Talk:Voice (grammar)

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Wiki Education Foundation-supported course assignment[edit]

This article is or was the subject of a Wiki Education Foundation-supported course assignment. Further details are available on the course page. Student editor(s): Albahi1988.

Above undated message substituted from assignment by PrimeBOT (talk) 12:32, 17 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]


From the first paragraph: "the voice (also called gender or diathesis) of a verb..." Gender of a verb? I've never heard that term; is there a citation? (I've also never heard of diathesis in this context, but I'm less ready to call that into question--still, a citation would be nice.) Mcswell (talk) 19:20, 26 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I added both "gender" and "diathesis" orginially. I've just re-inserted "gender". It's a common enough expression in older literature. The reason that it rubs some people against the furs is probably due to sexual politics of the past few decades. However, "gender" (genus) didn't originally mean "sex" in Latin. It meant something broad like "type". There's a very frequent confusion about this among amateur linguistics who take "gender" to have something to do with modern sex roles. It doesn't. At least, it didn't originally. Bantaar (talk) 02:33, 24 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Can you point to some sources that use gender to mean voice? John M Baker (talk) 02:33, 24 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
From the on-line version of ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA: "in language, a phenomenon in which the words of a certain part of speech, usually nouns, require the agreement, or concord, through grammatical marking (or inflection), of various other words related to them in a sentence."
Okay, this doesn't conclusively prove my point, but notice the expression "usually nouns". In order to get more citations, I'll have to get up from the computer and pull down some books from the shelves. Bantaar (talk) 03:12, 24 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"genĕra verbi (Aspects gre: Διαθέσεις) 4.
   genus actīvum (active). laudo I praise. 
   genus medĭum (middle). lāvor = lavo me I wash, I wash myself. 
   genus passīvum (passive). laudor I am praised (by somebody else). 
   genus neutrum (neutral). dormio I sleep. "
- Bantaar (talk) 04:07, 24 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Britannica clearly is talking about grammatical gender, a construction unrelated to voice. John M Baker (talk) 04:08, 24 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Voice has nothing to do with agreement, so the Britannica example doesn't actually support your assertion. The Latin example only supports the use of the term genus, generis with that meaning in Latin (English gender, while ultimately deriving from genus by way of Old French, is not a direct translation). — Gwalla | Talk 06:13, 24 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
OK, I yield. I've been looking through several books of grammar, and English language ones very consistently use the term "voice". Other languages (notably old Latin grammars of ancient Rome), often use the term "genus" which is etymologically the origin of the English "gender", but just as with the Britannica quote (which I admit to having added rather hastily), that's neither here nor there in this context. English language grammars, I admit, very consistently use the term "voice". Feel free to remove the term "diathesis" as well, if you like, since it's very Greek-oriented. Bantaar (talk) 19:02, 9 May 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I admit that my previous example wasn't very good. However, now rereading parts of Robert Beekes: "Comparative Indo-European Linguistics", I have come across a book where "gender" is clearly used as a term for "voice". See for example the very beginning of chapter 18: "The Verb", 18.1: "General", 18.1.1: "Introduction":
[...]In this way the following categories were long ago inferred for PIE:
gender: active, middle
tenses: present (with imperfect); aorist; perfect (perhaps with pluperfect)
moods: indicative, injunctive, subjunctive, optative, imperative
(end quote)
I don't know if one example, even from a prominent source in the academical source in the linguistic world, merits a reinsertion. My feeling is that it should be, because people may come across this use and try to look it up on Wikipedia, only to be told that the word "gender" has to do ONLY with categories of nouns. For such people, the Wikipedia entries as they are now, are particularly unhelpful. The discussion is, of course, ideologically related to the discussion that led to the split of "noun classes" from "gender" relating to nouns, which I likewise feel to be sadly unhelpful. Actually, I even feel that it might be better if terms were used more clearly, conformly and unambiguously throughout literature; however, that's not the case, so I'd still be in favour of even the inclusion of a disambiguation entry of "gender" to direct here. I'm not prepared to take up any time-consuming debate over the issue at the moment, however, so I won't make any changes to the main pages, at least for now, but offer the above quote only as support for anybody who might wish to pursue such improvements. Bantaar (talk) 12:54, 30 March 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I, like others, was taken aback by this use of "gender" in the article on voice. Think of the poor naive reader who comes to the encyclopedia to get an introduction (!) to the concept of grammatical voice. This is probably not a person who will soon be reading "older literature". I take part in an online forum that discusses grammar with language-learners, many of whom are not familiar with the standard terminology. Sometimes I give them a link to Wikipedia to get an understanding of a basic term that they may not know. But if the article on voice is telling these beginners that voice is also called gender—and by the way, my concern has nothing to do with sexual politics—I can't in good conscience refer them to an article with such unnecessary complication. The Wikipedia guidelines say "Be bold", so, having given my rationale, I will do so and delete "gender". If you still feel that it is important, please consider putting "gender" in a footnote. Kotabatubara (talk) 21:25, 19 March 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"To be born"[edit]

