Posted: Feb 25, 2016 5:30 pm
by The_Piper
don't get me started wrote:
The_Piper wrote:
don't get me started wrote:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
The_Piper wrote:Thanks for the responses.

How about saying "The man was bitten by the dog"? Now the man is the subject, but it still means the same thing as the dog bit the man.

Now I've strayed from the I/me discussion.

When you say 'The man was bitten by the dog', this is what is known as a passive construction. In this construction, focus and importance is given to the receiver of the action, not the doer. This sentence is perceived as being about the man, not the dog.
Putting the object first requires English speakers to mark the sentence so that the listener can figure out who is the doer and who is the receiver because the normal word order rules don't apply in this case.
English does this by placing a 'be' verb after the first noun, then using the verb in it's third form (bite, bit, bitten), then using the preposition 'by' to further show that the following noun is the doer of the action.
The man WAS BITTEN BY the dog. Three big signals that the normal word order rules don't apply.
Different languages do this in different ways.

In German it is like this: Der Mann wurde von dem Hund gebissen.
After the first noun there is a form of the word 'werden' (become) then a preposition 'von' (like English 'by') then the article also shows that the following noun is an doer of an action. (Der Hund is 'The Dog', but in this case it changes to 'Dem Hund') and finally there is a form of the verb 'Beissen' changed to 'gebissen'. All together this adds up to a passive, so Germans can work out who is doing the biting and who feels the pain.

Japanese doesn't mark in this way. Rather, they have verb endings that specifically show that this is a passive construction.
This the verb for 'eat' is TABERU (食べる) but the way to express 'is eaten' is to change the ending of the verb. Knock off the 'ru' to give the stem 'TABE' and then add 'RARERU', giving TABERARERU.(TABERARETA in the past)
男はバナナを食べる (Hito wa banana wo taberu = the man eats the banana.)
バナナは人によって食べられました (banana wa hito ni yotte taberareta) (I changed to the past tense RAREU = RARETA)

As far as I am aware, it is a linguistic universal that active sentences are the unmarked , 'normal' way to express actions in all languages and that passives are derived from actives, and indicated by special marking, addition of extra words, changes in word order from the normal, active way to express actions in the world.

(Apologies for any minor errors that might be spotted by native speakers of German or Japanese. The principles are correct, I believe.)
When you say passives are derived from actives, do you mean in a previous sentence?
For example "What happened to him? He was bitten by a dog"

Apologies for late reply. I've been off at a conference.(Giving a talk on semantics actually)

No, I don't mean that passives are derived from a previous utterance as in the example you gave. I mean that human languages seem to have certain default settings and these are universal. As far as I am aware active sentences are the default way of describing events and states. If there is no pressing reason to do otherwise, then sentences are constructed in the active style. If the focus is shifted to the receiver of the action, for whatever reason, then the active style is manipulated, altered, expanded to show this. Adding extra words, shifting word order or adding suffixes to create passives all support the idea that the passive is an alteration to the active.

The dog bit the man = 5 words
The man was bitten by the dog = 7 words

食べる (TABERU = EAT) 3 syllables
食べられる TABERARERU = is eaten) 5 syllables

The passive is always more complex and/or longer than the active in every language, to the best of my knowledge.

In the same way that negatives are longer and more complex than positives.

The dog bit the man = 5 words
The dog did not bite the man = 7 words

食べる (TABETA = Ate) 3 syllables
食べなかった (TABENAKATTA = didn't eat) 5 syllables (Actually 6 for complex reasons to do with Japanese pronunciation)

:lol: No problem, thanks.
I see what you meant now. :)