The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 10/22 - Despina Ikonomou

Speaker: Despina Ikonomou
Title: Middle morphology in Modern Greek: Same mechanism in different environments
Date/Time: Tuesday, Oct 22, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

Many languages (Germanic, Romance, Slavic, Albanian, Hebrew, Modern Greek, et al.) use the same morphology (usually described as Middle or Non-Active morphology) in a range of argument structure phenomena that usually involve i) anticausatives, ii) verbal reflexives and iii) generic middles (see Kemmer (1993) for a typology). Despite the large amount of work on each of the above phenomena, it has been proven hard to provide a unified account for all of them (cf. Embick 1997, Reinhart 2000, Alexiadou & Doron 2012). In this talk, I focus on Modern Greek and I propose a unified analysis of Middle Voice across the different structures that appears. Namely, I argue that in all cases Middle Voice can be analyzed as a functional head that existentially binds the external argument variable (as it has been proposed for the English Passive by Bach (1980), Roberts (1987), Bruening (2011)). The default structure that arises from this operation is a passive structure. However, each of the structures in (i)-(iii) involves an additional component that differentiates them from passives. More particularly, i) anticausatives involve an additional cause event, ii) verbal reflexives carry a reflexivity feature in their verbal root and iii) generic middles involve a generic operator that universally quantifies over events. If there is no additional component, then a passive structure arises by existential binding over the external argument. If time permits, I will also discuss verbs that appear only in Middle Voice (the so-called deponent verbs) suggesting that most of them fall into the class of either reflexive or anticausative verbs (cf. Zombolou & Alexiadou 2012, Kallulli 2013).