More on deponents and the middle voice

Here’s my initial foray into the whole vexing question of middle voice which is what deponents are about – most of them.

I’ll take this off-List and anyone who wants to question all this and spur me on (I utterly failed to put my review of Gavin Betts’ book out even when I said I’d do it that evening – that was about 3 months ago).

OK, take the word “use”. We know in Latin that utor is a deponent. If we look at Russian, we see 2 different though obviously related words for “use”, one of which takes the deponent suffix, making it intransitive (the case it takes is the instrumental, similar to Latin ablative – its transitive companion takes the accusative case).

Even a language like Spanish, which has a middle marker (se, similar to the Russian), does not make “use” a middle verb. It’s a regular transitive verb taking an accusative i.e. direct object. Many Sp middle verbs take a case marker “de” rather than a direct object, making them intransitive.

All this has to do with the degree to which there is separation between the doer and the recipient of the action. Where there is no recipient, we have an intrasitive verb, and where there is a clearly separate object, we have a transitive verb.

BUT, when the subject’s action somehow involves the subject itself, even though there is an object, then we often see that action expressed by the middle voice e.g. “use”.

When we “use” something, we are very involved in that action in that the action rebounds on us; in this case it is the so-called ’benefactive’ middle ). There are about 15 types of middle action, so you can see there’s a lot to do here.

I’m ’extending’ and ’editing’ bc I can’t get to my admin file to write a new entry. What I want to ask is for people to respond to this proposition:

One path to change is via the human tendency to emphasize, highlight, and exaggerate. Here’s an example:

the lights don’t keep me awake. the lights keep my wife awake.

the lights don’t keep me awake, but my wife? They keep her awake

OR …but my wife they keep awake.

What do you notice about these sentences? do you see the second and third examples ever becoming the normal word order?

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