Based on 160 hours of recording collected in the villages of Săbăoani, and Pildeşti, Romania, the present research attempts to describe the middle voice system of Northern Moldavian Hungarian (NMH), an endangered language spoken by no more than 3000 speakers.
Defining the middle voice category semantically rather than formally, it is argued that the various middle situation types in NMH can be placed relative to one another on a “semantic map” based on shared semantic properties such as 1) the confinement of the development of the action within the agent’s sphere to the extent that the action’s effect accrues back on the agent itself, 2) the degree of volitionality of the Initiator/Agent, and 3) the degree of affectedness of the Initiator/Agent. Polysemy structures are examined against the background of a common semantic map derived on the basis of cross linguistic investigation of a given grammatical domain.
In working toward this end a detailed description of major patterns of meaning inherent in the NMH middle system, examining three types of morphological middles, syntactic middles, and lexical middles is presented. Cases in which the same verb can occur with or without a middle marker apparently having the same meaning are discussed. Moreover, seemingly minimal pairs in which two different morphological constructions occur with the same verb are analyzed.
A detailed analysis of the differences in form and function of the two reciprocal syntactic middle constructions in NMH is provided. Regarding reflexive syntactic middles it will be shown that depending on the case marking taken by the reflexive anaphoric operator the function conveyed is different such as reflexives, intensifiers, causers, and experiencer. Finally, cases in which the same verb can convey a middle meaning by using a morphological middle marker or by using a syntactic middle construction are analyzed showing that there are main differences in the meaning those two strategies convey.
Thus, the present paper identifies specific semantic properties relevant to the middle voice system in NMH, sets up some hypotheses regarding the relations among middle and related situation types and proposes some diachronic predictions regarding the middle voice system of NMH.