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The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society cover
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society
PDF | doi:10.3176/esa57.02

Mati Erelt

Some additions to the treatment of voice
The article focuses on the following characteristics of the impersonal and the passive in Estonian. First, the presence of a total subject (denoting a human) is not sufficient for impersonalization of a personal clause. This subject must perform at the same time the most salient semantic role. Impersonalized clauses are normal clauses (Poiss loeb raamatut ’the boy is reading a book’) almost without exception. Possessive, experiential, necessive, and resultative clauses, as well as pure existential clauses, cannot be personalized even if they include a total subject because it is not semantically salient (Tal on head sõbrad ’he has good friends’ – *Tal ollakse. Poistest kasvavad mehed ’boys grow up to become men’ – *Poistest kasvatakse etc.). Second, although an implicit subject typically denotes a human referent, references to other animate beings are rather common without any accompanying personification (Munad munetakse veetaimede vartele ’eggs are laid (of dragonflies) on the stalks of water plants’). Third, similarly to the stative passive, in the compound tenses of the impersonal, too, the actor could be expressed in addition to an agentive phrase with the postposition poolt ’by’ also by an adessive phrase (Mul pole sulle lilli ostetud ’I haven’t bought any flowers for you’). Apparently, there is no good reason to regard constructions with adessive phrases as constructions contrasting with the passive and the impersonal; rather, they should be regarded as subtypes of the latter. Fourth, the stative passive is typically resultative; however, there exists also non-resultative stative passive (Suur juht on kõigi poolt armastatud ’the great leader is loved by everyone’).


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