Student or Learner
Are adjectival passives real passives? Can anyone explain why they are considered as real passives or why they are not? Here are some examples:
(1) The window was broken (ambiguous: verbal or adjectival)
(2) The window was broken by vandals (unambiguously verbal)
(1) describes either an event (verbal passive) or it describes a state (adjectival passive).
(2) is said to be verbal only as the by-phrase is incompatible with an adjectival construction.
Now let's consider another example:
(3) The seat remained occupied by another student
Does it sound odd? If no, is it a verbal passive or adjectival passive?
Thnx for your support! :)
The seat remained unoccupied is fine. This, I imagine is an adjectival passive.
Once you add by another student it becomes, to me, unacceptable. If we were to rephrase it as: The seat was not occuped by another student (for the remainder of the journey) then it would be a verbal passive.
What do others think?
Thank you for your response! Well, I thought that it sounded odd but I wasnt sure though. Anyways, what about the following one?
The seat was still occupied by a student.
Isn't it an adjectival construction as 'still' implies that the event of occupying the seat has already taken place? 'occupy' is, I think, a dynamic verb yet 'still' forces the stative reading, right?
Ok, one little try . This is a personal response, not one that claims to have the force of authority.
It's possible to read this as a passive with the verb used in a dynamic sense:
Only teachers were allowed to sit down on the seat in front of the principal's office, but the seat was still occupied by a student at 9 o'clock yesterday when the secretary turned her back for a moment.
I concede that this is an unlikely utterance, but it's possible, with still meaning despite what's just been said.
My general approach to such constructions is that it is simplest to regard past participle/passive/adjective words as adjectives unless it is clear that a passive verb meaning is intended. I know that begs the question, "Who decides what is clear?" but I have learnt to live with that.
So: 1. The seat was still occupied. 2. The seat was still free.
The underlined words are (used as) adjectives.
The addition to #1 of by the student suggests that it should be read as a passive construction. I don't think still affects a stative/dynamic reading at all.
well, according to Ward, Birner, and Huddleston (2002), 'still', 'very', 'too', etc. force the stative reading of a passive construction. In other words, it could be considered as an adjectival construction due to the stative meaning of corresponding verb. Consider:
- The village was surrounded by troops from the First Battalion
this is again "ambiguous between a dynamic and a stative interpretation: either the troops moved into position around the village or else they were already in that position. Note that adding the aspectual adjunct 'still' [...] forces the stative reading" (2002).
- The village was still surrounded..."
Anyways, thnx for you help! :)
(1) The window was broken <ambiguous>(2) The window was broken by vandals <unambiguous>
- Meaning: someone broke the window
- Verbal Passive
- the window was acted upon
- Meaning: the window = broken
- Adjectival Passive
- the state of the window is described
(3) The seat remained occupied by another student. <adjective>
- Meaning: vandals broke the window
- Verbal Passive
- the window was acted upon
- "occupied" describes the noun "seat"
- The seat remained occupied
- Meaning: the seat = occupied
- a by-phrase does not always signal a passive construct
Ex: The vase remained filled by/with flowers(3) The seat remained occupied by/with another student.
- vase = filled
- "flowers" is not the subject
- seat = occupied
- "another student" is not the subject
Thnx for your help! You made it much easier! Now I have got another question, if you don't mind. Can you explain the difference between to be surprised at something / someone and to be surprised by something or someone? I don't see any difference at all.
a) President Bush was surprised at the question
b) President Bush was surprised by the question
Last edited by goober; 04-Nov-2010 at 19:41.
surprised by X
- Bush was surprised by the question
surprised at (the Y of) X
- Bush was surprised at (the audacity of) the question
But the real question is not what they mean, but whether or not they differ structurally. Let's see.
Looking now at the structure, the conventional way of treating ANNOYING verbs (e.g., pleased, terrified, satisfied, interested, impressed) is to assume that "by" signals a passive construct (Verbal Passive) and that all other prepositions (e.g., at, with) signal a copular + past participle construct (Adjectival Passive). The problem with that assumption, however, is that not all "by" phrases introduce an agent, as we have already seen (i.e., the vase is filled by/with flowers; the seat remained occupied by/with another student), and for a construct to be a true passive, it requires an agent, a doer. We do not find that, here, in "Bush was surprised by the question." The subject "Bush" is not acted upon (Cf. The cat was hit by the car--the cat is acted upon); rather the person "Bush" experiences a state (of being):
- Bush was surprised by the question.
- Bush = surprised
- copular + past participle construct
- Adjectival Passive
But, let's ignore theta-roles and true passive, as they are not really all that of an issue in determining whether an -ed word functions as a Verbal Passive or as an Adjectival Passive.
One test used to determine whether or not an ANNOYING types, like "surprised by" is a passive participle (Verbal Passive) or a past participle (Adjectival Passive) is to insert the word "very", as only adjectives can be modified by that word:
- Bush was very surprised by the question
- "surprised" = past participle <Adjectival>
- The question very surprised Bush
- "surprised" = past tense verb <Verbal>
Now, if the sentence, "Bush was very surprised by the question" were a passive construct (housed a passive participle), then its active form would be "The question *very surprised Bush", which is ungrammatical. This tells us that those two constructs do not share the same underlying meaning, or underlying structure.
- The window was very broken.
- "broken" = passive participle <Verbal>
- Vandals very broke the window.
- "broke" = past tense verb
- The seat remained very occupied by/with another student.
- "occupied" = adjective
In short, "very" cannot modify a passive participle (Verbal Passive).
- Bush was surprised by/at the news <adjective>
Further Reading Pages 166 - 169