World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Antipassive voice

Article Id: WHEBN0000604413
Reproduction Date:

Title: Antipassive voice  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ergative case, Voice (grammar), Grammatical voices, Case in tiers, List of glossing abbreviations
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Antipassive voice

The antipassive voice (abbreviated ANTIP or AP) is a type of grammatical voice that either does not include the object or includes the object in an oblique case. This construction is similar to the passive voice, in that it decreases the verb's valency by one; the passive by deleting the subject and "promoting" the accusative object to a nominative subject, the antipassive by deleting the object and "promoting" the ergative agent to an absolutive subject. The antipassive voice is found in some Mayan, Salishan, Northeast Caucasian, Austronesian, and Australian languages.[1] Only one Amazonian language, Cavineña, has the antipassive.[2]:xxvii

The antipassive voice is found in ergative languages where the deletion of an object "demotes" the subject from ergative case to absolutive case. In certain accusative languages that have verbal agreement with both subject and object, the antipassive is usually formed by deletion of the object affix. Examples of accusative languages with this type of antipassive are Maasai, Comanche and Cahuilla. A number of direct–inverse languages also have the antipassive voice.

The antipassive voice is very rare in active–stative languages generally and in nominative–accusative languages that have only one-place or no verbal agreement.[3] There are a very few exceptions to this rule, such as Krongo[4] and the Songhay language Koyraboro Senni language,[5] both of which rely on dedicated antipassive markers that are rare in the more typical type of language with an antipassive.

"Mary-ERG eats pie-ABS." → "Mary-ABS eats."
"He-ERG is speaking the truth-ABS." → "He-ABS is speaking."

As with passive voice, the deleted argument can be re-introduced as an optional complement or oblique argument.

"Mary-ERG eats pie-ABS." → "Mary-ABS eats from the pie."

Antipassives frequently convey aspectual or modal information, and may cast the clause as imperfective, inceptive, or potential.

The purpose of antipassive construction is often to make certain arguments available as pivots for relativization, coordination of sentences or similar constructions. For example in Dyirbal the omitted argument in conjoined sentences must be in absolutive case. Thus, the following sentence is ungrammatical:

*baji jaɽa bani-ɲu balan ɟuɡumbil buɽa-n
M-ABS man-ABS come-NFUT F-ABS woman-ABS see-NFUT
'The man came and saw the woman'

In the conjoined sentence the omitted argument (the man) would have to be in ergative case, being the agent of a transitive verb (to see). This is not allowed in Dyirbal. In order to make this sentence grammatical, the antipassive, which promotes the original ergative to absolutive - and puts the former absolutive (the woman) into dative case -, has to be used:

baji jaɽa bani-ɲu baɡun ɟuɡumbil-ɡu buɽal-ŋa-ɲu
M-ABS man-ABS come-NFUT F-DAT woman-DAT see-APASS-NFUT
'The man came and saw the woman'


  • Defining "antipassive" 1
  • Examples from Basque 2
  • Historical Origin 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Defining "antipassive"

The term antipassive is applied to a wide range of grammatical structures and is therefore difficult to define. R. M. W. Dixon has therefore defined four criteria for determining whether a construction is an antipassive:[6]:146

  1. It applies to underlying transitive clauses and form a derived intransitive.
  2. The underlying Agent becomes Subject.
  3. The underlying Object goes into the periphery and is marked by a non-core case/preposition/etc. This can be omitted, but there's always the option of including it.
  4. There is some explicit marking of the construction.

Examples from Basque

Basque has an antipassive voice, which puts the agent into the absolutive case, but does not delete the absolutive object. This leads to the agent and object being in the same case.

Gauza miragarriak ikusi ditut (nik)
thing wonderful-PL-ABS see-PERF have-PRES-PL-I (I-ERG)
I have seen wonderful things.

when transformed using the antipassive voice, becomes:

Gauza miragarriak ikusirik nago / ikusia naiz
thing wonderful-PL-ABS see-PERF-STAT am / see-PERF-ACT am
*I am seen wonderful things

Historical Origin

In Rgyalrong languages, the antipassive prefixes have been shown to derive from denominal derivations.[7]


  1. ^ Antipassive constructions Accessed 24 April, 2014
  2. ^ Dixon, R.M.W. & Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald (eds) (1990). The Amazonian Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ Nichols, Johanna; Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time; pp. 154-158. ISBN 0-226-58057-1
  4. ^ WALS - Krongo
  5. ^ WALS - Koyraboro Senni
  6. ^ Dixon, R.M.W. (1994). Ergativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  7. ^  

External links

  • What is Antipassive Voice? at SIL
  • Antipassive voice bibliography at Ethnologue
  • "Asymmetries between Passivization and Antipassivization in the Tarramiutut Subdialect of Inuktitut" by Matthew Beach (MS-Word file)
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.