Verbal Category of Voice – Part 2

June 26th, 20126:45 am


Verbal Category of Voice – Part 2

Verbal Category of Voice

Although a number of criteria to differentiate between a simple predicate expressed by a verb in Passive and a compound nominal predicate have been put forward, yet this question is disputable. The identical form and absence of precise distinction of categorical meaning (passive meaning as an action performed on the subject or state resulting from this action) make possible to treat Passive of action and Passive of state as identical, on the one hand. On the other hand, the meaning of state, characteristic of a compound nominal predicate, makes this leveling of differences inconsistent.

Lexical meaning of Participle II may also serve as a criterion. Participle II expressing various psychological states in the majority of cases functions as a part of a compound nominal predicate and expresses a state. The Parti­ciples are disappointed, disconcerted, abashed, startled, amazed, stunned, irritated, vexed, alarmed, frightened etc. as in …answering them [letters] took up the time and energy he needed for his writing, so that he was rather relieved that W.S. had given no address. (Hartley)

Le capitaine was pleased to discover you were still in Paris tonight… (Brown)

Sometimes the whole content of a sentence may be a criterion to differ­entiate compound nominal predicates and simple predicates. For example, in descriptions, when all things and phenomena are regarded in their static state, when their certain special position is fixed, one expects the predicate to be a compound nominal:

The curator looked down and saw the bullet hole in this white linen shirt. It was framed by a small circle of blood a few inches below his breast­bone. (Brown)

One cannot but mention another formula of Passive Voice, a so-called Passive of action, expressed by the construction to get+Participle II. While the general meaning of this construction is the same, the structure He got wounded projects more stress on dynamic character of the action compared to the sentence He was wounded that emphasizes mainly the result of a certain action. Still, some linguists deny the construction with the verb to get the passive status and suggest that it should be analyzed as a compound nominal predicate.

Neutralization of the contrasting oppositions “passive – active” is fairly common in English. This phenomenon takes place when the passive meaning is attributed to verbs in the active form. If we consider such sen­tences as the car stopped the car was stopped, the schedule changes the schedule is changed, we may notice that the possibility of the double use is caused by the intrinsic meaning of the verbs themselves. The dual nature of the verbs leads to grammatical synonymy, i.e. the two forms – active and passive – have the same meaning.

By analogy, the use has been extended to the verbs to sell, to read, etc., where it is not natural to the meaning of the verbs themselves. It should be noted here that the use of the sentence Souvenirs are selling well throughout the city presents the information in a slightly different way compared with the corresponding passive variant (Souvenirs are being sold well), in that we start thinking of the souvenirs as active themselves, as the cause of the ex­tensive sale, without paying attention to efforts of sellers, advertisers, etc.

Henry Sweet, in his grammar, calls such verbs as to change, to stop, to sell, to read in examples above passival and says that “their grammatical subject is logically their direct object, the subject not being expressed be­cause of its indefmiteness”. Other scholars resist the idea of distinguishing this group of verbs. To deny a specific status of these verbs, the linguists point out that this is not a class of verbs that matters here, but a special contextual use of many verbs in English, resulting in neutralization of the opposition “active – passive”.

Verbal Category of Voice – Part 3