24.4492, Review: Semantics; Syntax: Alexiadou & Sch=?UTF-8?Q?=C3=A4fer_?=(2013)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-24-4492. Mon Nov 11 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 24.4492, Review: Semantics; Syntax: Alexiadou & Schäfer (2013)

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Anja Wanner, U of Wisconsin Madison
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Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2013 12:03:51
From: Laura Arman [laura.arman at gmail.com]
Subject: Non-Canonical Passives

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-1578.html

EDITOR: Artemis  Alexiadou
EDITOR: Florian  Schäfer
TITLE: Non-Canonical Passives
SERIES TITLE: Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 205
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Laura Arman, University of Manchester

In its own words, the work under review supports the claim by Huang (1999)
that there is no real definition of canonical and non-canonical passives. Each
chapter presents a language-internal study of constructions labelled at some
point in recent linguistic history as 'non-canonical passives', providing
evidence that no clear distinction exists of what properties are exclusively
passive. This means that no unifying theory of passives or account of their
structure exists that accommodates all possible passives and the construction
or 'voice phenomenon' has been characterized as a cluster of features in
typological work for decades (Siewierska 1984, Keenan and Dryer 2007). This
book makes no correction to our notion of passive as it stands, with most
chapters elaborating on cases where formal theories either dismiss or fail to
differentiate constructions. The above is an issue summarized and exemplified
concisely in the introductory chapter by the editors, taking into account
previous well-used 'definitions' of passive.

Artemis Alexiadou and Florian Schäfer’s introduction outlines several
properties considered to define or diagnose passives. Using Baker, Johnson &
Roberts (1989) as a basis, the chapter exemplifies the kind of diagnostics
widely used for passives which are employed by all chapters of this collected
work, disambiguating passives from superficially similar clauses: licensing of
by-phrases, control of PRO, agentive adverbs and disjoint reference in
adjectival passives. The introduction also attempts to synthesize major
arguments from the last two decades on the analysis of non-canonical passives,
including Alexiadou's own work -- the issue of implicit arguments raised here
is one which remains a constant for later analyses. Evidence is provided from
English, German, Dutch, French and Japanese for the blurriness of what is
analysed as canonical and non-canonical within passives, to convince us of the
need for more detailed analyses as well as to outline some of the questions
that come with such data:

- How is a get-passive different from a be-passive and why is get used over
any other verb?
- Why are only certain auxiliaries used with passives?
- Why are there different types of adjectival passives?
- Which restrictions on verb classes can be observed?

These data are revisited in greater detail in later chapters.

Andrew McIntyre's ''Adjectival passives and adjectival participles in
English'' posits several original ideas to the two titular forms, some at odds
with previous well-known analyses of the adjectival passive, such as Kratzer
(2000). McIntyre proposes an analysis of subtypes of adjectival passives
including a type previously unidentified, or at least undistinguished:
situation in-progress participles. A sentence such as 'that car seems badly
driven, so keep away from it' can only be uttered whilst the car is still
moving, for example. Although there may also be a possible resultative reading
of these participles, they clearly differ from resultative participles, such
as 'the car is scratched', and eventive-verb-related pure statives (previously
known simply as 'stative participles'), such as 'the bars are bent because the
craftsman moulded them that way', in that they are time-reference dependant on
their verb (cf. Embick 2004). This contribution also concludes that adjectival
participles can have an implicit agent, or rather initiator (which covers any
external argument), as attested also for Hebrew (Meltzer-Asscher 2011) and
Greek (Anagnostopoulou 2003), with examples such as 'The Picts painted
themselves blue and stayed painted for several days' clearly containing an
initiator of the verbal participle's event. On the basis of such data,
McIntyre suggests that transitive-based adjectival participles are truly
passive, whilst unaccusative-based participles are not. This analysis
disambiguates the previously problematic adjectival passives from adjectival
participles, necessary for solidifying the boundaries of passives in English.
McIntyre concisely lays out formalisms for the semantics of his proposed
participle types and proposes a syntactic analysis where the theme of the
adjectival participle is merged externally to the participle's projection.
This is not uncontroversial, but is supported by previous tests on Russian
(Borer 2005), Hebrew (Meltzer-Asscher 2011) and Italian (Cinque 1990), as well
as work in lexicalist theories.

