This paper presents new evidence showing that the passive by-phrases of Greek and English behave like the DP arguments of the corresponding active sentences in two respects: first, they are assigned the same range of theta roles, such as agent, causer, instrument or experiencer. Furthermore, passive by-phrases can bind a non-logophoric reflexive, differing from standard instances of adjunct PPs which, as we show, are unable to bind. Importantly, the passive by-phrases (vs. adjunct PPs) of other languages e.g. Czech (cf. Karlík 2020), have been shown to display the same binding behavior as in Greek and English. We take these facts to suggest that passive by-phrases share a common property across languages. Based on the standard assumption since Chomsky (1981) that binding is only possible from A-positions, we propose that passive by-phrases exhibit properties of arguments because they are merged as external arguments just as in the active syntax. Under this analysis, passive by-phrases are no different from oblique PPs of various languages which are standardly analyzed as arguments on the basis of the fact that they, as well, can bind.
Going through recent analyses of the Greek passive, the paper further shows that the interpretation and the overall distribution of Greek and English by-phrases do not exhibit the interpretive and distributional restrictions that were taken to support the view that they are merged as adjuncts (paceBruening 2013; Legate 2014; Alexiadou et al. 2015) or that the English and Greek passive are formed with distinct Voice heads (paceAlexiadou & Doron 2012; Alexiadou et al. 2015 i.a.). Furthermore, since, as shown here, by-phrases are arguments, the view that the non-active morphology of Greek passive marks the absence of the external argument (Embick 1998; Alexiadou et al 2015 i.a.) is untenable. Lastly, it is argued that the rules of semantic composition, if applied as in Heim & Kratzer (1998) and Bruening (2013), make available more ways in which arguments can be merged than those which are actually attested. The paper suggests that the rules in question must be constrained by independent principles, such as Chomsky’s (1981, 1986) Theta Criterion.
We begin with background discussion on Greek non-active morphology and the different contexts in which it is encountered (Section 2). Section 3 shows that Greek by-phrases can receive the same interpretations as the corresponding DP arguments of the active. This section focuses primarily on causer by-phrases, which, as shown, are compatible with the Greek passive (paceAlexiadou et al. 2015 i.a.). Section 4 introduces binding data showing that the Greek and English by-phrases can bind non-logophoric reflexives and Section 5 presents the analysis. Section 6 and 7 discuss previous analyses according to which, first, the Greek and English passive are formed in distinct ways and, second, the by-phrases are merged as adjuncts. We give reasons for which we do not consider these analyses to provide a satisfactory account of the range of facts they consider or the binding data we present. Section 8 is a short note on deponent verbs, which, as discussed, have not received a principled account in the theories assuming that non-active morphology is the spell-out of a Voice head lacking a specifier. Section 9 presents a short remark on the Theta Criterion. Section 10 concludes.
Greek passives involve non-active morphology on the finite verb, rather than the auxiliary and participle of English. Thus, we see in (1a) the verb inflected for active morphology and present tense, and in (1b) and (1c) that the verb combines with a portmanteau suffix encoding non-active and present or past tense. This morphology is found in different contexts, such as reflexive and reciprocal, (2a–2b), middle, (2c), and deponent, (2d).1
The Greek non-active morphology is also used in the formation of anticausative predicates, such as lero-thike ‘got dirty’ in (3). Note, however, that some anticausatives may also appear with active morphology. Hence, compare the non-active lero-thike in (3) to the active espase ‘broke’ in (4).
With this background in mind, we are now in a position to examine the syntactic behavior of the passive by-phrases in both Greek and English. We first show that Greek by-phrases can realize the range of theta-roles of the corresponding arguments in the active voice. Building on this finding, we demonstrate next that, exactly like the corresponding arguments in the active sentences, passive by-phrases of Greek and English can participate in binding dependencies.
Greek passive by-phrases can be interpreted as agents, (5), experiencers, (6–7), recipients, (8), instruments, (9) (cf. Alexiadou & Schäfer 2006; Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 2009). We add that they can also host the subject of idiomatic expressions, (10) (on the range of interpretations of the English by-phrases, see Jaeggli 1986: 599; Baker, Johnson & Roberts 1989: 221 and Collins 2005: 2).
In what follows we show that the passive by-phrases of Greek can also be interpreted as causers. This is not an easy task as passive verbs can easily be confused with anticausatives, which, as (3) and (4) show, can also accept modification by causer by-phrases. In order to ensure that the verbs we examine are unambiguously passive, and not anticausative with non-active morphology, we use two well established diagnostics: (i) modification by by itself, (ii) compatibility with agent-oriented modifiers. As Alexiadou et al. (2015: 21) note, based on previous literature (cf. Chierchia 1989; 2004; Levin & Rappaport Hovav 1995), by itself is licensed “[…] in anticausatives, but not in passives.” This contrast between passives and anticausatives is illustrated below:
Thus, if a verb rejects a by itself PP, chances are that it is not an anticausative verb, but a passive. As for agent-oriented modifiers, the consensus is that they are rejected by anticausative predicates, (13), whereas they are compatible with the passives, (14) (cf. Zombolou 2004, and Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 2004: 131 i.a.).
Having the above in mind, let us now consider the following set of examples with the verbs apodhiorganothike ‘was disorganized’ and katalithike ‘was eradicated’.
(15a) shows that the verbs apodhiorganothike and katalithike cannot be modified by by itself, providing evidence that it does not form an anticausative. This conclusion is further strengthened by the fact that, unlike anticausative predicates, apodhiorganothike and katalithike can be modified by an agent-oriented adverb, (15b). Given (15a) and (15b), it makes sense to assume that apodhiorganothike and katalithike are unambiguous passive verbs. Importantly, (15c) shows that the same verbs are compatible with a causer PP, which clearly suggests that Greek passives can license causer PPs. This conclusion is further supported by additional verbs, such as metaferthike ‘was transferred’, (16), amavrothike ‘was tarnished’, (17) and vaftike ‘was painted’, (18). As shown below, metaferthike, amavrothike and vaftike are not compatible with by itself, while, they accept modification by agent-oriented adverbs and can license causer by-phrases.
