Losing their (passive) voice: Syntactic neutralization in heritage german

Michael T. Putnam, Joseph Salmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This paper reports initial findings on the apparent loss of passive voice constructions in Moundridge Schweitzer German, a moribund enclave dialect spoken in South Central Kansas. The dialect once had three agent-suppressing constructions; today speakers produce only an impersonal construction but marginally recognize one passive construction in comprehension tasks. Comparative and internal evidence suggests a clear path for this development qua syntactic extension. Empirically, numerous heritage and moribund languages lose passive constructions, and our account appears extendable to those settings in ways that illuminate some claims about heritage language syntax. The synchronic outcomes are easily modeled using the notion of syntactic neutralization, and we argue that a neutralization approach to syntactic ineffability has significant advantages over a NULL PARSE approach. Since the latter is Optimality Theory (OT)-specific, we model our findings in OT. Because neutralization is a framework-independent concept, our findings have broader ramifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-252
Number of pages20
JournalLinguistic Approaches to Bilingualism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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