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Towards a diachronic typology of the middle voice

The middle voice is a complex linguistic domain, as it lies at the interface between morphosyntax and the structure of the lexicon. A typical example of a middle marking language is Dutch, in which the ‘reflexive’ pronoun zich in fact behaves as a middle marker, as it is used either lexically with verbs that only occur with the reflexive, e.g. zich vergissen ‘be mistaken’, or to derive reflexives from transitive verbs, e.g. zich(zelf) slaan ‘hit oneself’ from slaan ‘hit’. Typological research has shown that such systems occur in many languages of the world, and they show striking similarities. Despite existing typological work, we know little about how these systems originate and develop over time. In this project, I provide the first ever diachronic typology of the middle voice, in order to understand the possible sources and processes that lead to the rise of middle markers, why some processes are more frequent than others, and what the development of the middle voice reveals about the dynamic lexicon-morphosyntax interface. To tackle these questions, I combine a survey of a sample of 30 languages with the in-depth analysis of two case-studies, i.e. the development of the Anatolian middle voice and the history of some voice markers in Pama-Nyungan languages. The results of the project will not only improve our knowledge of the nature of middle voice systems, but also contribute to refining methodologies and theoretical tenets of current approaches to diachronic typology.

Date:1 Nov 2019  →  Today
Keywords:Middle voice, linguistic typology, diachronic typology, historical linguistics
Disciplines:Diachronic linguistics, Historical linguistics, Linguistic typology, Synchronic linguistics