Editorial Foreword

In: Passives Cross-Linguistically
Editors:
Kleanthes K. Grohmann
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Akemi Matsuya
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Eva-Maria Remberger
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“Passives”—in the form of passive sentences, passive voice, the passive construction, and related matters—have played a very, so to speak, active role in the development of linguistic theory over centuries. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle and Hellenistic grammarians such as Dionysios Thrax recognized the passive as an important construct of grammar. The Ancient Greek terminology has left its mark, in that the root path- (παθ-) ‘suffer, have done to one’ used to describe passive voice was taken over into the work of the Roman grammarians and translated into Latin with the root pat- ‘undergo, be acted on, suffer’, whence, via the past passive (of course!) participle, the pass- that is found in western European linguistic literature.

In the more recent history of linguistics, one can note that the “passive transformation” was a key element in the theory of Transformational Generative Grammar as outlined by Noam Chomsky in Syntactic Structures (1957) and similarly, attempting to account for and model the essence of passive sentences on a cross-linguistic basis was a cornerstone of Relational Grammar as developed by David Perlmutter and Paul Postal in the 1970s. And this briefest of surveys of the importance of passives could be augmented and expanded many times over—more details are to be found in the initial chapter of the present volume. Indeed, passives remain an intriguing challenge to theories of grammar as well as a testing ground for the viability of any newly proposed theoretical framework—if a theory cannot handle passives, how seriously can it be considered as a rival to existing theories?

With that sort of remit, what editors Kleanthes K. Grohmann, Akemi Matsuya, and Eva-Maria Remberger have done here, quite appropriately for a volume in this Empirical Approaches to Linguistic Theory series, is to gather studies of passives from a variety of viewpoints, ranging from the purely grammatical—treating matters of morphology, syntax, and semantics—to the psycho- and neuro-linguistic. As befits a volume with “cross-linguistic” in its title, a number of different languages are represented as well. Overall, then, there is a good mix of differing perspectives, a healthy orientation toward theory, and a considerable amount of empirical data.

Readers are hereby invited, by me—a transformation of “I hereby invite readers”—to consider and learn from the several interesting studies contained herein.

Brian D. Joseph

EALT Series Managing Editor

Columbus, Ohio USA

10 July 2020

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