UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 14 (2002)


Middle semantics and its realization

in English and Greek




In this paper I examine the realization of the notional category ‘middle’ in two types of languages, exemplified by English vs. Greek. The data indicate that middles are parasitic on independently available structures: unergatives in the former, passives in the latter. I propose that the cross-linguistically distinct behaviour of middles is ultimately related to the different morphological means available to the languages in question, and more specifically, to the (un)availability of imperfective aspect in the verbal morphology. The approach advocated here implies that there can be no syntactic notion of the ‘middle construction’ and suggests a view of the syntax-lexical semantics interface contrary to the standard ‘one-to-one’ correspondence.

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