The Ecology of Grammar: How the territory of the passive is shaped in English and Japanese

Ms Tomoko Watanabe (PhD student, English and Applied Linguistics, Clare Hall)

Saturday, 30 October, 1999; 7:30-9:30pm

Seminar room, Darwin College

The passive construction enjoys a long tradition of linguistic study, and yet, we do not seem to have a coherent explanation for the common experience we have with cases where an English passive does not translate into a Japanese passive and vice versa. This shortcoming is caused by the predominant tendency to analyze the passive as an isolated object. I contend that the territory of the passive in a language is shaped "ecologically" by related constructions available in that language. In this presentation, I will show that the basic formal properties of English and Japanese passives are quite compatible but argue that the set of related constructions is different between the two languages, carving the passive territory slightly differently from each other.