Passive and perspective


The passive construction in Dutch represents a long-standing problem both in linguistics and in written communications. This book proposes a new analysis of the passive in Dutch, integrating insights from theoretical (especially cognitive) linguistics and rhetoric/composition. The point of departure is the observation that the Dutch passive has a demonstrable perspective effect in texts: the passive discourages identification with the agent, and this in fact is the meaning of the Dutch passive construction. This meaning forms the basis for a solution to a number of text problems, including the problem of how to best use the passive in computer manuals.
We can also understand the passive's role in specific texts. For example, it becomes clear why policy paper writers use so many passives. Finally, in one of the case studies it is shown why passives were used differently in the NRC Handelsblad, a Rotterdam daily newspaper, and in the Parool, from Amsterdam, when they both reported that Ajax, Amsterdam's football team, became the national soccer champion.


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Table of contents

1. Introducing the search for passive and perspective. 1.1 Kinderjaren. 1.2 Avoid the passive? A dilemma. 1.3 Terminology. 1.4 Outline of this book; material used. 2. The functionalists' difficulties with the Dutch passive. 2.1 Introduction. 2.2 Topicality of the participants. 2.3 Related proposals: a search for ‘perspective'; agent not central. 2.4 Foreground, background and transitivity. 2.5 Two discourse functions? 3. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. 3.1 Introduction. 3.2 Analyzability: the sum of the parts. 3.3 Worden and the presencee of the causer. 3.4 Passives and their active counter-parts. 3.5 Impersonal passives. 3.6 A schema for the passive. 3.7 Conclusion, hypothesis. 4. Door and its causers. 4.1 Introduction. 4.2 The lexical semantics of door: a family resemblance structure. 4.3 Characteristics of the overt causer. 4.4 Are (passives with) overt causers different? 4.5 Conclusion. 5. The passive in three types of text. 5.1 Introduction. 5.2 The passive in policy papers. 5.3 The passive in soccer reports. 5.4 The Passive in Computer Manuals. 5.5 Conclusion for the passive and its meaning in specific texts. 5.6 Final remarks. 6. Polyphony: percolation with passives of P-predicates. 6.1 Introduction. 6.2 P-predicates, percolation and polyphony. 6.3 Passive P-predicates in the EC. 6.4 Passive P-predicates in the INL corpus: a replication. 6.5 Experiment: percolation and argumentative direction. 6.6 Conclusion: the argumentative effect of the passive. 7. Results and their consequences for theory and practice. 7.1 Results: the passive's discourse functions. 7.2 Analyzing and recommending the passive. 7.3 Consequences for passive theory. 7.4 Conclusion. 8. Reflection and final remarks. 8.1 One meaning, many functions. 8.2 The argument for the passive's meaning. 8.3 Dutch and English. 8.4 Suggestions for further research. Literature. Author index. Appendix 1. The policy points of SIW (section 5.2). Appendix 2. Tables for section 5.3.2: Passives in the Ajax-articles in Het Parool and the NRC. Appendix 3. Context of example (6) in 6.3.1 (EC 35523-35536). Appendix 4. Translation of the items in section 6.5.2.

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