Studies in honor of Eddo Rigotti
Edited By Giovanni Gobber and Andrea Rocci
Guido Michelini: About the functions of the passive
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About the functions of the passive
GUIDO MICHELINI, University of Parma
During the year 1979, when I was a scholarship holder at the Catholic University of Milan, I began a research about the textual functions of the passive in the old Indo-European languages by developing some ideas suggested to me by Eddo Rigotti, who at the time taught general linguistics there. This research resulted in the book Linguistica testuale e indoeuropeo: il passivo ‘Text linguistics and Indo-European: the passive’ (Michelini 1981) – published by the Linguistic Centre of the Catholic University –, which I will take as a starting point for this paper.
The main assumption of the book is that “in principle the passive construction can be considered as a simple “strategy”, which is alternative to the active construction and lets (or can let) the speaker codify in a different way the same meaning of the underlying semantic representation at the surface level” (Michelini 1981: 31). The semantic elements which are considered pivotal for the analysis of the passive are the “deep cases” and the functional sentence perspective of the Prague linguistic school (Michelini 1981: 17–22), whilst subject, object and agent concern the level of the syntactic structure, intermediate between meaning and surface structure according to the principles of Mel’čuk’s Meaning-Text Model, and do not play a specific semantic role: “the subject is the constituent that builds the nucleus of the sentence together with the verb” (Michelini 1981: 24). The...
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