I took Latin many years ago and vaguely recall that "to be born" is not active or passive voice, but something else. I was hoping to find something on this subject in this article, but alas, do not. Can anyone help? JKeck (talk) 05:10, 17 June 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"to be born" is English -- are you looking for genus neutrum, deponens or commune, or for supine? - (talk) 09:03, 15 July 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]


This comment was inside the article, but IMHO that's a wrong place. If it's wrong, it shouldn't be inside the article. If it's doubtful, then it should be discussed here and not in the article. If it isn't wrong and if all doubts are cleared or if there are sources so one can ignore the doubts, then it should be re-inserted into the article.

I, Shinobu, commented out this section because "open" is an adjective. Compare in Dutch:

  • De winkel is open. - adjective - The store is open.
  • De winkel is geopend. - static passive - The store is open. Someone must have done it, but now it's just open.
  • De winkel wordt geopend. - dynamic passive - Someone is opening the store, unlocking the door, turning the "open" sign and thus in the process of opening it.

This distinction is available in English through the use of the "be-passive" and the "got-passive", though this is not accepted by all speakers, and is considered colloquial or substandard in some circles:

  • The store is open. - adjective - The store is open.
  • The store is opened. - static passive - The store is open as someone has just opened the door.
  • The store gets opened. - dynamic passive - Someone opens the store by opening the door, unlocking the door, turning the "open" sign and thus in the process of opening it

- (talk) 10:01, 15 July 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Middle Voice in Bengali?[edit]

I have no idea, where is the middle voice in Bengali. If anyone has any information about it, please give an example and source from which it has been taken. Ashutosh Jha (talk) 11:15, 1 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Re-organization of content & structure[edit]

Over the next few weeks, we'll be re-organizing the content & structure of this article to regularize the presentation of the datasets in according with the norms of how to format natural language data. — Preceding unsigned comment added by RM Dechaine (talkcontribs) 23:45, 21 October 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Chinese and Japanese[edit]

@300voice: You have added lots of valuable material about voice in Mandarin and Japanese which by now already quite much dominates the article. This article is about grammatical voice as a general concept, and not a place for amassaing data about voice from various languages of the world. Examples from individual languages are certainly fine and helpful as long they serve to illustrate the gerenal concept. But all the details which you have added here are not even found in Mandarin grammar and Japanese syntax, where they actually belong. I'd strongly advice to add the material in those articles (and maybe in a later step create specialized sub-articles), and to trim it here to a reasonable minimum. @Megaman en m and Uanfala: Your thoughts? –Austronesier (talk) 12:24, 18 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Austronesier: Hi, we are three undergraduate linguistics/speech science students working on our final project which is on the syntax of voice in Japanese, Mandarin and English. The project was to edit and add information to a wiki page regarding a specific syntactic topic. We were instructed by our professor to use this wiki page to edit and add our info to. We apologize for adding too much detail and taking away from the general concept. We agree that our info on Mandarin and Japanese voice would be better suited to the pages Mandarin grammar and Japanese syntax. However, we are graded on the content present on this specific Wikipedia page so we would appreciate if these sections could be kept for a little longer just until our project has been marked and then we would be happy to edit and transfer the info over to the other pages. @Megaman en m and Uanfala:300voice (talk) 6:04, 18 December 2020 (PST)

