Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Detail #414: Passives and Reflexives

Passives and reflexives sometimes are fairly similar (and in some languages even indistinguishable). One of the Russian passive constructions is the reflexive construction, and the Swedish synthetic passive originates in a perfectly analogous construction - a reduced reflexive pronoun becoming a verb morpheme.

In some languages, the "passive" does not promote the object to subject position. This, for instance, is the case in modern Finnish (but earlier, it does seem it might have been the case). However, since the passive fulfills many of the roles the passive fulfills in other languages - emphasizing the object as the "central" participant, omitting the subject, etc - it gets to be called a passive.

This leaves open a simple way of keeping the reflexive and passive distinct, yet reuse the morphology:

noun.nom verb.refl = reflexive
noun.obj verb.refl = passive

However, there are of course reflexive constructions (and passive ones!) that do not directly pertain to the direct object - "I gave myself a surprise", "I looked at my toe", "I did it for myself". In such circumstances, I like the idea of letting a language conflate the two, or possible allow for disambiguating the reflexive by inserting a pronoun.

Further, third person pronouns could possibly have an anti-reflexive morpheme available for such constructions:

he saw.refl him.nonrefl in front of him

he1 saw him2 in front of himself1

I am pretty sure the idea of a nonreflexive pronoun has occurred previously in this blog, but I am pretty sure the general idea here is new. I am considering including it in Bryatesle, since its reflexive and passive system is still underdeveloped. However, it feels like integrating this with the Bryatesle case system would be a nightmare.

Alas, Ćwarmin, Sargaĺk and Bryatesle all have sufficient passive/reflexive systems fleshed out, Ŋžädär isn't really suitable for this, and Tatediem is off the table, for now at least. Maybe I should revive it.

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