Notice that there are verbs that distinguish the passive from the anticausative variant morphologically. These verbs are inflected with non-active morphology in the passive variant, (19a), whereas the anticausative is expressed with active morphology, (19b).
(19) shows that causer by-phrases are only possible with the anticausative form. It is the behavior of precisely this class of verbs that led Alexiadou & Schäfer (2006), Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou (2009), Alexiadou et al. (2015) to the conclusion that the Greek passive totally blocks causer by-phrases. This conclusion is not supported by the behavior of the verbs in (15–18), which, crucially, do not exhibit the anticausative alternation.2 We take this fact to suggest that there are confounds in the behavior of verbs exhibiting the anticausative alternation, as e.g. stegnothikan ‘were dried’ in (19a), and as a result of this, they cannot reveal in a straightforward manner what theta roles the Greek passive by-phrases may or may not have.3
We turn next to new binding data, which establish one of the main points of the paper, namely, that, just like the corresponding arguments in the active sentences, by-phrases can bind a reflexive. In this respect, by-phrases differ from standard cases of adjunct PPs, which, as we discuss, exhibit distinct behavior in terms of their binding possibilities. We begin the next section with a brief overview of the properties of the Greek reflexive.
The Greek anaphor o eaftos mu literally translates to ‘the self mine’. The eaftos ‘self’ noun is invariably masculine, while the preceding determiner agrees with the self-noun in gender, number and case. The possessive pronoun agrees in φ-features with its antecedent. There has been considerable discussion of o eaftos mu in the literature, focusing on different aspects of its behavior, such as the fact that it can be clitic doubled (cf. Iatridou 1988) without giving rise to Condition B violations or that it can be used with nominative case in some derived subject positions (cf. Anagnostopoulou & Everaert 1999 i.a.). In these analyses it is acknowledged that, despite the peculiar properties just mentioned, o eaftos mu is no different from the English reflexive in requiring a local c-commanding antecedent:
Note that when o eaftos mu has plural antecedents either the possessive pronoun alone is plural or both the possessive pronoun and the self noun (with the preceding article, tus) are pluralized (cf. 22–23). There might be interpretive differences between the two forms, however they do not affect the binding behavior of the reflexive. Thus, both forms of o eaftos mu require a c-commanding antecedent, as shown below.
There is a relevant property of o eaftos mu, however, which makes it different from the English reflexive, but has received little attention, and this is that it has no usages that do not fall under standard Condition A. Anaphors have been argued to behave as exempt from Condition A when they function as logophors (cf. Charnavel & Sportiche 2016 i.a.). A characteristic property of logophors is that they need to be anteceded by perspective centers, such as attitude holders, empathy loci or deictic centers (cf. Charnavel & Zlogar 2015 and references therein). It is remarkable that o eaftos mu is prohibited in such contexts, namely, in contexts where the English reflexive has been argued to function as a logophor that is anteceded by some perspective center. To this effect, consider, for instance, the following ungrammatical sentences in Greek and compare them with the English sentences in the translation. The sentences in (24–25) feature anaphors with attitude holders as antecedents (cf. Charnavel & Zlogar 2015, citing Pollard & Sag 1992 and Reinhart & Reuland 1993 i.a.). In (26) the anaphor has antecedents that have been identified as empathy loci (Kuno 1987; Charnavel & Zlogar 2015, 18a,c), and have been reported to be well-formed in English. Since o eaftos mu is prohibited in the same sentences, it clearly cannot be considered a non-exempt anaphor.
Given that o eaftos mu resists logophoric usages (cf. also Anagnostopoulou & Everaert 1999 for similar conclusions), it makes sense to assume that in the examples to be discussed in the following section we have clear cases of non-logophoric reflexives that are standardly analyzed as being subject to Condition A. Notice that we examine the corresponding English sentences with inanimate antecedents in the following section, in order to make sure that logophoricity is not implicated in English either. Using inanimacy as a tool to avoid logophoric usages of the anaphor is proposed in Charnavel & Sportiche (2016).
In this section we show that Greek reflexives can have a by-phrase antecedent. We start by presenting examples we found in google searches, showing reflexives bound by by-phrases. The first and last author of the paper, both native speakers of Greek, find the examples fully natural.4
In the following examples we show that by-phrases are different in this respect from adjunct PPs, which, as we show, systematically fail to function as antecedents for reflexives. We test adjunct phrases with choris ‘without’, a P followed by an accusative case marked DP (29b,c), eksetias ‘because of’, a P followed by a DP with genitive case (30b,c), adjunct locative PPs (31b,c) and mazi ‘together’, a P followed by the functional preposition me and an accusative case marked DP (32a,b). The grammatical sentences below the ones testing binding by adjunct PPs, e.g., (29c), (30c), (31c) and (32b), show that ungrammaticality is only due to binding.5
English reflexives are shown below, with data first reported in Collins (2018a, 10–11), to also be bound by by-phrases of passives. On the other hand, DPs within clear instances of other (non-argument) PPs cannot bind reflexives, exactly like in Greek earlier.6
|(33)||a.||The packages were sent by the children1 to themselves1.|
|b.||*The packages were sent for the children1 to themselves1.|
|c.||*The packages were sent on behalf of the children1 to themselves1.|
|d.||*The packages were sent because of the children1 to themselves1.|
|(34)||a.||The pictures were painted by the children1 for themselves1.|
|b.||*The pictures were painted with the children1 for themselves1.|
|c.||*The pictures were painted near the children1 for themselves1.|
|d.||*The pictures were painted in spite of the children1 for themselves1.|
The DPs in the by-phrases above do not encode any kind of perspective center. Definitely they are not attitude holders, as the subjects of send or paint do not hold attitudes and cannot be empathy loci.
