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Middles in Slovene


By: Sabina Grahek

In the current Slovene literature, sentences with the morpheme se which have an understood human generic or indefinite argument in their interpretation are treated as passives if they display a nominative (e.g. Šola se obnavlja ‘The school.NOM is being renovated’) or as impersonal actives if they have no syntactic or morphological nominative – either intransitive (e.g. Živi se samo enkrat ‘You only live once’) or transitive with an overt object (e.g. Šolo se obnavlja ‘The school.ACC is being renovated’). This paper proposes a reanalysis of the above Slovene sentences as middles, i.e. a class of sentences which lie between the active and the passive because they display the active verb and have a demoted human argument.

I show that Slovene personal middles (with a nominative) are not passives because they differ from (periphrastic) passives not only morphosyntactically but also in the interpretation of their understood argument, which must always be human. In addition, I demonstrate that impersonal middles (without a nominative) are not actives because they involve the demotion of a subject role. I argue that Slovene personal and impersonal middles form a single class of middles, sharing unique semantic and syntactic properties which set them apart from passives on the one hand and from actives on the other. On my analysis, both personal and impersonal middles contain the same type of se which reduces the human subject role during their derivation.

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