The second language-specific chapter is also on English, focusing on the
choice of verb for its periphrastic passives in Anja Wanner's corpus-based
study 'The get-passive at the intersection of get and the passive'. As might
be expected, this paper additionally deals with register and style, unlike
most papers in the volume. She begins by reviewing English passives and claims
made about get-passives and get-arguments in general, raising questions
echoing those in the introduction, such as whether the get-passive is a true,
if quirky and restricted, passive or whether get is the regular lexical verb
or some grammaticalization of it. Whilst the paper largely discusses previous
analyses of implicit arguments in get-passives, it also provides original data
on get-passives from the FROWN (ICAME) corpus. Wanner endorses Orfitelli’s
(2011) notions of a responsibility get-passive and a non-responsibility
get-passive, to account for different get-passive types found in the 57
get-passives of the corpus data. Whilst offering no strong conclusion on the
passive status of get-passives as a whole, the overall contribution here is
that get-passives are not necessarily strictly differentiated from their
be-passive counterparts. Some constructions involving no secondary agent
appear more easily with the get-passive, due to the causative nature of some
'gets', but be-passives and get-passives still largely overlap -- 'he was
promoted' or 'he got promoted' for example. Instead, it is suggested that the
structure of 'get' is flexible enough that it allows for these differing
contextual interpretations, or we are left with the notion of two different
structures for one surface phenomenon.

Alexandra N. Lenz's chapter 'Three ''competing'' auxiliaries of a
non-canonical passive' is another interesting, data-driven take on
get-passives. This time, the social variation under investigation was regional
and dialectal, as well as taking register into consideration. An enormous
amount of data from various corpora were used to determine the sociolinguistic
factors involved in selecting one of three possible auxiliary verbs for the
German get-passive, namely 'kriegen', 'bekommen' and 'erhalten' -- all with
some combination of the meaning ‘get/receive’. The meticulous study of German
dialect and register finds that the selection of passive auxiliary does indeed
vary with both register and region, providing information which both
contradicts and supplements what is assumed by literature on standard German
and on German passives.

A more general analysis of 'Variations in non-canonical passives' is given in
C.-T. James Huang's paper, with data drawn from Mandarin Chinese, English and
German, although unlike other chapters it is mostly a discussion of the
possible theoretical analyses of a Mandarin construction. Despite unhelpfully
characterizing the non-canonical passives of this dataset as 'chameleonic',
Huang identifies two different analyses applicable to these sets of
non-canonical passives, such as the English get-passive and the Chinese
bei-passive -- they can be analysed as being control or raising constructions.
In Huang's view, non-canonical passives can differ from other passives in
selecting a semi-lexical verb to superimpose on the main predicate, which may
change the argument structure of the predicate as a whole. More detailed is
his analysis of the lexical selection and syntax of the Mandarin
give-passives, which supports the assertion that auxiliaries with differing
properties along the causative-unaccusative continuum have an effect on the
argument structure, and ultimately, the analysis of a construction as either
raising or control.

'How much 'bekommen' is there in the German 'bekommen' passive?' presents both
experimental and corpus data. Markus Bader and Jana Häussler's account of the
'bekommen' passive auxiliary shows that the construction is sometimes
acceptable with verbs whose dative object is not a recipient -- sometimes, but
not always. What they conclude from their study is that the 'bekommen passive'
is indeed not a recipient passive and so only part of the semantics of
'bekommen' is retained in its grammaticalized use as a passive auxiliary. The
semantics of the auxiliary is discussed, but a more fine-grained analysis is
left for future work.

The next two contributions are also on German, this time rejecting the
analysis of non-canonical passive for the construction studied. In
'Haben-statives in German: A syntactic analysis', haben-statives are analysed
as a class of their own as Martin Bunslinger finds them to have the same
underlying structure, rejecting the need for Kratzer’s (1993) distinction of
'lexical' and 'phrasal' adjectivization. Unlike their English counterparts,
German haben-statives consist of a main verb and an adjective, according to
this analysis, and this is supported in the next chapter, 'Another passive
that isn't one: on the semantics of German haben-passives'. Helga Gese's
analysis captures the semantic overlap of participles in 'haben-passives' and
German adjectival passive participles (with 'sein'). Gese claims that a zero
adjectiviztion affix can account for this overlap in the semantics of the
participles of the two constructions, which are both main verb + predicative
adjective, but differ from their non-adjectivized counterparts in lacking the
event-kind meaning that comes with the deverbal adjectives.