I'm delighted to see such detailed exposition of a grammatical topic! However, I do agree with Austronesier that this level of detail belongs to the individual grammar articles about each language (and the content can even be plausibly split into Grammatical voice in Chinese, etc.), with a summary replacing it here. I'm not sure that all of it needs to be summarised either – I don't know anything about Chinese, but the section based on Yip et al. for example, seems less about passive voice proper and more about disparate grammatical devices that achieve the same pragmatic function as does the actual passive in languages like English. For the time being, of course I don't see anything wrong with having that content here. Also, that's not just about the newly added Chinese and Japanese sections: the older section "Dynamic and static passive" contains rows of examples for various European languages, which we could very easily do without. – Uanfala (talk) 17:14, 19 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@300voice: Thank you for the more detailed background information, I for my part agree with Uanfala that you can ahead first and build up your content on this page. We can think about moving it to other pages in a next step after your additions have been assessed by your instructor. Both of us of course cannot speak for other editors, who might see things differently. Though it's spilled milk now, to be on safe side, many class assignments make use of the "sandbox", where content can be built undisturbed with all the necessary trial-and-error, and only insert the complete material once into the main article. In any case, just give a sign when your project is finished. –Austronesier (talk) 20:34, 19 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Austronesier: Thank you for your understanding. We will let you know as soon as we receive our grade, which will most likely be sometime early in the new year. Happy Holidays! –300voice (talk) 10:59, 21 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Austronesier: Hi, we have received our grade and we were wondering how we should go about removing or transferring the content to other pages. Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks! @Megaman en m and Uanfala:300voice (talk) 4.35, 14 January 2021 (UTC)

@300voice: Great, hope you got an A :) Come to think of it, as long as we don't have really a good idea about how to distribute the detailed language-specific material to other existing/new articles, we can just leave the page as it is for the time being. –Austronesier (talk) 19:50, 15 January 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Austronesier: Thanks for letting us know! Now that we are finished with the assignment we won't be checking this account very often so feel free to delete, edit or change whatever you see fit. Thanks again for your patience and understanding! –300voice (talk) 9:13, 16 January 2021 (UTC)

Unsourced assertion[edit]

There's no citation for the article's following assertion: "When the subject is the agent or doer of the action, the verb is in the active voice." The assertion qualifies as an ipse dixit. The assertion is especially troubling because it includes the words, "doer" and "action." The definition therefore excludes syntax with a subject (i.e. not a "doer") that entails a copula/stative verb expressing a status (i.e. not an "action"). Although I agree that a sentence like "This is strange" doesn't qualify as active voice (despite some linguistic theory to the contrary), there remains a lack of a citation for the article's assertion corresponding to that observation. --Kent Dominic·(talk) 08:40, 25 January 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Fixed. I could not find a source for middle voice, but that is cited in its own section. A sentence like "This is strange" is called an "anticipatory construction," evidently not in Wikipedia but cited in Crews, p.438.—Anita5192 (talk) 18:50, 25 January 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Anita5192: Your cite satisfies the Wikipedia criteria, but the article's assertion, as attributed to Crews, doesn't satisfy me. In my lexicon, "This is strange" constitutes neither active voice nor passive voice but stative voice. Don't bother googling the term; I coined it myself. On a separate note, you might want to re-examine your understanding of what anticipatory construction entails. (In my lexicon, it's termed a vicaritive pronoun. The term, "dummy pronoun," sounds too condescending for my tastes.) Cheers. --Kent Dominic·(talk) 00:48, 26 January 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Issue with tree diagram in "Middle voice"[edit]

