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Passivization



 
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Passivization #1 (permalink) Sun May 28, 2006 14:35 pm   Passivization
 

Hi!

I hope someone can help me with this, I am a bit confused:

Both the traditional approach to grammar and the Principles-and-Parameters approach suggest that the passivization of a verb involves a morphological change to the verb.

Example: He expects them to have survived.
They were expected to have survived.

Now, if I'm correct, passive morphology involves the root verb (f.ex. expect) + ending -ed

Is this always in constuction with the auxiliary be?

I'm wondering because of a sentence like this one:

He believed that they had survived.
They were believed to have survived.

The main verb believe does not undergo a morphological change, so I wonder if the auxiliary is supposed to be counted in the passive construction. That would make both approaches correct, wouldn't it?

And another thing:

is it correct that in passivization, the subject theta role is suppressed and can be optionally realized as a by-phrase?

How can that happen in a sentence like this one:

He expects them to have survived.
They are expected to have survived, by him.

This sounds just plain wrong, and would mean that he has survived them...which is not an option.

Please help...I'm really lost..

Meliha
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Passive #2 (permalink) Sun May 28, 2006 15:13 pm   Passive
 

Hi Meliha,

The whole point is why a verb is changed from the active to the passive. I could just as well say why anyone wants/you want to change the verb from the active to the passive. The verb will need to be transitive in its use for it to be changed into the passive. The verb will need to be transitive in its use if you want to change it into the passive. You chose two verbs. Two verbs were chosen by you - expect and survive. Now both these verbs have a transitive and an intransitive function. If I expect touble then trouble can be expected (by me) If I expect that I will get into trouble, I can't really change that into the passive in any sensible way:
It is expected by me ??? not really.

Again survive can mean simply live on and it can also mean live through as in: Several people survived (lived through)the snow storm but one skier was badly injured and didn't survive (live on)

In your examples:

Quote:
He believed that they had survived.
They were believed to have survived.

The main verb believe does not undergo a morphological change, so I wonder if the auxiliary is supposed to be counted in the passive construction. That would make both approaches correct, wouldn't it?

And another thing:

is it correct that in passivization, the subject theta role is suppressed and can be optionally realized as a by-phrase?

How can that happen in a sentence like this one:

He expects them to have survived.
They are expected to have survived, by him.

This sounds just plain wrong, and would mean that he has survived them...which is not an option.


You have made changes from he to they. You have changed the nature of the sentence. In that sense it is not a genuine change from active to passive. You have changed He believed to They were believed If you want to make a complete change from active to passive, you would write: It was believed by him that they had survived. Again He expects is changed to They are expected. The complete change would be: It is expected by him that they will have survived.

My belief is that there has to be a point in changing a sentence into the passive or simply using the passive. The main reason is that the agent/the doer is not important or known or it is used in certain expressions like: It is believed that/It is reported that/It is said that, which are other ways of saying: They believe/They report/They say..

I have written some notes on the passive which you may care to read:

Grammar Lesson: Passive Voice

Alan
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Passivization #3 (permalink) Sun May 28, 2006 15:37 pm   Passivization
 

Hi Alan!

Thank you for your reply!

Would I be correct to assume then, that in the sentence "They are expected to have survived", the by-phrase is not optional? It simply cannot be used?

This would make both approaches wrong, wouldn't it?
If the sentence is changed, and the expletive it inserted in the matrix subject position, the by-phrase would be possible, but only as a complement of the verb?

I have another problem:

Instead, the expletive is omitted, and the subject of the embedded nontransitive clause is raised to the matrix subject position. Being passivized, the verb looses its ability to assign accusative case. So the verb only can assign accusative case to its NP complement, which in the active sentence would be "they"? Or is that a compliment of the CP head "that"? So "that" assigns the accusative case?

I guess my real question is whether the verb can assign accusative to inflectional phrases, or jus NP's.
Meliha
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Passivization #4 (permalink) Sun May 28, 2006 22:02 pm   Passivization
 

Hi Meliha

I think Alan's points are very good. And the point I liked the best is the one you seem to have missed: There should be a good and logical reason for changing an active sentence to a passive one.