James E. Lavine's 'Passives and near-passives in Balto-Slavic: on the survival
of the accusative' attempts to account for the structural accusative in
passives as found in Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian. He proposes that
v-Cause and v-Voice be 'bundled' together in Polish so that an external
argument has filled the specifier of the Voice node, resulting in the
reanalysis of the Polish so-called impersonal construction as active. In
Lithuanian Inferential Evidentials, a similar analysis holds. However, in this
case, the historical passive morphology, /-ma/-ta/, cognate with Polish
/-no/-to/, has not been reanalyzed as active and thus still heads v-Voice. As
the v-head is fused, accusative is not assigned to the Lithuanian evidentials,
whereas it is hypothesized that Ukrainian has a split vP and so can still
assign accusative to its direct object.

The optimistically titled 'How do things get done: on non-canonical passives
in Finnish' offers not only another non-Indo-European passive puzzle, but
proposes a new one. This contribution proposes that Finnish has agreeing
passives (as well as the previously recognized non-agreeing kind) which
somehow resemble English get-passives and differ from the Finnish copular
construction to which it may be compared. Fredrik Heinat and Satu Manninen
claim that the two passive types 'pattern alike' and differ significantly from
the copular construction; they provide a syntactic analysis to this effect, on
the grounds that the agreeing passives are a copular construction which
contains a passive. They see the copular construction differing from the
passives in its lack of vP, whereas the two passives are seen to select their
participles using a different head.

Marie Labelle's chapter 'Anticausativizing a causative verb: the passive 'se
faire' construction in French' brings an interesting case of a construction
which is semantically passive but formally causative. The chapter lays out the
problem of analysing the construction as causative, as the non-reflexive
counterpart would be. In this case, the subject of a 'se faire' construction
is not a causer and in fact Labelle analyses the construction as having no
CAUSE in the syntactic structure. Instead, 'se faire' requires a missing
object in its embedded clause, which brings the non-canonical passive claim to
the fore. This paper sees an account similar to that of Embick (2004)'s
resultatives being applied to the 'se faire' constructions, only that Voice
occurs above v in this instance, for what are assumed to be result
anticausatives (Labelle & Doron 2010). This contribution provides a detailed
syntactic as well as semantic analysis of the construction in question,
drawing on plenty of natural data, and dedicates space to discuss in
satisfactory detail the issues arising from the analysis. Labelle concludes
that these constructions are decausativized and resemble result anticausatives
in that, in both, a change of state event is headed by 'faire' and, in both,
the external argument is not merged. The passive semantics is a result of the
change of state event of the higher clause.

Fatemah Nemati's provides an overview of the different passivization
strategies available in Persian, 'On the syntax-semantics of passives in
Persian'. Another Indo-European language using the become-passive, Persian's
other uses of 'šodæn', become, are contrasted with their use as a passive
auxiliary (in the form of a light verb construction), 'noun/adjective +
become'. It seems that 'šodæn' will be interpreted as a copula unless the
element preceding it has a [+passive] feature, according to Nemati's analysis.
Rather than assuming a different lexical representation for the passive use of
‘šodæn’, it is the interaction of the lexical semantics of the construction
that will determine the structure of the light verb.

Masanori Deguchi's brief chapter on 'Two indirect passive constructions in
Japanese' deals with so-called ‘affective’ passives, in which the participant
in the event is always somehow 'affected' -- negatively with the 'rare'
passive and positively in the 'morau' passive. The key difference between the
two seems to be that no causation is involved between the participants in the
'rare', negative passive, whereas there is in the positive 'morau'. This
causation, it is argued, is the source of the beneficiary reading of this
'affective passive'.

