GENGO KENKYU (Journal of the Linguistic Society of Japan)
Online ISSN : 2185-6710
Print ISSN : 0024-3914
Presidents' Inaugural Lectures
Language Functions, Structures, and Typology
Masayoshi Shibatani
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2022 Volume Supplement.2 Pages 1-24


A functional perspective toward a more holistic analysis of a grammatical phenomenon is demonstrated in terms of the problems surrounding the grammatical voice. Both the current and the traditional definitions of voice are critically examined with the conclusions that they are inadequate one way or another. Current definitions largely focus on the active-passive opposition, and tend to ignore the active-middle opposition that entails a conceptual/meaning opposition, which appears to be more fundamental. Traditional definitions tend to ignore impersonal passives that are fairly widely distributed. A functional principle, the “principle of maximization of contrast”, is offered in order to account for both synchronic distributions of different types of voice and the historical development of the middle voice domain and the passive voice from the middle voice.

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