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  1. #31
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenka View Post
    ... what is the difference between a middle verb and a mediopassive? I thought it was the same
    Both terms are used synonymously; I came across a site that says "mediopassive" is another word for "middle" They shouldn't be used synonymously, though. In the majority of human languages spoken in the world, middle voice is often reflexive.

  2. #32
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehead View Post
    Is 'that' referring to 'with syntactical link' or to 'without syntactical link'?
    With; e.g., break happens to the glass; wash happens to the clothes, and read happens to the book. The verbs in question are both active and passive: syntactically active (i.e., their morphology) but semantically passive (i.e., their roles). Break, wash, and read are done to the glass, the clothes, and the book, respectively, by someone. Someone experienced those acts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew
    ...if there is no stative-like reference, then we are definitely talking about an act and we must have a stated (or at least implied) actor, which excludes it from being used in a mediopassive.
    What about the implied doer here?

    Ex: The book reads well (for me).

    All three verbs (wash and break and read) are dynamic, and all three are transitive, yet only read "feels" awkward. Could the reason for that be that read is not all that common in both passive voice?

    All the best.

  3. #33
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    The verbs in question are both active and passive: syntactically active (i.e., their morphology) but semantically passive (i.e., their roles). Break, wash, and read are done to the glass, the clothes, and the book, respectively, by someone.
    This is where we differ. Read, as a mental activity, cannot be seen as symantically passive. Read is not something you do to a book: the book never changes. Glass breaks: the glass changes. Wash clothes: the clothes change. Read a book: the book stays the same while the reader changes.


    What about the implied doer here?

    Ex: The book reads well (for me).
    The implied doer is the book, and we are back to square one. Books can't read!


    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    only read "feels" awkward. Could the reason for that be that read is not all that common in both passive voice?
    It feels awkward because it is a mental activity that acts on the person doing the reading, making it different to verbs like wash and break - it has no stative quality.

    In mediopassive the verb has to have a stative quality. Not every verb has that, so not every verb can be used in mediopassive. My view is that 'reads' is one of those non-passive verbs that shouldn't be used this way.
    Last edited by RonBee; 25-Mar-2007 at 22:17. Reason: fix quote

  4. #34
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehead View Post
    My view is that 'reads' is one of those non-passive verbs that shouldn't be used this way.
    OK. No argument here, but how do we account for it - given that it is used that way?

  5. #35
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    OK. No argument here, but how do we account for it - given that it is used that way?
    It is accounted for in the same way that many other popular but grammatically unsound phrases are. Most people simply use the language with very little thought given to the structure or grammar. It is only a small bunch of weird folk like us that discuss things like this!

  6. #36
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehead View Post
    Most people simply use the language with very little thought given to the structure or grammar.
    OK. So what about the other people - you know, the ones who are not "most people"?

  7. #37
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    OK. So what about the other people - you know, the ones who are not "most people"?
    You mean "Why do some grammar books say "The book reads well" is acceptable?" You can ask directly: I don't mind.

    You would probably be better asking them, as I am not privy to their thoughts, but deduction (or cynicism!) comes up with four reasons:

    1) They consider, as you do, that 'reads' has a stative quality.
    2) They assume, by analogy, that if the structure is correct any verb can be inserted in there, stative quality or not.
    3) They follow the herd and think it is acceptable because the grammar book says so.
    4) If a lot of people are using it, it must be right.

  8. #38
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehead View Post
    You mean "Why do some grammar books say "The book reads well" is acceptable?" You can ask directly: I don't mind.
    Acceptability... Open that cans of worms and this thread'll go on for years with this one says and that one says. My question was more along the lines of, where did mediopassive read come from?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew
    You would probably be better asking [grammarians], as I am not privy to their thoughts,
    OK. So, where do you think they got it from?
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew
    ...but deduction (or cynicism!) comes up with four reasons:

    1) They consider, as you do, that 'reads' has a stative quality.
    Do I assume that?
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew
    2) They assume, by analogy, that if the structure is correct any verb can be inserted in there, stative quality or not.
    OK. Explain this to me, because it sounds as if you're saying grammarians make up words and, moreover, in doing so they don't use rules.
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew
    3) They follow the herd and think it is acceptable because the grammar book says so.
    First, what herd are they following? Aren't they, the grammarians, the supposed shepards?
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew
    4) If a lot of people are using it, it must be right.
    And, yet, you don't seem to run with that pack, so why assume that "they" do?

    It'd be more enlightening to find out how, when, and where mediopassive read originated and, most importantly, why.

    I recently read a chapter on Morphology, sematics and argument structure in which Fagan (1988) argues the verb read in English is lexically derived (See bottom of page 58 and top of page 59 here.) Now, the reason she, Fagan, is accounting for that verb, and others like it, is to find out how speakers are using it. That is, even if, let's say, people use "The book reads well" because they think it's posh, they are still using it. It's entered the wet-wear, it's been processed; it's now part of their grammar, the rules. The question now is, where do they house that new information? It has to have some sort of semantics to it. So, what are those semantics?

    All the best.

  9. #39
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    OK. So, where do you think they got it from?
    My hunch, guess, gut feeling, is that it came from some advertising blurb somewhere.


    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    Do I assume that?
    That is what I heard when you said:-
    First, what about stative, the book is readable? Second, couldn't the phrase 'has stative meaning' (See SIL) mean stative like?