Moreover, as we show with new data in (35–38) below, the DP in the by-phrase of an English passive can be inanimate and still bind an anaphor. Inanimates cannot act as antecedents for logophors because they cannot hold perspective since they cannot be in a mental state (cf. Charnavel & Sportiche 2016).
|(35)||a.||The magnet1 attracted the metallic objects towards itself1.|
|b.||The metallic objects were attracted by the magnet1 towards itself1.|
|(36)||a.||The black hole1 drew the planets into itself1.|
|b.||The planets were drawn by the black hole1 into itself1.|
|(37)||a.||The tornado1 sucked the houses up into itself1.|
|b.||The houses were sucked up by the tornado1 into itself1.|
|(38)||a.||The magnet1 repelled the pieces of metal away from itself1.|
|b.||The pieces of metal were repelled by the magnet1 away from itself1.|
In an informal survey, three native speakers of English find either both the (a) and (b) examples above acceptable, or the (b) examples degraded (?), while no speakers have found the (b) examples ungrammatical.7 Similar examples are easy to find on the internet. The following examples, first reported in this paper, are from google searches and are accepted by the second author:89
|(39)||You find yourself rising and being pulled by the sun1 toward itself1.|
|(40)||The most direct way to determine it is to examine the far distant behavior of the magnetic field generated by the black hole1 around itself1.|
|(41)||which is thus an external demagnetising field applied by the magnet1 to itself1…|
|(42)||More recently oxytocin has been found to be released by the brain1 into itself1 during sexual intercourse,|
|(43)||But soon also this will be sucked up by the earth1 into itself1.|
|(44)||The investment made by the country1 into itself1 has paid back hundreds of times over, and will keep paying back.|
|(45)||The objects presenting themselves, in so far as they are sources of pleasure, are absorbed by the ego1 into itself1,|
|(46)||For that which is decidedly thick and earthy in nature, and has entirely escaped alteration in the liver, is drawn by the spleen1 into itself1;|
|(47)||These are income benefit or resources earned or generated by the organization1 from itself1.|
All in all, we showed in this section that in both Greek and English the by-phrases of passives can bind a reflexive, and that the reflexives they bind are true/ non-exempt. We proceed with the analysis we propose in the next section. The analysis extends beyond Greek and English, to e.g. Czech, which, as we discuss later, has by-phrases that behave as the Greek and English ones in terms of binding (cf. Karlík 2020).
In the previous sections we presented data from two languages, Greek and English, in which DPs in the by-phrases of passives are assigned the theta-role assigned by the predicate to the external argument in the active. We take this fact to speak in favor of the idea that by-phrases are merged as arguments, just as in Roberts (2019: 437). Roberts adds a number of theoretical considerations in support of this view, concretely, he argues that “It would be an extraordinary coincidence that an adjunct preposition like by can do this [assign the same theta roles to the external argument as in the active], and would require a major complication of any account of how an EA is assigned its compositional θ-role. But this follows straightforwardly on the present analysis. In fact, an appropriately strong version of the Uniformity of Theta-role Assignment Hypothesis (UTAH; Baker 1988, 1997) requires exactly this. Furthermore, no mechanism of ‘θ-transmission’ (Jaeggli 1986), second-order c-selection (for Voice with an unchecked/unsaturated feature) combined with the stipulation that by (alone among ‘Voice adjuncts’ with the second-order selection property) ‘takes a function with an open argument and supplies its own argument to saturate that function’ (Bruening 2013: 24), or, in a similar vein, restriction of an existentially closed variable by an argument in an adjunct of the kind envisaged by Legate (2014) need be assumed.”
Another fact that the previous sections brought to light is that, in contrast to adjunct PPs, by-phrases can bind non-exempt anaphors just like the corresponding arguments in the active can. Importantly, non-exempt anaphors like o eaftos mu or inanimate anaphors as in (35)–(47) need to be bound, given the standard formulation of Principle A of Binding Theory (Chomsky 1986, and see Sportiche et al. 2013, 168 below for a more recent formulation):
|(48)||Principle A: An anaphor must be bound in its domain.|
In the examples repeated below, we show again that the reflexive cannot be bound by an adjunct PP, (49b). On the other hand, it can be bound by the by-phrase, (49a):
Since the by-phrases of Greek and English behave just like the corresponding DP arguments of the active verbs in terms of binding, it makes sense to assume that in both languages, they are merged as arguments occupying the same position as the external argument DP in the active (cf. Hasegawa 1988; D’Hulst 1992; Mahajan 1994; Goodall 1997; 1999; Caha 2009; Collins 2018a; Roberts 2019; Karlík 2020; Hallman 2020). These claims build on the standard assumption that binding is only possible from A-positions (cf. Chomsky 1981:184, “The theory of binding is a theory of A-binding.”).10 Hence, the underlying structure we propose for the Greek and, crucially, English passives as well, is as in (50) (see Collins 2005 and Roberts 2019: 430–9):11
Under our analysis it is the PP that binds the reflexive in (50), as it is the external argument which, as such, c-commands the reflexive. There is, however, a problem that arises for this approach: example (49a) shows that the reflexive agrees syntactically with its antecedent. However, since the apo-phrase lacks phi-features this should not be possible. Collins (2018a) suggests that this issue can be resolved in the framework for pronominal agreement advocated in Collins & Postal (2012), where pronominal agreement originates in a small set of sources (which include antecedents).