Another Indo-European light verb passive is found in Swedish 'Få and its
passive complement', and Eva Klingvall proposes that the Swedish
get-constructions are structurally divided. Having outlined the previous
research on and structure of the få constructions, Klingvall goes on to
exemplify causer versus beneficiary subjects in these constructions in some
detail. Her structural analysis of beneficiary and causer få-constructions
concludes that the two differ in their syntactic behaviour and thus have
differing structural representations. The passive complement of få is analyzed
as being the past participle when its subject is a causer, whereas the subject
being a beneficiary will cause the complement of få to be the received DP.

Bjarne Ørsnes investigates 'The Danish reportative passive as a non-canonical
passive' and finds them to be fully compositional passives. These
constructions would be deemed non-canonical only due to their treatment of the
subject of the passive verb -- an issue that arises due only to the
traditional definition of passive. Instead of being demoted as one might
expect, these passives promote their subjects to subjects of the matrix verb.
Interestingly, Ørsnes's HPSG analysis also proposes a lexical rule which
suggests that reportative passives may be uniquely available to
subject-prominent SVO languages.

The final chapter, '(Non-)canonical passives and reflexives: deponents and
their like', is the only one to offer a diachronic take on passive-like
structures, relating passive-form 'deponent' verbs in Latin (and Greek) to the
'inherent reflexives' of Germanic and Romance languages (as well as others).
Dalina Kallulli proposes that an actor-initiator feature is present in these
constructions, without the presence of an external argument. These deponent
verbs (cf. passive 'amor', I am loved vs. deponent 'mi:ror', I admire), which
Kallulli considers to be canonical passives, are formed from nouns/adjectives
which, according to this analysis, makes them more likely to form psych verbs.
The fact that the same analysis can be extended to inherent reflexives such as
French 'le vase casse / le vase se casse', as well as evidence that both
construction types transitivize by means of overt morphological marking, is
used to argue that both lack external arguments. Kallulli's analysis also
supports Embick (1997) initial proposal of transitive deponent verbs as psych

As might be expected from a collection of conference papers, the contributions
vary in many ways. Whilst largely data-driven, the chapters vary in their
orientation towards theoretical implications. Certain chapters stand out as
providing a greater contribution towards an overall understanding of the
syntax and semantics of what are supposed to be non-canonical passives, whilst
others at the very least contribute language-internal analyses, giving a
richer view of the phenomena under review. Several may shape future research
into placing those constructions in linguistic theory, such as Wanner’s corpus
study on get-passives and Lenz’s dialectal investigation into the German

Andrew McIntyre's contribution stands out as one of the more theory-heavy, yet
accessible chapters, providing an original subdivision of much-discussed
English adjectival passives in both their semantics and their syntactic
representation. Similarly, a number of the chapters make strong conclusions
about their data, such as Lavine on Balto-Slavic, Heinat and Manninen on
Finnish, Labelle on French, Klingvall on Swedish and Ørsnes on Danish, and as
a consequence will surely have implications for anyone working on similar
phenomena either in the languages in question or in non-canonical passives in

The scope of this volume is very broad, as non-canonical passives have been
shown to take many different verbal-forms and so will be relevant to
researchers in many areas of syntax, semantics or their interface. One only
has to turn to the final chapter to question how interrelated languages can
share syntactic structures among such constructions or processes as
reflexivization, transitivization, and causation, from either a syntactic,
semantic or even morphological point of view. The editors have very carefully
put together a volume in which the weaker contributions are few and far
between. The book passes through related constructions, languages and notions
whilst keeping the original contributions varied in linguistic impact, moving
between topics within the same language, then between languages on the same
topic. The empirical base remains constant whilst the theoretical persuasion
is far from static, leaving the reader with a collected view -- although far
from comprehensive of course -- of the problematic analyses of passives.
However, the problems of passives are news to no one and volumes of previous
linguistic analyses have been dedicated to such studies, including those
treating non-canonical passives, such as Perlmutter (1978), Siewierska (1984),
Shibatani (1985), Keenan and Dryer (1987/2007), Anagnostopoulou (2003),
Abraham & Lesiö (2006). This collection aims to answer some specific
questions, repeated from above.