    OK. Explain this to me, because it sounds as if you're saying grammarians make up words and, moreover, in doing so they don't use rules.
    I don't know where you get that idea from.

    What I am saying is that they follow the same argument you have presented in this thread: 'the clothes wash well' is acceptable, 'the glass breaks easily' is acceptable', so by analogy 'the book reads well' must be acceptable because it follows the same structure.


    First, what herd are they following? Aren't they, the grammarians, the supposed shepards?
    Ideally they would be shepherds, but I don't think they are in reality. Do you blindly accept everything you read in a grammar book?

    I suspect that too many grammar books are little more than rehashes of other grammar books. Have you never wondered why the same examples (such as 'the book reads well'...) keep reappearing? The writers take the safe option - follow the herd, then nobody will challenge them and if they do, they have a thousand references they can quote in defence.


    And, yet, you don't seem to run with that pack, so why assume that "they" do?
    You are quoting that argument right now

    'That is, even if, let's say, people use "The book reads well" because they think it's posh, they are still using it. It's entered the wet-wear, it's been processed; it's now part of their grammar, the rules.'

    and Tdol used it earlier. It is not my assumption.

    I don't particularly agree with it, given that the majority of Anglophones are second-language users.


    I recently read a chapter on Morphology, sematics and argument structure in which Fagan (1988) argues the verb read in English is lexically derived
    If we accept the argument that in 'the book reads easily' is purely lexical, and that
    "middles [...] are not used to
    report events, but to attribute a specific property to some object"
    so that 'read' is therefore, somehow, agentless so

    The book reads easily = the book is easy to read

    then by the same argument,

    The food likes easily = the food is easy to like
    the film enjoys easily = the film is easy to like
    the job hates easily = the job is easy to hate
    the dog catches easily = the dog is easy to catch

    are all grammatically correct.

  10. #40
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    Default Re: The book reads well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew
    ...'read' is therefore, somehow, agentless so

    The book reads easily = the book is easy to read

    then by the same argument,

    The food likes easily = the food is easy to like
    the film enjoys easily = the film is easy to like
    the job hates easily = the job is easy to hate
    the dog catches easily = the dog is easy to catch

    are all grammatically correct.
    The first three are suspect: the data is contrived. Food, film, and job are inanimate; they cannot like, enjoy, or hate and, moreover, the verbs like and enjoy are linking verbs, whereas hate is not (See note below), so the first three sentences are not examples of mediopassive voice. They are not 'grammatical', to use your word.

    In mediopassive voice it's the object that's promoted, not the subject. In other words, promote the object ball and the result is a mediopassive-voice reading. (Note, the symbol ? means semantically awkward):

    Active: The dog catches the ball easily.
    Passive: The ball is caught easily.
    MedioP: The ball catches easily. (Dogs, in general, can catch the ball easily.)
    Compare MedioP with:
    Active: ?The ball (itself) catches (things) easily.
    Middle: ?The ball catches, itself, easily.

    Active: Max catches the dog easily.
    Passive: The dog is caught easily.
    MedioP: The dog catches easily. (People, in general, can catch the dog easily)
    Compare MedioP with:
    Active: The dog (itself) catches (things) easily. <The dog is the agent>
    Middle: ?The dog catches (itself) easily.

    Notice that, in active The dog (itself) catches (things) easily, the agent is the dog; the dog does the catching, whereas in mediopassive The dog catches easily, the dog doesn't do the catching; it is the thing being caught.The agent is left unstated. Active and mediopassive, and even
    middle, might look the same on the surface, but they're structurally different. That's why your last example, mediopassive The dog catches easily works.

    Active: People read the book well. <Note, you could use easily (enough)>
    Passive: The book is read well by People.
    MedioP: The book reads well. (People, in general, can read the book well.)
    Compare MedioP with:
    Active: ?The book (itself) reads well. <The book is the agent>
    Middle: ?The book reads (itself) well.

    Notice that, mediopassive The book reads well, the book is not the agent; the book doesn't do the reading; the book is experienced by an agent left unstated. In active ?The book (itself) reads well, the book is the agent; it does the reading, which is why it's semantically awkward: books don't read themselves.

    In short, those examples (active, mediopassive, and middle) are identical on the surface level (i.e., what we see and/or hear) but they are structurally different at the underlying level. Now, could that non-linear factor be the reason you seem to be getting an active or middle voice reading from mediopassive The books reads well? The reason I ask: up to this point no one has been able to support the argument that mediopassive read is not contrived.

    All the best.

    Note, Sam hates easily is active voice (Sam hates people/things easily), and not mediopassive voice. If it were, it would be paraphrased as People, in general, can hate Sam easily, which is a different meaning.

    In fact you can't get a mediopassiev reading at all. The verb hate subcategorizes for a doer as subject; i.e., the one doing the hating. So, as long as the verb is active in appearance, which is the case with mediopassives and middles in English, the subject will always be interpreted as the one doing the hating, even if the object is promoted:

    Active: People hate vegetables easily.
    Mediopassive: ?The vegetables hate easily. <Awkward because the vegetables are the ones doing the hating.>

    Active: Sam hates Max easily.
    Mediopassive: ?Max hates easily. <It has an active reading only: Max is the one doing the hating.>

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