I'm just a humble teacher/trainer of English. I'm not a rocket scientist of linguistics. But my opinion is this: If it's so important to know "by whom" in a passive sentence, but it's difficult to find a place to put the "by whom" in, then you've got a sentence that shouldn't be made passive at all. Just leave the darn thing active.

One thing that drives me nuts about many English grammar books is the abundence of nonsensical exercises for transforming active sentences to passive. Either there are too many "easy-to-transform" active sentences (that most people in their right mind would rarely say as an active sentence in the first place). And/or there are too many active sentences that have to be forced into the passive (resulting in strange-sounding, sometimes barely intelligible constructions).

A headache is gotten by me every time these things are thought about by me. (Ouch! What a horrible sentence!) :lol:

Meliha, your English is quite good. Are you a student of linguistics? (Judging by all the liguistics jargon, I assume you are. ;))

Amy
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Passivization #5 (permalink) Mon May 29, 2006 13:41 pm   Passivization
 

Hi Amy :)

You're half right, I am taking a linguistics course at my university, but they have cleverly disguised the name so I thought I was taking a pure and simple grammar course. Fat chance.
And on top of that, they keep on confusing me. I think my english is good enough to know how to construct a well formed sentence, but here I'm supposed to explain the "how" and the "why" of sentences that, as you say, shouldn't really be passivized. So I'm looking for any help I can get. This forum is the closest I have gotten to real help on the internet, but it seems like I will have to battle this one out on my own. ...stupid linguistics :P
Meliha
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Passive #6 (permalink) Mon May 29, 2006 14:38 pm   Passive
 

Hi Meliha,

I once did extensive exercises on the passive for a book that sadly never came to fruition. If you want, you could try one of them:

Use a passive participle to replace the highlighted sections in the following:

1 The problem under discussion
2 The students we are testing.
3 The situation under consideration.
4 The procedures under review.
5 The difficulties we are finding.
6 After we had been brought to the same conclusion, we all decided to shake hands.
7 As we had been misled by our guide six times in a row, we decided the best policy was to consult the map.
8 After he had been sentenced by the judge, the prisoner was led away to the cells.
9 We noticed the seawall as it broke under the force of the heavy waves.
10 Immediately after their rescue from the mountain, they had an accident with their car.

Does that gladden your heart?

Alan
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Passivization #7 (permalink) Mon May 29, 2006 14:53 pm   Passivization
 

Hi again!

Strangely enough, I'm not the happiest I've ever been.
But I'll give it a shot, though it seems quite impossible.

Thanks!
Meliha
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Joined: 28 May 2006
Posts: 5
Location: Norway

Passivization #8 (permalink) Mon May 29, 2006 15:21 pm   Passivization
 

Meliha wrote:
Hi Amy :)

You're half right, I am taking a linguistics course at my university, but they have cleverly disguised the name so I thought I was taking a pure and simple grammar course. Fat chance.
And on top of that, they keep on confusing me. I think my english is good enough to know how to construct a well formed sentence, but here I'm supposed to explain the "how" and the "why" of sentences that, as you say, shouldn't really be passivized. So I'm looking for any help I can get. This forum is the closest I have gotten to real help on the internet, but it seems like I will have to battle this one out on my own. ...stupid linguistics :P


Hi Meliha

I was afraid of that. My sympathies. But I do congratulate you on managing to learn all the jargon. That alone is no piece of cake. :lol:

Amy
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Passivization #9 (permalink) Wed Mar 12, 2008 22:52 pm   Passivization
 

Could you please tell me what is the right place for the complement of agent in a by-phrase?Is there a general rule for it?Thank you.
Julia
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Passivization #10 (permalink) Wed Mar 12, 2008 23:26 pm   Passivization
 

Since the agent in a by-phrase is a noun, you can complement it with an adjective or with combination of an adverb and an adjective. This complement would be put before the agent.

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