Speaker: Joan Maling (Professor Emerita, Brandeis University)
Title: Predicting the future: diachronic change in passive and impersonal constructions
Abstract: In this talk, I focus on the on-going development of the New Transitive Impersonal (NTI) in Icelandic. Based on historical and synchronic data from Icelandic, Irish, Polish, and Ukrainian, I argue that so-called “impersonal passives” are in principle syntactically ambiguous, and can be interpreted in more than one way, either as canonical passives or as impersonal actives with null unspecified human subjects. A comparison of the syntactic properties of the accusative-assigning –no/to construction in Polish versus Ukrainian shows that the Ukrainian construction behaves like the canonical passive, whereas the Polish counterpart displays the syntactic properties of an active impersonal construction. I review the properties of the innovative Icelandic construction, and argue that the NTI developed as an extension of the impersonal passive of intransitive verbs, a construction which is part of the standard language.
Anyone wishing to arrange a meeting with the speaker should contact Geoff Pullum:
Lecture Theatre F21, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