intransitive "making"

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sun Nov 28 13:12:37 UTC 1999


You are looking for the word "ergative."

We baked the cookies in the oven.
The cookies baked in the oven.

As opposed to "real" transitives:

We ate the cookies in the kitchen.
*The cookies ate in the theater.

Note, however, that ergatives and transitives can both passivize, that
operation sometimes falsely suggested as a test for transitives.

So, if you reclassify (by analogy) "make" as an ergative (on the model of
"bake"), you've got it made.


>FWIW, this sounds like a special usage for some verbs like bake:
>(1) The cookies are baking.
>I don't remember what this is called, but I think it's an intransitive usage
>of certain transitive verbs.
>To me, at least, this sentence does *not* seem intransitive, it seems closer
>to being a transformation of
>(2) The cookies are being baked.
>Benjamin Barrett
>gogaku at
>------Original Message-----
>-From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On
>-Behalf Of M. Lynne Murphy
>-I've never heard "spendy", but twice this week I've heard the
>-following from
>-members of the same family (they're from North Carolina and Georgia):
>-The coffee is making.
>-(i.e., the coffee is brewing)
>-Is this an intrafamily usage, or is this widespread/regional?

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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