I described some concerns I had with the tree diagram for "(8) The window broke from the pressure/by itself." in the[talk page for that image file]. Wanted to make sure I also brought them up here. In addition to what was said there, I want to note that the text given in (8) does not match the linearization in the tree, since (8) gives the (somewhat ambiguous) "from the pressure/by itself" chain.
I can't access the source of this 'adapted' tree, Alexiadou & Doron 2011. Do those authors actually construe the PPby as a complement of the agent-theta-role-bearing PP complement of Vbroke? I think another example should be drawn up to illustrate, because as is, this sentence misinforms a careful reader. anon: (talk) 18:45, 23 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Voice - Diathesis[edit]

attn:admin and @Erutuon:. I do not know what is valid for other languages. But "voice (aka diathesis)"?? At least for Latin and Ancient Greek, vox, φωνή wikt:el:voice, wikt:el:Appendix:Glossary#voice is a typological set of forms (by vox = how you say it), which usually -but not always- corresponds to a homonymous sense (diathesis, genus / genera verbi (cf.#Gender?, preferably transl. as diathesis, to avoid fem/masc connotations)= the sense of what I say). It is indeed very confusing that the terms 'active', 'passive' are used for both voice and diathesis (=a meaning of inflectional forms). I see that Smyth#Anc.Gr.Grammar#voice uses a distinction 'transitive', 'intransitive', but I cannot find the word 'diathesis'. While all native Greek Grammars make a distinction of φωνή - διάθεσις/διάθεση, e.g. @current school textbook for Anc.Gr where 6.φωνές (voices) are discussed completely separately from 1.διαθέσεις (diatheses). Sorry that I cannot provide bibliography in English for wikt:en:diathesis, at least when concerning Latin, Ancient Greek, Modern Greek. Could en.wikipedia comment or clarify this issue? Thank you. Sarri.greek (talk) 16:14, 25 February 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Maybe the book Grammatical Voice (Zúñiga & Kittilä, 2019) can bring light to this question. Zúñiga & Kittilä use the following definitions (p. 4):
  • Diathesis refers to any specific mapping of semantic roles (SRs) onto grammatical roles (GRs).
  • Grammatical voice is defined here as a grammatical category whose values correspond to particular diatheses marked on the form of predicates.
So according to their definition, diathesis is the mapping (e.g. passive: patient → subject), while voice is the morphologically marked category (e.g. English passive voice expressed by 'to be' + past participle). In most languages, these are just two facets on the same thing (as in the case of "case", which can refer to a syntactic functional category and at the same time to its morphological realization). In a handful of languages, however, you can express diathesis without any morphological marking on the verb (e.g. in Tukang Besi, Manggarai or Palu'e); diathesis is only visible from the accompanying patterns of person-agreement and the case-marking of noun phrases. So in Zúñiga & Kittilä's terms, these languages have diathesis without corresponding voice marking.
In practice, however, linguists usually treat diathesis and voice as synonymous. So you will find that the above-mentioned languages are described as having "voice without morphological voice marking", instead of "diathesis without voice marking". –Austronesier (talk) 18:44, 25 February 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thank you M @Austronesier: for you immediate and detailed response. I am neither a linguist, nor a wikipedian. I was just worried by the very first line's expression (voice, aka diathesis) which gives the impression of a tautonymy. And the lack of a clarification (as a language-specific?) which might be helpful to students of e.g. Greek for example, for an exercise of 'grammatical recognition' for a verb like wikt:el:εργάζομαι (= I work) by stating: 'verb. voice:passive. diathesis:active (or: voice:passive with active sense). tense:present. mood:indicative 1st person singular.' Thank you again. Sarri.greek (talk) 19:40, 25 February 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]