|(51)||Collins & Postal (2012: 92)|
|If P is a non-expletive pronoun, then P agrees with some source in those phi-features for which P is not inherently valued.|
In order to see how pronominal agreement works in Collins & Postal (2012), let us consider the following example:
|(52)||I am a person who1 takes care of myself1/himself1.|
In (52), the reflexive pronoun is bound by the copy/trace of who in the embedded subject position. Nonetheless, who is third person singular, as shown by the subject verb agreement. In this case, when the reflexive is myself it does not agree with the DP that binds it, but agrees with some other DP (the subject of the matrix clause). Collins & Postal (2012) call the DPs that potentially supply phi-features for pronominal agreement sources. In (52), the two sources are the DPs I and who. In order to account for the pronominal agreement facts in cases like (49a) under the theory of Collins & Postal (2012), Collins (2018a) proposes that the DP complement of functional Ps can function as a source of phi-features:
|(53)||Suppose X = [PP P DP] where P is a functional preposition (by, of, to).|
|If X is the antecedent of some pronoun Y, then the DP complement of X is a source of phi-features for Y.|
We assume, as in Michelioudakis & Angelopoulos (2019) and Angelopoulos (2019a), that apo ‘by’ of Greek is a functional preposition and that it is not responsible for the theta-role interpretation of its surface DP complement (see also Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 2009 on the latter). Given this, the fact that the DP contained in the Greek (and English) by-phrases can function as a source of phi-features follows directly from (53). Other functional prepositions, such as of or to of English, and Greek prepositions, such as se ‘to’ or me ‘with’, are predicted to also be merged in an argument position together with their DP complement and bind a reflexive. Indeed, this prediction is borne out in (54) which shows that, just like with apo-phrases, the PP formed with s(e) can bind the Greek reflexive (cf. Anagnostopoulou 2003; Michelioudakis 2012):
Let us now consider the cases in which the complement of an adjunct P cannot bind a reflexive, that is, sentences such as (29b), (30b), (31b), (32a). There are two relevant structures to consider for a PP headed by a P such as without:
(55a) and (55b) show that there can be many reasons for which the sentences in (29b), (30b), (31b), (32a) are ungrammatical. In (55a) the without PP as a whole cannot bind the reflexive. This follows from the fact that binding is not possible from adjunct positions. Second, the PP cannot function as a source of pronominal agreement for the reflexive because without is not a functional preposition. Third, the PP is not even the right semantic type to bind a pronoun. Since the pronoun is of type <e>, its antecedent should also be of type <e>, but that is not the case with without-phrases or other adjuncts (which are presumably predicative). Lastly, in (55b), the DP contained in the without PP is not able to bind the reflexive due to lack of c-command.1213
With this in mind, let us now turn our attention to the analyses according to which the by-phrase is merged as an adjunct. These analyses also claim that:
We discuss reasons for which we do not find these claims valid before, and then consider how the competing analyses we cite fare with the binding facts we discussed.
The Greek passive is formed via VoicePMIDDLE whereas in English it is formed via a VoiceP selected by Passive. The two Voice heads differ in the feature makeup, e.g. +/– agentive. The VoiceMIDDLE head of the Greek passive is argued to be only agentive (cf. Alexiadou et al. 2015: 120) whereas the Voice head of the English passive can be of different kinds, e.g. causative. Under this view, the by-phrases are merged as adjuncts to VoiceP and must match the features of this projection (cf. Alexiadou et al 2015: 35 and references therein). Thus, this work assumes on the basis of the pair in (19) that the passive by-phrases of Greek cannot be causers because of a feature mismatch with the agentive features of the VoiceP.
The assumption that the Voice head of the Greek passive is only agentive cannot be maintained since, as we showed in Section 3, causer PPs are in fact allowed. Furthermore, other kinds of non-agentive PPs, e.g. experiencer, goal or recipient, are also compatible with the Greek passive (see Section 3). The issue that arises in this case is that (all kinds of) non-agentive PPs are predicted to be blocked under this account, contrary to fact, because just like causer PPs, they are incompatible with the agentive features of VoiceP.14
Setting these issues aside, we discuss the assumptions this literature makes for the non-active morphology of the Greek passive. Concretely, following Embick (1998, 2004), Alexiadou et al. (2015) claim that the non-active morphology is the result of a post syntactic spell-out rule targeting Voice heads lacking a specifier:
|(58)||Voice ->Voice[NonAct]/ ___No DP specifier.|
Nonetheless, if agents are uniformly projected in the syntax in the active and the passive, as we showed in the previous sections, the rule in (58) does not correctly describe the distribution of non-active voice morphology in Greek. One way to capture the parallelism is to dissociate voice morphology and the external argument projection.15 Thus, if voice morphology is found in Voice (projecting a VoiceP), as in Rivero (1990), then the external argument should not be generated in Spec VoiceP, but in some other projection, e.g. in Spec vP, as in Chomsky (1995) (paceKratzer 1996). Under this view, Voice plays a role in the syntax of the passive but has nothing to do with the projection of the external argument (cf. Collins 2005). Thus, based on the Greek data first, we come to the following conclusion:
|(59)||The external argument is not introduced in Spec VoiceP.|
Extensive previous literature has actually adopted (59) in various ways (cf. Manzini et al. 2006; Roberts 2019 and Newman 2020 i.a.). Moreover, based on VP-ellipsis facts, Merchant (2013: 98) shows that (59) must be correct and adds to this claim that “There is in fact no conceptual reason these two should go together, and the ellipsis facts argue directly against this assumption.” (for further arguments against external arguments being projected in [Spec,Voice], see Zyman & Kalivoda 2020: 8). Similarly, Ramchand (2017: 10) explicitly argues that the head introducing the external argument in her analysis is not the same thing as VoiceP.
Having shown some of the reasons for rejecting (58), we turn our attention to some restrictions that have been argued to arise from the structure in (56):
Alexiadou et. al (2015: (1–4), 135) i. Some verbs that form anticausatives with active morphology are not allowed to combine with non-active morphology in order to form a passive, either for phonological or for semantic reasons. ii. Many mono-eventive verbs, i.e. verbs not expressing a change-of-state, resist passivization, subject to idiolectal variation. iii. Change-of-state verbs combining with expletive Voice in anticausatives are often not allowed to form passives. iv. Apo-phrases are characterized by what has been called “reduced agentivity,” i.e. they prefer to introduce non-specifics, plurals, and indefinites.
Alexiadou et. al. claim that these restrictions are “poorly understood” and add that “Sometimes it is not even clear which of the restrictions are semantic in nature and which ones are morpho-phonological.” It thus follows that what they present are in fact intuitions and assumptions, rather than a full analysis, of the possible ways in which the above restrictions could be linked to the proposed structures in (56–57).16 Precisely because these intuitions/ assumptions are not fleshed out it is not obvious how they can support the view that the Greek and English passives are formed in distinct ways. In what follows, we focus more closely on the distribution of Greek by-phrases, which is the central topic in the paper. To this effect, we examine restriction iv above, which claims that Greek by-phrases exhibit the effects of “reduced agentivity”, or that their distribution is severely restricted because of the fact that passive Voice in Greek is formed differently from English. We demonstrate that these claims are unsubstantiated, therefore, they do not support the idea that the Greek passive is special from the perspective of the English passive.
This section presents a detailed overview of the purported severely restricted distribution of Greek by-phrases. Let us start by taking into consideration predicates like kaike ‘got burnt’ in (60). This predicate is formed with non-active morphology and, as Zombolou (2004) points out, it rejects agentive by-phrases i.e. apo to Jani, whereas it allows causer PPs introduced with a different preposition, me.
