[B-Greek] A new stab at voice

Kimmo Huovila kimmo.huovila at helsinki.fi
Wed Oct 17 15:24:30 EDT 2007

On Wednesday 17 October 2007, Don Dwight wrote:
> Request elaboration on the rule in part 3)
> On 10/15/2007 9:39PM Kimmo Huovila wrote:
> > 3) The subject of the active voice can be in almost any semantic role of 
> > verb frame. However, it is not lower in the following hierarchy than the 
> > of the roles of the verb frame (agent>author>instrument>patient). Note 
> > PASCW hUPO is not a counter-example, as the subject is an experiencer. 
> > rule could probably be elaborated to cover more ground. 
> a. Is the rule the hierarchy?

The hierarchy is agent>author>instrument>patient. The rule is that the subject 
of an active verb is not lower in the hierarchy than other roles in the verb 

> b. What is the rationale for this hierarchy?

I used William Frawley's Linguistc Semantics (1992), pp. 240-242. He refers to 
Charles Fillmore's The case for case (1968) and adds 'author' to Fillmore's 
subject hierarchy. I have understood subject hierarchy to be fairly universal 
in languages that have a clear subject category. I cannot think of Greek 
counter-examples. Subject hierarchy is discussed in many linguistic sources, 
I just happened to use Frawley.

> c. Do agent, author, instrument, and patient correspond to nominative, 
> genitive, dative, and accusative case only for the active voice?

No. They are semantic cases, not Greek morphological cases. There is no direct 
correspondence between the two kinds of case. "The agent is the deliberate, 
potent, active instigator of the predicate: the primary, involved doer" 
(Frawley, 203). "If the primary executor of an act has all the 
characteristics of an agent, but is not the direct cause of the act, the 
argument is the author" (Frawley, 205). "If an argument is the means by which 
a predicate is carried out, it has the thematic role instrument" (Frawley, 
208). "If an argument undergoes, is changed by, or is directly affected by a 
predicate, it is a patient." (Frawley, 210).

After Fillmore's original work on semantic cases, many linguists have used 
somewhat different versions by adding different cases to Fillmore's original 
proposal. Frawley uses the term thematic role. Some speak of theta roles.

> d. Do agent, author, instrument, and patient correspond to some activity 
> or aspect of the verb regardless of voice?

Yes. They can all be present regardless of the voice. In passive the agent can 
be expressed by a prepositional phrase, often hUPO+genitive.

> e. Do agent, author, instrument, and patient correspond to agent cause, 
> material cause, end cause, and formal cause?

I am not sure how you define these causes.

> f. Does an experiencer take on one or more of these four hierarchical 
> roles, or some other semantic role such as the beneficiary, observer, 
> narrator, or perhaps even the reader or listener?

Experiencer is another role or case in addition to these.

> g. Does the role of beneficiary in the subject of the verb frame for the 
> middle voice correspond to the role of the instrument in the predicate 
> of the verb frame for the active voice, that is, as the acceptor of the 
> action of the verb, but not as the receiver (patient) of the action?

No, not the instrument. Beneficiary is not from Frawley's list of semantic 
cases. I just used it to mean one who benefits of the action (but the action 
could as well harm). This corresponds to some dative uses. I should probably 
think of a better word or define this more strictly. Radford 
(Transformational Grammar: a First Course, 1988) uses benefactive, which he 
defines as an "entity benefitting from some action" (p. 373). Frawley defines 
benefactive more narrowly (those that derive actions or entities from the 
actions of another, p. 215). Perhaps I should stick with benefactive rather 
than create my own confusing terminology.

> h. Does the role of author include the role of principal, or is the 
> sense of author "source material"?

I am not quite sure what is the role of principal. Does not sound like "source 
material" to me. But I probably already answered this question even if I do 
not completely understand it.

> i. Does the role of agent include the role of principal when the role of 
> instrument is one of agency?
I did not exacly understand this either. Did I already answer this?


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