Possibilities for Passives in Natural and Artificial Languages
Published Online: Jan 01, 2017
The Passive Voice is a category which we find in the large majority of natural languages, and also in most artificial languages. The first major part of this paper offers a survey of passive constructions in a number of typologically distinct natural languages, with the basic aim of presenting the (prospective) artificial language constructor with the range of functional and formal properties of the Passive Voice which occur in natural languages. This survey shows that regardless of the fair amount of variation in the morphosyntactic form of passives that we find in different natural languages, crosslinguistically passives are remarkably uniform in inevitably occurring as a grammatical category marked (synthetically or analytically) on the verb; they are also remarkably uniform in relation to the basic function they perform: passivization inevitably involves demotion of a primary clausal term (the Subject) and in most of the cases also promotion of a non-primary term. The next part of the paper offers an overview of Passive Voice formation and function in artificial languages, which will provide the language constructor with a good idea of some of the ‘design’ decisions taken with regard to this grammatical category. Finally, the paper briefly discusses various design issues in relation to economy, explicitness/ambiguity, functionality, and learnability and presents some specific recommendations with regard to the possible design of passives in an artificial language.