In Alexiadou et al. (2015) verbs like kaike that exhibit this behavior are argued to be anticausative only, which, just as in English, permit modification by causer PPs and reject agentive PPs. Interestingly, kaike does not uniformly block by-phrases containing an animate DP. Thus, if this DP is in plural as in (61) below, the by-phrase is possible:
Alexiadou et al. (2015) argue that in cases as in (61) the by-phrases are only apparently interpreted as agents, thus, they do not constitute exceptions to their assumption that kaike can only form an anticausative, which is only compatible with causer by-phrases. Concretely, Alexiadou et al. contend that by-phrases containing plural non-specific agents “[…] are considered less agentive than those denoting concrete entities” as, e.g. to Jani, in (60) (cf. Kaufmann 2001 i.a.). Given this, they hypothesize that “[…] such PPs are actually interpreted as causers, since they are rather abstract, hence, can happily co-occur with anticausative predicates.” Moreover, citing previous literature, Alexiadou et al. admit that Greek by-phrases in the overall exhibit this special behavior:
Alexiadou et al. (2015: 121)
“several researchers have pointed out that the distribution of the by-phrase is severely restricted in the sense that it is characterized by what has been called “reduced agentivity”; see, e.g., Kaufmann (2001) and Manney (2000).”
Alexiadou et al. (2015: 135)
“apo-phrases are characterized by what has been called “reduced agentivity, i.e. they prefer to introduce non-specifics, plurals, and indefinites.”
In light of these claims, a number of questions arise:
- Is the fact that a verb rejects a by-phrase containing a concrete entity e.g. a proper name, as in (60), sufficient evidence that this verb does not form the passive?
- Is it true that Greek by-phrases are subject to the effects of “reduced agentivity”?
- Are non-specific definites, such as tus ebristes in (61) interpreted as causers?
As we discuss below, the answer to all these questions is negative. Based on such an outcome, we are led to disagree with the literature according to which the Greek passive and the associated by-phrases must be distinguished structurally from the English passive.
In this section we show first that, unlike what is proposed in Alexiadou et al. (2015), verbs such as kaike in (61), which reject by-phrases containing a proper name, can still form a passive. This becomes clear in (62), showing that kaike can be modified by an agent-oriented adverb and license control in purpose clauses, another diagnostic for the passive:
Anticausatives reject modification by agent-oriented adverbs (cf. discussion around 13–14). Thus, the fact that kaike is compatible with skopima ‘on purpose’ as well as with a purpose clause clearly suggests that this verb can form the passive, despite the fact that it exhibits the “reduced agentivity” effects. In other words, if a verb exhibits “reduced agentivity” effects, that is, it rejects a by-phrase containing a concrete entity like a proper name, this shows nothing about the ability of this verb to form the passive (contraAlexiadou et al. 2015, question i of the previous section).
In order to address question ii, we considered results from an exhaustive investigation we conducted with verbs that can undergo passivization in Greek. This is how we conducted this investigation: first, we collected the verbs in their active form from the Triantafyllidis Dictionary (1998). Then, we turned them into the passive form and searched in google whether or not they are attested alone or with a by-phrase. We found that more than 400 distinct instances of verbs allow by-phrases containing strongly referential DPs, including proper names. This is a decisive piece of evidence disproving the claim that the Greek passive with strongly referential DPs in by-phrases is severely restricted (see also Zombolou 2004: 39 for a similar conclusion). Still, we should note that instances of verbs as kaike in (60), which prefer by-phrases introducing non-specific indefinites are not absent. Nonetheless, they are few and often subject to idiolectal variation. Notice, for instance, that the verb skotothike ‘was killed’ is reported as ungrammatical in Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou (2009) when followed by an agentive by-phrase:
However, similar examples reported in Philippaki-Warburton (1975) are just considered degraded (? or ??). Actually, one of the authors of this paper finds (63) just degraded, while the other does not accept it. The latter author found, however, that this example was widely accepted by a group of ten graduate students of linguistics, native speakers of Greek, in a class she taught. Finally, we find similar examples from google searches to be acceptable (cf. 64).17
To sum up, we conclude on the basis of the limited character of the “reduced agentivity” effects and the fact that it is subject to idiolectal variation, that it cannot be taken to correspond to a systematic grammatical property of Greek by-phrases that must be reflected in the syntax of the Greek passive.18
Turning to question iii of the previous section, we argue against the claim that non-specific definites in by-phrases are interpreted as causers. We start with the empirical observation that causer PPs are incompatible with agent-oriented modifiers (65). If it were true that by-phrases comprising non-concrete nouns are interpreted as causers, they should exhibit the same behavior as the causer by-phrase in (65). However, (66) shows that by-phrases with non-specific nouns do not behave as causers. Instead, they behave as agent by-phrases hence, they are compatible with agent-oriented modifiers:
We conclude on the basis of the contrast in (65-66) that the Greek by-phrases comprising non-specific animate nouns are clearly agentive. This suggests that Greek by-phrases cannot be taken to exhibit “reduced agentivity” effects. Lastly, the fact that the by-phrase in (66) is agentive further corroborates our previous claim that the verb in this case is passive, not anticausative.
We turn next to the binding facts, which, as we will show, pose strong challenge to the idea that by-phrases are merged as adjuncts.
Consider a theory like that of Bruening 2013 (similar remarks hold for Legate 2014 and Alexiadou et al. 2015) with respect to the binding theory data reported in section 4. For Bruening (2013: 24), the by-phrase is an adjunct:
|(67)||“As detailed earlier, by phrases, instrumentals, and comitatives all require the category Voice. I take this to mean that, although they are adjuncts, they strictly select the syntactic category of the phrase they adjoin to.”|
This conclusion is familiar from the Principles and Parameters literature which also analyzed the by-phrase of the passive as an adjunct. The novelty of Bruening’s analysis is that it is tied to an explicit treatment of the semantics of the preposition by (see Bruening 2013: 25, and see Legate 2014: 41 for a related proposal):
|b.||⟦by the lobbyist⟧||=||λf<e,st>λe.f(e,the lobbyist)|
For example, the phrase by the lobbyist denotes a function which takes the denotation of a Voice-phrase as an argument (so by the lobbyist denotes a function of functions).
