Volume 36, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0929-7332
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9919



English is often contrasted with German and Dutch when it comes to the semantic roles that the subject can express (Hawkins 1986Los & Dreschler 2012). Specifically, English seems to have more middles () and allows for unusual inanimate subjects (). However, it seems that the semantics of the grammatical subject in Dutch are also changing, as witnessed by recent examples from websites and advertisements, such as and Although these sentences do not have the adverb that is typical of middles in Dutch (Broekhuis, Corver & Vos 2015: 455ff.), they meet several other requirements for middle formation. In this paper, I analyse examples with one such verb, , and identify two different types of intransitive uses for this predominantly transitive verb. I argue that ambiguity, analogy and genre all play an important role in this change in argument structure.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Den Boon, Ton & Ruud Hendrickx
    2015Van Dale Groot Woordenboek van de Nederlandse Taal. Fifteenth, revised edn.Utrecht/Antwerpen: Van Dale.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Broekhuis, Hans , Norbert Corver & Riet Vos
    2015Syntax of Dutch: Verb and Verb Phrases, Volume1. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. 10.5117/9789089647306
    https://doi.org/10.5117/9789089647306 [Google Scholar]
  3. Comrie, Bernard
    1989Language Universals and Linguistic Typology. Syntax and Morphology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Denison, David
    2017 “Ambiguity and Vagueness in Historical Change”. The Changing English Language: Psycholinguistic Perspectivesed. by M. Hundt , S. Mollin and S. Pfenninger , 292–318. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/9781316091746.013
    https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316091746.013 [Google Scholar]
  5. De Smet, Hendrik & Olga Fischer
    2017 “The Role of Analogy in Language Change: Supporting Constructions”. The Changing English Language: Psycholinguistic Perspectivesed. by M. Hundt , S. Mollin and S. Pfenninger , 240–268. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/9781316091746.011
    https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316091746.011 [Google Scholar]
  6. Dreschler, Gea
    2015Passives and the Loss of Verb Second: A Study of Syntactic and Information-Structural Factors. Utrecht: LOT.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Haeseryn, Walter , Kirsten Romijn , Guido Geerts , Jaap de Rooij , and Maarten C. van den Toorn
    2002Elektronische Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst. ans.ruhosting.nl/e-ans (1April 2019).
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Hawkins, John A.
    1986A Comparative Typology of English and German. London: Croom Helm.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. van der Horst, Joop & Kees van der Horst
    1999Geschiedenis van het Nederlands in de twintigste eeuw. Den Haag: Sdu.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Hundt, Marianne
    2007English Mediopassive Constructions: A Cognitive, Corpus-based Study of their Origin, Spread and Current Status. Amsterdam: Rodopi. 10.1163/9789401203784
    https://doi.org/10.1163/9789401203784 [Google Scholar]
  11. Keyser, Jay & Thomas Roeper
    1984 On the middle and ergative constructions in English. Linguistic Inquiry15, 381–416.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. König, Ekkehard
    1994 “English”. The Germanic Languagesed. by E. König and J. van der Auwera , 532–565. Abingdon: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Levin, Beth
    1993English Verb Classes and Alternations. A Preliminary Investigation. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Los, Bettelou & Gea Dreschler
    2012 “The loss of local anchoring: From adverbial local anchors to permissive subjects.” The Oxford Handbook of the History of Englished. by T. Nevalainen & E. Traugott , 859–71. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Mårdh, Ingrid
    1980Headlinese: On the Grammar of English Front Page Headlines. Lund, Sweden: Liberläromedel/Gleerup.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Oostdijk, Nelleke , Martin Reynaert , Véronique Hoste & Ineke Schuurman
    2013 “The construction of a 500-million-word reference corpus of contemporary written Dutch.” Essential Speech and Language Technology for Dutch: Results by the STEVIN-programmeed. By P. Spyns and J. Odijk , 219–247. Berlin: Springer Verlag. 10.1007/978‑3‑642‑30910‑6_13
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-30910-6_13 [Google Scholar]
  17. Rohdenburg, Günter
    1974Sekundäre Subjektivierungen im Englischen und Deutschen: Vergleichende Untersuchungen zur Verb- und Adjektivsyntax. Bielefeld: Cornelson-Velhagen and Klasing.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Saeed, John I.
    2016Semantics, 4th edn.Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): analogy; middles; semantic roles; subject; syntactic change
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error