The semantics and pragmatics of voice systems: A functional analysis
Cameron, Carrie Anne
Davis, Philip W.
Doctor of Philosophy
This study investigates grammatical voice from a functional-semantic viewpoint. While previous studies have focussed mainly on the active-passive relationship or at times the active-middle relationship, this study takes a more comprehensive approach, assuming voice in a given language to be a system of values for expressing participant-to-event and subject-to-verb relations. The primary research compares the voice systems of four languages (two Indo-European and two non-Indo-European) in depth in order to discover the overarching motivation for their several organizations. Both inflectional and sentence-derivational voice types are included, with an attempt to integrate their functions. The interrelationships of voice with other grammatical systems such as aspect and modality are examined as well. The study found that expressions of voice have two significant patterns of organization, motivated either pragmatically by considerations of empathy and topicalization (as in English and Hungarian) or semantically by modification of the properties of the subject and/or its relationship to the event (Russian and the affective passives of Japanese and English). These two motivating principles may and often do intersect and overlap, producing the complexity which has proved so formidable in the study of voice. The notion of a 'basic' argument structure of the verb, which has serious implications for any analysis of voice, was explicated and shown to be inapplicable to some languages (e.g. Hungarian); the notion of a given language being 'biased' towards a transitive or an intransitive conceptualization of events was also found to be material to voice organization. Finally, the investigation of the interaction of voice with aspect and modality reveals that these three systems (and perhaps others) cooperate to produce a holistic perspective on an event in terms of actor-orientedness or patient-orientedness.