On Bruening’s theory the by-phrase is an adjunct, and the preposition by has a complex denotation. Like other adjuncts, the DP inside the PP adjunct should be incapable of binding an anaphor. Thus, the following grammatical sentence is predicted to be ungrammatical in the indicated structure, which is the one proposed by Bruening:
|(69)||*The packages were sent [PP by [DP the children]1] to [each other]1.|
In this structure, [the children] does not c-command the reciprocal, and so by principle A of the binding theory, it should not be able to bind it. Furthermore, on Bruening’s theory it would not be possible for the by-phrase itself to act as an antecedent. First, the by-phrase is not in an A-position (it is an adjunct), and binding theory is limited to relations between A-positions. Second, the pronoun would have no source for phi-features under (53). This is so because this P is analyzed as a semantically contentful preposition (cf. 68a). Third, the by-phrase is a predicate in Bruening’s analysis and thus, is of the wrong semantic type to be the antecedent of a pronoun of type <e>.
This section focuses on deponent verbs, responding to a reviewer’s comment. It shows that, despite numerous attempts, the syntactic behavior of these verbs speaks against the idea that non-active morphology in Greek is the spell-out of a Voice head lacking a specifier (cf. 58). We start with a basic description of the syntax of deponent verbs. These verbs have active syntax, namely, they take a nominative and an accusative argument; however, they are marked morphologically with non-active morphology, shown in (70).
The challenge deponent verbs pose for the theories according to which non-active morphology signals the presence of a Voice head lacking a specifier is clear: if the nominative DP argument above, which is interpreted and functions as an agent is merged in Spec VoiceP, the verb should appear in active morphology according to the spell-out rule in (58), contrary to fact.
In Alexiadou (2013; 2019), the nominative argument of deponent verbs is assumed to be an experiencer. In her analysis, experiencers are different from agents in that they are introduced in a root internal position, instead of Spec VoiceP. Given this, deponent verbs are allowed to combine with a Voice head, which, just as in the passive, lacks a specifier. This head gives rise to the non-active morphology that deponent verbs realize.
Alexiadou’s analysis is challenged by a number of facts. First, as an anonymous reviewer points out, there are deponent verbs as hirizome ‘handle’ or epititheme ‘attack’ whose external argument is undoubtedly an agent (cf. Zombolou & Alexiadou 2014) and, under standard assumptions, it must be introduced in Spec VoiceP on the theory put forward in Alexiadou et al. (2015). Moreover, citing data from Embick (1997), Grestenberger (2018) discusses that some deponent verbs behave clearly as agentive verbs, not as experiencer verbs with respect to a number of syntactic diagnostics, such as agent-noun formation, Clitic Doubling, word order, Clitic Left Dislocation and agent-oriented modification (see also Oikonomou 2014, which also finds the analysis of deponent verbs as experiencer verbs hard to maintain in some cases). In light of these findings, Grestenberger (2018) proposes an alternative analysis, according to which nominative arguments of deponents constitute true agent arguments, which, however, are merged non-canonically in a projection below VoiceP, that is, XP, as shown below:
In Grestenberger (2018), (71) arises as a result of a diachronic process by which a benefactive argument, hosted in Spec XP, is reanalyzed as an agent. The only reason for which Spec VoiceP cannot host the external argument either via base generation or via movement from Spec XP is that it does not accord with the assumption, adopted from Alexiadou et al. (2015) among others, that non-active morphology marks the absence of specifier in VoiceP, (58). Nonetheless, since this assumption has already been shown to be incorrect here and elsewhere, it cannot support (71), the ad hoc reanalysis process and Grestenberger’s analysis of deponents in the overall.19
This section constitutes a short note on the Theta Criterion, responding to a reviewer who is wondering whether our findings have implications for it. Let us start by noting that the competing theories of the passive (cf. Bruening 2013) that we have discussed (and rejected) dismiss the effects of the Theta Criterion. These theories are based on Heim & Kratzer (1998: 51–53), where the Theta Criterion is replaced by the weaker principle of interpretability, a principle only requiring that the output of syntax be interpretable by the principles of semantic composition. Take for instance Bruening (2013), which notes:
Bruening (2013: 23)
“Because there are no syntactic thematic roles in this system, there is also no θ-Criterion. Elements will either combine semantically, or they will not. If a head is a function that calls for an argument and an argument of the appropriate type combines with it, the semantics will be well-formed. If a predicate calls for an argument and no argument combines with it, it will be ill-formed. If there is an argument that does not serve as the argument of any predicate in the semantics, the result will also be ill-formed. All the work of the θ -Criterion is done by the semantics.”
If it were the case that the Theta Criterion can be totally replaced by the weaker principle of interpretability, the derivation proposed in Bruening’s (2013), where passive by-phrases are merged as adjuncts, should in principle be possible because it yields an interpretable structure (cf. Section 7). Nonetheless, the binding facts from different languages, e.g. Greek, English and Czech,20 show that the only structure that is attested is the one where the passive by-phrases are syntactically realized as the external argument (cf. 50). This can be reduced to Chomsky’s (1981, 1986) Theta Criterion whose effect is to force the syntactic projection of arguments. Alternatively, in the configurational approach to theta theory outlined in Hale & Kayser (1993) and Chomsky (1995: 312ff.; 2000: 103ff.), theta roles are understood to be associated with particular syntactic positions:
|(72)||Chomsky (1995: 313)|
|A θ-role is assigned in a certain structural configuration;|
This entails that if a syntactic position, e.g. Spec vP, is not projected, an agent theta role cannot be assigned because the relevant configuration is not structurally available. Consequently, the configurational approach has the effect of ruling out the derivations proposed for by-phrases in Bruening (2013), Legate (2014) and Alexiadou et al. (2015).
