Verbal Category of Voice – Part 3

Червень 26th, 20126:44 am

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Verbal Category of Voice – Part 3

Verbal Category of Voice
Verbal Category of Voice – Part 2

The double nature is also observed with the non-finite forms of the Eng­lish verb. There are patterns where the Gerund is indifferent to the voice dis­tinction and may therefore be understood either actively or passively, since the immediate context specifies its meaning: cf. The stairs need repairing; the book is worth reading: Jane deserves telling off Also the use of the In­finitive, active in form but passive in meaning, is quite frequent: the book to read, the man to watch, the work to do, etc.

Related to this is the use of the modal verb will (would) in the negative form, e.g. The car would not start: The drawer won’t open.

The voice identification in English is aggravated by the problem of “me­dial” voices, i.e. the functioning of the voice forms in other than the passive or active meanings. As a result, some linguists also distinguish Reflexive Voice (also called Middle Voice). In case of Reflexive Voice, the doer of an action and the object of the action coincide, that is the doer experiences his own ac­tions (e.g. She reconciled herself to the loss, You can express yourself freely).

The problem of Reflexive Voice is still under debate, since the model “transitive verb + reflexive pronoun” differs from the model of an analyti­cal form, characteristic of tense or passive forms. It is not always possible to draw a demarcation line between reflexive constructions and free word combinations. Besides, the semantics of the model depends greatly on the meaning of a verb. The controversial nature of reflexive constructions, on the one hand, and strict requirements which analytical forms must meet, on the other hand, prevent many scholars from distinguishing Reflexive Voice in English. The arguments put forward to refute Reflexive Voice are as fol­lows: 1) the model “transitive verb+reflexive pronoun” does not form a par­adigm, since it does not present any opposition to Active Voice both struc­turally and semantically (unlike, for instance, Ukrainian verbs in -ся); 2) the model “transitive verb+reflexive pronoun” may have no reflexive meaning, and vice versa, a verb without a reflexive pronoun may have the reflexive meaning created by its own semantic properties and by the context (cf. She dressed herself, she dressed her child, she dressed, similar examples may be found with the verbs to wash, to shave. However, in some cases the reflexive pronoun cannot be skipped, e.g. I warm and I warm myself cannot be mixed up as well as I amuse and I amuse myself).

There are also scientists who believe that reflexive meaning may be ob­served and distinguished only in a context. In other words, reflexive mean­ing is episodic, formed by a certain context, i.e. reflexive meaning is one of the facets of Active Voice, where the object is expressed by a reflexive pronoun. The reflexive pronoun has a dual nature, since it can function both as a lexical part of speech and a function word.

Some scholars distinguish so-called Reciprocal Voice. In the case with Reciprocal Voice, actions expressed by verbs are also confined to the sub­ject, but, as different from the sentences with Reflexive Voice, these actions are performed by the subject constituents reciprocally: e.g. The friends will be meeting (each other) tomorrow, James and Sandra married two years ago, Phil and Trade are quarrelling over the washing-up again. Here, the verbal meaning of the action performed by the subjects on one another is clearly reciprocal. As is the case with the reflexive meaning, the reciprocal meaning can be rendered explicit by combining the verbs with special pro­nouns, namely, the reciprocal pronouns each other and one another.

It is indisputable that the verb-forms in the given collocations deliver the idea of the direction of situational action, and in this sense these verbal meanings may be regarded as those of voice. On the other hand, the given uses obviously do not possess a generalizing force necessary for any kind of lingual unit to be classed as grammatical, since reflexive and reciprocal pronouns are still positional members of the sentence, though they should, like any auxiliary elements of an analytical form, lack syntactic meaning.

On the whole, the majority of linguists admit the existence of only two Voices in English, adding that there are also reflexive verbs which are fol­lowed by the direct object expressed by reflexive pronouns, i.e. the use of the reflexive pronoun in a number of cases remains the question of lexicon or phraseology rather than that of grammar (cf. for instance the phraseological units to pride oneself, to busy oneself that do not exist without their pronominal elements).