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Agentless Passives and Diagramming the Passive Ed McCorduck English 402--Grammar SUNY Cortland

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Presentation on theme: "Agentless Passives and Diagramming the Passive Ed McCorduck English 402--Grammar SUNY Cortland"— Presentation transcript:

1 Agentless Passives and Diagramming the Passive Ed McCorduck English 402--Grammar SUNY Cortland

2 “agentless” passives – sentences in the passive voice that don’t have a by phrase, hence in which the subject of the active-voice equivalent (i.e., the “agent”) is not given slide 2: definition of an agentless passive English 402: Grammar

3 exx Nuclear weapons are made from fissible materials. = (Scientists) make nuclear weapons from fissible materials. My pet scorpion has been stolen. = (Someone/somebody/a crook) has stolen my pet scorpion. Saddam was acclaimed a Sunni national hero. = (People/They) acclaimed Saddam a national hero. slide 3: examples of passive sentences without expressed agents English 402: Grammar

4 Therefore, unlike the “normal” derivation of a passive sentence from an active-voice one as we saw in “The Passive Voice” lecture, in the derivation of an agentless passive we must assume that there always is an actual, indefinite agent, i.e., a subject of the active sentence, even if this is not expressed through a by phrase in the passive: slide 4: difference between “normal” passive sentences and agentless passives English 402: Grammar

5 active: The cut-rate hospital discards the body parts every evening. subj pres + MV (discard) dir obj ADV ⇒ passive: The body parts are discarded by the cut-rate hospital every evening. dir obj pres + be + -en +MV (discard) subj ADV slide 5: derivation of a passive sentence with an expressed agent (a by phrase) English 402: Grammar

6 cf. active (with indefinite subject): Somebody/A lackey discards the body parts every evening. subj pres + MV (discard) dir obj ADV ⇒ agentless passive: The body parts are discarded every evening. dir obj pres + be + -en +MV (discard) ADV slide 6: derivation of an agentless passive English 402: Grammar

7 In Reed-Kellogg diagrams of passive sentences, since by is a preposition a by phrase is diagrammed like any other prepositional phrase, that is, the head preposition by is given on a slanted line connected to the predicate on the main horizontal line and the slanted line connects to a horizontal line parallel with the main horizontal line on which is the head of the NP that corresponds to the agent in the active. slide 7: how by phrases are handled in Reed-Kellogg diagrams English 402: Grammar

8 ex active: The girl decked the boy. (Pattern VII) subj past + MV (deck) dir obj ⇒ passive: The boy was decked by the girl. dir obj past + be + -en + MV (deck) subj slide 5: derivation of another passive sentence with an expressed agent (a by phrase) English 402: Grammar

9 slide 9: Reed-Kellogg of the active sentence in slide 8 English 402: Grammar Reed-Kellogg diagram of The girl decked the boy:

10 slide 10: Reed-Kellogg of the passive sentence in slide 8 English 402: Grammar Reed-Kellogg diagram of The boy was decked by the girl:

11 Recall from slide 19 of “The Passive Voice” lecture that in passive sentences derived from Pattern VIII active sentences, i.e., ones in which there is both a direct and an indirect object, either the direct object of the active equivalent (the “patient”) or the indirect object in the active can be made the subject of the passive sentence: slide 11: review of how to make passives of Pattern VIII sentences English 402: Grammar

12 active: Virgil shows Dante Hell and Purgatory. indir obj dir obj Virgil shows Hell and Purgatory to Dante. dir obj indir obj passive: Hell and Purgatory are shown to Dante by Virgil. Dante is shown Hell and Purgatory by Virgil. slide 12: alternative active and passive versions of a Pattern VIII sentence English 402: Grammar

13 slide 13: Reed-Kellogg diagram of one of the passives in slide 12 English 402: Grammar Here is the Reed-Kellogg diagram of the first of these passive equivalents, Hell and Purgatory are shown to Dante by Virgil:

14 slide 14: Reed-Kellogg diagram of a passive derived from a Pattern IX sentence English 402: Grammar Here is the Reed-Kellogg diagram of the passive sentence Throckmorton had been thought totally incorrigible by the townsfolk which is derived from the Pattern IX active sentence The townsfolk thought Throckmorton totally incorrigible which contains an adjectival object complement (the adjective phrase totally incorrigible):

15 Note of course that the diagram does not contain a by phrase since, as in the sentence itself, the agent is not expressed. slide 15: Reed-Kellogg diagram of an agentless passive sentence English 402: Grammar Finally, here is the Reed-Kellogg diagram of the agentless passive sentence My pet scorpion has been stolen given in slide 3 above :


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