In this paper, we have established that the by-phrase in Greek passives can bear the same variety of theta-roles as the external argument in the active (see Jaeggli 1986 and Collins 2005 for English). This finding supports a view according to which the Greek by-phrase is projected in the same manner as the external argument in the active. In fact, the by-phrase of Greek passives can also bind a reflexive. We have shown that this binding fact can be accounted for by externally merging the by-phrase in both English and Greek into Spec vP, which is the position of external arguments. From Spec vP, the by-phrase c-commands and binds non-exempt reflexive pronouns contained in the VP. As we have shown, the binding possibilities with adjunct PPs are completely different, therefore showing that by-phrases are not adjunct PPs (contrary to Bruening 2013, Legate 2014 and Alexiadou et. al. 2015).
Our results have a number of consequences for recent analyses of the Greek and English passive and beyond. First, our analysis argues against recent analyses of Bruening (2013), Legate (2014) and Alexiadou et al. (2015) which claim that the passive by-phrase is an adjunct. The data and discussion in this paper also argue against the hypothesis that external arguments are externally merged in Spec VoiceP (contraKratzer 1996) or that non-active voice morphology in Greek is the spell-out of a Voice head lacking a specifier (paceEmbick 1998). Furthermore, the paper discussed extensively why the claims that the Greek and English passive are formed differently are not supported by the actual distribution of Greek by-phrases. Lastly, the paper showed that the external argument position must always be projected in the passive. We proposed that this follows from principles such as Chomsky’s (1981, 1986) Theta Criterion.
1Glosses are own and the morphological decomposition is undertaken to the degree that is relevant for the purposes of the paper.
2Vaftike ‘was painted’ does not exhibit the anticausative alternation in this particular syntactic context.
3We tentatively propose that the non-active form of the verbs such as stegnothikan in (19a) is blocked from licensing a causer PP by the less complex – as morphology suggests – anticausative active variant, stegnosan ‘were dried’ in (19b), via competition. Thus, note that in addition to the inflectional suffix -e, the non-active stegno-thik-e ‘dry-NACT.PAST-3SG’ comprises a distinct morpheme, thik, which marks non-active morphology. On the other hand, its active variant, stegno-s-e ‘dry-ASP-3SG’ lacks a suffix marking the voice specification of the verb. This morphological difference may correlate with a difference in the underlying syntax, where anticausatives win the competition as a result of the fact that they are structurally ‘simpler’, in the sense that they involve less structure and possibly fewer syntactic operations. On the other hand, the non-active form can license agent PPs (cf. 19a), that is, apo tin komotria ‘from the hairdresser’, as there is no competition with some other variant of the same verb.
4(27) and (28) were found at:
5The contrasts reported in this section reflect the judgments of the first and third author, the judgments of five participants at the Syntax Reading Group held at the University of Patras in September 2018 and six additional native speakers, non-linguists. The contrasts also accord with the intuitions of an anonymous reviewer, native speaker of Greek.
6An anonymous reviewer, native speaker of English, agrees with the contrasts presented here. See also Roberts (2019: (26)) for similar data from English. (33–34) and similar data have also been confirmed with a group of ten graduate students who attended Chris Collins’s 2018 NYU seminar on the passive.
7In an informal survey with a few native speakers we found that examples with inanimate antecedent DPs are acceptable in Greek as well:
8The antecedents in (44) and (47) may count as animates, for relevant discussion see Collins, Postal and Moody (2008: 44, (83b)).
9(39–47) were found at the following sources on the internet:
10The claim that binding is only possible from A-positions has been central in the analysis of various syntactic phenomena in different languages, such as scrambling in the Germanic languages or Hindi, Clitic Doubling and Clitic Left Dislocation in Greek and the Romance languages. These phenomena have long been argued, in light of binding facts, to involve one movement step to an A-position (cf. Angelopoulos 2019b, Angelopoulos & Sportiche to appear and references therein).
11This analysis raises the question of why by-phrases are not found more widely. For example, why doesn’t the by-phrase appear in the object position? We do not take up this issue here. For discussion, see Collins 2005; Angelopoulos 2019 and Roberts 2019: 430–431 among others.
12Pesetsky (1995) discusses a few cases where it looks like a DP hosted in an adjunct PP can bind a reflexive:
|(i)||Pesetsky (1995: 172)|
|John spoke to Mary about these people in each other’s houses on Tuesday.|
Note, however, that in his example the antecedent of the reflexive is an animate DP. Given this, it is not clear whether the reflexive is licensed in such cases as a logophor or as a true reflexive. See also discussion in Bruening (2014: 349), which defends the idea that the reflexives in Pesetsky’s examples feature logophors.
13An anonymous reviewer asks why functional Ps (and their DP complements) behave differently from the lexical ones with respect to binding and pronominal agreement. Before addressing this question, we would like to note that this behavior is exhibited by the functional Ps of different languages. For instance, the functional preposition à of French and its DP complement have been argued to exhibit similar behavior with respect to binding and pronominal agreement, prompting an analysis of the P in question as a case marker (cf. Vergnaud 1974 and Angelopoulos & Sportiche to appear). Under this analysis, PPs composed of functional Ps can bind a reflexive and their surface DP complement functions as a source of pronominal agreement because, as case markers, functional Ps constitute part of the extended nominal projection of the DP they introduce (see also Caha 2009: 154–155 for evidence from Czech that the external argument comprises various KP layers, e.g. dative or instrumental, in the passive). Under this view, by could be taken to realize one of the KP layers rather than a P assigning lexical case, dative or instrumental, to its DP complement, paceAlexiadou et al. 2017). Similarly, Roberts (2019: 433) notes that “If we treat the by-phrase as a KP, with by occupying K, and KP as an argument bearing relevant FFs (e.g. φ-features necessary for agreement under binding, but also Neg and Q features for variable-binding and NPI-licensing), then there is no problem with c-command here.” Lastly, s(e), in examples where it precedes the direct object as in (54), is also analyzed as case marker in Michelioudakis (2012) on the basis of the fact that it can bind into another argument when in this particular surface order.
We believe it is not accidental that only functional Ps may function as case markers. It possibly correlates, in ways that need to be made precise, with the fact that they are not as structurally rich as lexical Ps (cf. Terzi 2017 for discussion of the latter). Another alternative to the binding facts we present is that functional Ps are merged on the spine with their surface complements merging in specifiers, as in Collins (2005) and Angelopoulos (2019a). This way, the DP surface complement of the functional P can bind the reflexive from the specifier position. If that is correct, one could think that lexical Ps cannot bind a reflexive because they are merged as constituents with their DP complement.
