Grammatical relations in passive clauses

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The paper first recapitulates a point made repeatedly elsewhere (Givón 1981, 1994 ed., 1995, 2001, 2002): that a syntactic typology of any clause-type, including the passive, is meaningless unless clause-types are first characterized as functional domains. Using as examples six widely-attested types of passive clauses, the paper then shows that the relational (GR) properties of those clauses, much like their other structural properties, are completely predictable from the structural properties of their source – non-passive – constructions. Because functional re-analysis is the earliest stage of diachronic change, the diachronic predictability of the structural properties of newly- reanalyzed clauses is most conspicuous at the earlier stages of grammaticalization, when structural re-shaping has not yet taken place. The diachronic determination of syntactic structures thus closely parallels the evolutionary determination of biological structures. An extant (‘synchronic’) structure in both domains is thus best characterized by the pathway through which it came to be. Consequently, much like in biology, where the most meaningful universals are evolutionary, the most meaningful universals of linguistic structure are diachronic.


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