The emergence of middle voice structures with and without agents

Antonio Fábregas, Michael Putnam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This article presents evidence that, cross-linguistically or within the same language (family), there appears to be no morphosyntactic properties and/or structures specifically designated for the formation of middle voice constructions. What has been labeled a 'middle voice construction' is a semantic interpretation that, crucially, is blocked when an event variable is existentially closed by T. This article focuses on two ways of expressing a middle statement; namely (i) middle voice readings that occur with lexical-s passives, and (ii) adjectival middles - in Mainland Scandinavian, showing that properties such as the availability of an agent in middles pattern with whether an event variable is present (in the structure) or not. These are the result of two equally valid and productive grammatical structures: one where an event variable is present, an agent is projected and a modal operator blocks existential closure of the event variable, and another one where the event variable is not present in the structure, and therefore the operator is not necessary - hence impossible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-240
Number of pages48
JournalLinguistic Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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