14The issue arising with experiencer, goal or recipient PPs is mentioned in Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou (2009: fn.6). Nonetheless, no actual explanation is provided for how these non-agentive PPs are compatible with the agentive features of Voice.
15See also Manzini et al. (2016: 111) for an account of the morpho-syntax of the Greek passive where “no hidden features/abstract heads encoding interpretation are postulated, nor any Distributed Morphology-style realizational component.”
16The fact that the intuitions/ assumptions of Alexiadou et al. (2015) are not well understood is acknowledged by the authors themselves as shown in the following extracts:
Alexiadou et al. (2015: 132)
“there is a strong intuition in Greek that the verb spao ‘break’ cannot combine with Voice for morpho-phonological reasons, i.e. the form spas-tik-e is outright ungrammatical, and yet the same form is licit as an idiom. Similarly, while there seems to be a broader semantic generalization preventing change-of-state verbs from passivizing, there is a sense in which the difficulty in forming the passive specifically with verbs in -eno (pach-eno ‘fatten’, fard-eno ‘widen’, lept-eno ‘become thin’) lies in morpho-phonology. Finally, there is the puzzling fact that some verbs like “destroy” (katastrefo) are allowed to form both anticausatives with expletive Voice and passives with Middle Voice while others like ‘burn’ (keo) and ‘tear’ (skizo) are only allowed to form anticausatives with expletive Voice. More research into this is needed, but, for present purposes, we take restrictions (i)–(iii) to constitute sufficient evidence that the Greek passive is mediated through Voice and not a higher head.”
“[…] Moreover, since Greek lacks a designated Passive head, we expect the by-phrases that appear with Middle Voice not to be fully equivalent to their English and German counterparts: in English and German Pass embeds Voice, and thus by-phrases will realize exactly the same type of external arguments that Voice introduces; see also our discussion towards the end of this section. In Greek, which only has Middle Voice, this is severely restricted for reasons that await further research.”
17What is noteworthy about (64) is that the DP following the by-phrase receives a focus interpretation via the intensifier ton idhjo ‘the same’.
18We would like to add that if it were the case, as Alexiadou et al. (2015: 132) assume, that the “reduced agentivity” effect seen with the Greek by-phrases arises as a result of the fact that Greek forms the passive as in (56), then the by-phrases of English or German, which in this work realize the distinct syntactic structure in (57), should be formed freely with proper names or any other kind of DP. Interestingly, as an anonymous reviewer points out, impersonal passives of German show the “reduced agentivity” effects we see with the Greek by-phrases (cf. Roberts 1987, 2019):
(i) shows that, as is the case with some by-phrases in Greek, the by-phrase of the German impersonal passives cannot be formed with definite DPs or proper names whereas pronouns are degraded. On other hand, universal quantifiers or numerals can occur in the by-phrase. The fact that the German by-phrases of impersonal passives exhibit the “reduced agentivity” effects seen with Greek by-phrases could be taken to suggest that these effects have nothing to do with the assumption that the passive of German/ English vs. Greek is formed in different ways. It is interesting that the by-phrase with the proper name in (i) becomes better with focus (Florian Schäfer and Marcel Pitt, p.c.). In Greek, the effects of focus or emphatic interpretation can be seen in (64) where the by-phrase comprising the emphatic pronoun o idhjos is improved. Lastly, it is worth noting that the by-phrases of German do not exhibit the behavior illustrated in (i) in the personal passive. Why this is so merits further research which is beyond the scope of the current paper. We acknowledge that the parallelism we draw here between impersonal and personal passives of German and the passive of Greek might be premature, as there are presumably a number of additional considerations that need to be taken into account. Yet, the similar effects of focusing the DP of the by-phrase should be noted.
19More recently, Alexiadou (2019) proposes that the non-active morphology of (at least) some deponent verbs is conditioned by the presence of certain prefixes that look like prepositions. Concretely, Alexiadou (2019: 12) discusses the following cases where the prefixes “[…] are also found in several of the transitive deponents in the other verb classes, e.g. apo ‘from’, pros ‘towards’, meta ‘with’, ek ‘from’, kata ‘against’, ipo ‘under’, etc.”
The prefixes are merged low in the syntactic structure of deponent verbs as prepositions heading a PP projection that lacks a specifier. These prepositions introduce the nominative argument, an experiencer in her view. In a nutshell, the idea that Alexiadou pursues is that just like the Voice head of the Greek passive, the absence of a specifier in the PP gives rise to non-active morphology of deponent verbs.
We are skeptical of the idea that these prefixes are responsible for the non-active morphology of deponent verbs because the same prefixes are used in the formation of verbs with active morphology, as the following examples demonstrate:
One could of course assume that the prefixes in (ii) do not trigger non-active morphology because in these particular cases they are merged as prepositions with a specifier. However, even if that were true, it would be unclear what these specifiers host and why deponent verbs can only combine with prepositions that lack a specifier.
20Citing the data in (33) and (34), from a previous version of this paper, Karlík (2020) shows that the passive by-phrases of Czech can also bind into another argument.
The following glosses are used in this paper: S = singular; PL = plural; 1 = First person; 2 = Second person; 3 = Third person; NOM = Nominative; ACC = Accusative; GEN = Genitive; DAT = Dative; PRES = present; CL = clitic; PTPL = participle. An example marked with ‘*’ means that the example is unacceptable for grammatical reasons.
While working on this paper, the first author was supported by the Central European Leuven Strategic Alliance (CELSA) grant “Towards a typology of clausal prolepsis”. The paper has benefited from discussion with Christos Christopoulos, Mina Giannoula, Hilda Koopman, Anoop Mahajan, Maria Margarita Makri, Jason Merchant, Dimitris Michelioudakis, Anna Roussou, Jeroen van Craenenbroeck, Christos Vlachos, Dominique Sportiche, Tim Stowell and the participants of the reading Groups at the University of Patras and KU Leuven, who we would like to thank. Lastly, we would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments.
The authors have no competing interests to declare.
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