- How is a get-passive different from a be-passive and why is get used over
any other verb?
- Why are only certain auxiliaries used with passives?
- Why are there different types of adjectival passives?
- Which restrictions on verb classes can be observed?

These questions have been answered in specific contributions, on the whole.
However the biggest test for any volume on voice phenomena or non-canonical
constructions is how they contribute to our understanding of the canon.

The editors ask, ''What are the properties of passivization?'' and ''Do
passives have the same properties across languages?'' (p.2). Unusually, for
work on passives, the individual contributions here do go some way to
answering at least the first question, proposing to reject some constructions
as non-canonical passives (haben-statives in German) and to include others as
newly considered passives (Finnish agreeing passives). Most chapters make
small steps to advance the overall view of passives within linguistic theory,
but it is always tempting to ask, as the contributors do, how we can discuss
non-canonical passives with only a pre-theoretical and fluid idea of what a
canonical passive should be. This work makes no claim to answer such a
question, but perhaps its incremental approach to narrowing down the syntactic
and semantic structures of what are valency-reducing or passive-like in a
language are the most cautious way to proceed to an overall picture of
passivization entails.

Abraham, W. & Lesiö, L. 2006. “Passivization and Typology: Form and Function.”
[Typological Studies in Language 68]. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Anagnostopoulou, E. 2003. Participles and voice. In Artemis Alexiadou, Monika
Rathert & Arnim von Stechow (eds.), “Perfect Explorations”. Pp. 1-36. Berlin:
Mouton de Gruyter.

Baker, M., Johnson, K. & Roberts, I. 1989. Passive arguments raised.
“Linguistic Inquiry” 20: 219-252.

Borer. H. 2005. “The Normal Course of Events”. Oxford: Oxford University

Cinque, G. 1990. Ergative adjectives and the lexicalist hypothesis. “Natural
Language and Linguistic Theory” 8: 1-39.

Embick, D. 1997. Voice Morphology, “Syntax and Inherent Specification”. PhD
dissertation, University of Philadelphia.

Embick, D. 2004. On the structure of resultative participles in English.
“Linguistic Inquiry” 35(3): 355-392.

The Freiburg-Brown Corpus (FROWN). ICAME Collection of English Language
Corpora, Second Edition, 1999.

Huang, James C.-T. 1999. Chinese passives in comparative perspective. Tsing
Hua Journal of Chinese Studies 29: 423-509.

Keenan, Edward L. and Matthew S. Dryer. 2007. Passive in the world’s
languages. In Timothy Shopen (ed.), “Clause structure, language typology and
syntactic description” (Vol. 1). Pp. 325-361. Second Edition. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Kratzer, A. 1993. The event argument and the semantics of voice. Ms,
University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Kratzer, A. 2000. Building statives. “Berkeley Linguistic Society” 26:

Meltzer-Asscher, A. 2011. Adjectival passives in Hebrew: Evidence for
parallelism between the adjectival and verbal systems. “Natural Language &
Linguistic Theory” 29(3):815-855.

Doron, E., & Labelle, M. 2010. An ergative analysis of French valency
alternation. In Herschensohn, J. (ed.),  “Romance Linguistics 2010: Selected
Papers from the 40th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Linguistics (LSRL),
Seattle, Washington, March 2010” (Vol. 318). Pp. 137-154. Amsterdam: John

Orfitelli, R. 2011. Parsimony in passivization: Lexically defining the core
characteristics of the get-passive. In “Workshop on Non-canonical passives,
University of Göttingen”. Pp. 23-25.

Perlmutter, D. M. 1978. Impersonal passives and the unaccusative hypothesis.
In “Proceedings of the annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society”
(Vol. 4). Pp. 157-190.

Shibatani, M. 1985. Passives and related constructions: A prototype analysis.
Language 61:821-848.

Siewierska, Anna. 1984. The passive: A comparative linguistic analysis.
London: Routledge.

Laura Arman is a PhD candidate in the department of Linguistics and English
Language at the University of Manchester. Her PhD research explores the Welsh
Impersonal construction, which has often been compared with the Welsh
get-passive. The focus of her PhD is the comparison of these two structures
and the argument structure of both.

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