not in
> yours--if I write, "I buy food" my intent by using active voice is to
> focus the readers attention on the subject ("I") doing the action. In
> the case "this book sells well" the emphasis (relative to voice) is
> subject-intensive and thereby states the exclusion of other actors. In
> other words, the author's intention is to NOT talk about those other
> actors even though they ARE obviously there.
I am almost in agreement here. I was trying to make pretty much the same
point, and that is why I felt Ward's definition of the middle voice was
inadequate. Yet I would not say that the emphasis states the _exclusion_
of other actors, as they still figure very much in the background.
Rather, they are not salient. But you do not seem to take the 'exclusion
statement' as rigorously as you say that they are still there. So I
guess we are saying the same thing different ways.
> I've often wondered whether the explanation of voice would benefit from
> the language of "point of view" as Porter applies it to tense/aspect.
Probably some. I like the idea of 'subject-intensive', though it, of
course, needs a rigorous definition.
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