Become with Passive Voice

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Apr 28 18:29:11 UTC 2009

At 2:09 PM -0400 4/28/09, Mark Mandel wrote:
>On Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 12:32 PM, Laurence Horn
><laurence.horn at> wrote:
>>  Ah, the tricky part is whether the past participle of the verb (as in
>>  "tired" or "interested") is necessarily itself a verb form (as these
>>  are not). ? If not, "became interested/tired" are instances of become
>>  + "passive voice"; if so, not. ? Note that the good cases with
>>  "become" all allow modification of the participle with "very" where
>>  the semantics permits, which is (always?) impossible with verbal
>>  passives, as well as blocking true agentive by-phrases.
>Well, to use examples that you just gave upthread:
>  The squid became (*very) unfrozen/unthawed/thawed.
>  The knot became (*very) untied/unloosened/loose/loosened.
Right, whence my codicil on "where the semantics permits".  For
non-scalar cases like these, you need to shift to "completely/totally
unfrozen/untied". (Actually, "very loose" is pretty good for me.) But
that doesn't work as well as a diagnostic, because the same adverbs
work with verbal be-passives, although under those circumstances
they're arguably adjectival themselves:

The pizza was completely/totally eaten (??by my roommates).

So if the distribution of "totally" or "carefully" does work as a
diagnostic for adjectives as opposed to verbs (I defer to Arnold on
this, and also note the new wider gen-X use of "totally" as in "He's
totally not going"), we can bring that in here for the squid and knot
"become"-passives above.


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