awoken/woken -- passive/active past participles?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Nov 12 03:45:14 UTC 2008

Joel S. Berson wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      awoken/woken -- passive/active past participles?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> You were wondering where the second question had disappeared
> to?  Here it is, but only peripherally attached to politics.
> Lisa W. Foderado wrote in The New York Times on Thursday, Nov. 6
> ("For Striving 6th Graders, History is Now and Their Future Just
> Changed", page P7):
> "Too tired, perhaps, from having been awoken at midnight to hear the
> news from their tearful mothers."  [The grade in question, in a
> Brooklyn public school, is predominantly Hispanic and black.]
> And later she wrote:
> "The ... principal [asked] why ... their parents had woken them the
> night before."
> I am really confused.
> One past participle for the passive and another for the active?  And
> to me a strange one (or two) at that -- and seeming to prefer an
> irregular to a regular form, which I would think is not the trend.
> The OED tells me "woken" is an adjective, and rare, but Foderano used
> it as a verb form; and that "awoken" is a variant form of the past
> participle of "awake".
> There is "wake", for which "woken" might be a ppl.  But the OED does
> not show a past participle. form, so I guess "wake" is regular and
> its ppl. is "waked".  Would I say "having been waked at midnight", or
> "having been waked up at midnight"?   And "their parents had waked
> them the night before", or "their parents had waked them up the night
> before"?  I don't think so.
> There is also "awake", for which the OED gives "awoke" and "awaked"
> as ppls.   Would I say "having been awoke/awaked at midnight",?   And
> "their parents had awoke/awaked them the night before",?  Again, I
> don't think so, but these are less unspeakable than the previous.
> But I see "awaken" (sense 4: "To arouse from sleep").  No ppl. shown,
> so I assume it is "awakened".  I would say "having been awakened at
> midnight" and "their parents had awakened them the night before".

I am addressing only transitive verbs.

I don't have much to add to what the MWDEU says about "wake"/"waken" --

(p. 945) --

or about "awake"/"awaken" --

(p. 153-4).

I would use "[a]wake"/"[a]woke"/"[a]woken" myself, but I think
"[a]wake"/"[a]waked"/"[a]waked" is [A-]OK too.

I think the verb "[a]waken" is generally weak:

I think all four transitive verbs mean about the same usually.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society -

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