2021 Volume 31 Pages 53-70
Overpassivization is the mistake of overusing passive sentences with intransitive verbs and has been the subject of considerable research as a common problem among English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners of various native tongues. The “Unaccusative Trap Hypothesis” (UTH) postulates that early-stage language learners do not distinguish unaccusatives from unergatives. Instead, after they correctly differentiate between these two types of intransitives, learners’ overpassivization errors appear to be linked to unaccusatives instead of unergatives. Many researchers have demonstrated that subject animacy influences learners’ choice of voice (active or passive). Research has focused on three factors and their interactions: verb categories, learners’ proficiency levels, and subject animacy. This study used statistical analyses of a Voice Production Task to investigate significant differences between unergative verbs and unaccusative verbs (both alternating and non-alternating). Furthermore, the interactions between these verb types and learners’ proficiency in high school students were considered. The findings demonstrate a statistically significant relationship between overpassivization errors and inanimate subjects by high school students. This indicates that learners overpassivize verbs with inanimate subjects once they acquire passive forms with transitive verbs. Thus, passivized errors of unaccusatives are caused more by subject animacy than the UTH.