The interaction between passive constructions and lexical verb constructions in Swedish

  • Nina Martola

Abstract

In this study I approach the question of passive choice in Swedish from a lexical perspective. Swedish has two types of passive, a morphological passive formed with the ending -s and a periphrastic passive formed with an auxiliary and the past participle of the verb. The latter passive has two variants, the bli-passive and the vara-passive with different auxiliaries (bli ‘become’, vara ‘be’). The s-passive is the unmarked passive, whereas the periphrastic passive is subject to restrictions of use. The overall reasons for the choice between the two passives is well known, but a great deal of variation can be detected behind the neat general patterns. Searches in a corpus of about 40 million words reveal that only a few verbs are frequently used in more than one passive type, but even so, there are such verbs. Factors turning up behind the alternation – additional to verb meaning and type of subject – are text type, genre, semantic frame, and the dimension known–unknown for the subject. Moreover, many collocational patterns appear, and to some extent, no clear reason for a choice can be found. On the basis of these variable patterns I discuss the problems of describing constructions. What factors belong to which level of generality of the description? Is the text type or frame, for instance, a general factor or is it verb specific? Do statistical data need to be accounted for? In my study I present more questions than I have answers for. For me, with a background in lexicography, Construction Grammar is an appealing theory since it takes meaning into account; but the ambition to describe “everything” through the same formality and to include all phenomena between syntax and lexicon is a challenge.

Published
2022-04-14