last changed in 2002
This is the (very) traditional (and not very helpful) name for the contrast between active and passive verbs. In WG it is applied just to participles: `passive' therefore contrast with the other kind of participle, which are traditionally called 'present participles' but could be called 'active participles', but which in WG are treated simply as default ('ordinary') participles.
For example, for the verb SHOW, voice contrasts the passive shown with the default participle showing. Both can be used in much the same range of dependency relationships, which is why they are called participles. For example:
(1) Pat was showing visitors round the college. (active)
(2) Pat was shown round the college. (passive)
In both these examples Pat is the subject of the participle as well as of was (see raising). Similarly, in the next examples people is the subject of both the participles (see relative clause).
(3) The people showing visitors round were all lecturers. (active)
(4) The people shown round were all visitors. (passive)
The difference between the two participles lies in the semantic role of the subject. For an active participle, the subject has the normal semantic role (e.g. the `show-er' in the above examples) but for the passive participle the normal subject role is replaced by another semantic role - typically, but not necessarily, that of the normal object (the `show-ee').
This difference is handled in WG by giving the grammatical function `object' to the subject; so in (2), the word Pat is both subject and object of taken. As for the `normal subject' (the `show-er'), with a passive verb this is either not expressed at all, or is expressed by a noun linked to the verb by the word BY.
(5) Pat was shown round by a lecturer.
See also: passivization, prepositional passive.
This is an article from the Encyclopedia of Word Grammar and English grammar. If you refer to it, please give the url as "http://tinyurl.com/wg-encyc".