Impersonal Constructions (Passive and Active) - IE Languages

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by LilianaB, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    I am really interested in the subject of impersonal constructions in various IE languages. Which constructions in the language you want to discuss, if there are any, are considered impersonal. Please also provide English translations of your examples. I am particularly interested in one construction at the present time -- in Polish: Marzy mi się samochód, (I am dreaming about a car [It is dreaming to me that I have a car -- if transformed] marzy mi się żeby pojechać na wakacje [It is dreaming to me that I go on vacation]. Would you consider it an impersonal construction or a semi-impersonal construction, perhaps? I would personally classify this type of constructions as internal agentless impersonals, where the subject is usually an experiencer.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2013
  2. Roy776

    Roy776 Senior Member

    Kraków, Poland
    German & AmE
    I'm not sure if I would call it completely impersonal. Think about the verbs 'lubić' and 'podobać'. Both can have similar meanings, but subject and object switch places in both. But still, the personal meaning is retained.

    Mnie się podoba ta piosenka.

    In case of lubić and podobać, I'd say that 'lubić' also implies some emotional attachment, while 'podobać' doesn't. This can't actually be said about 'marzyć' and 'marzyć się'. But if you ask me, 'marzyć się' seems to put slightly more emphasis on the car than 'marzyć' does. But as I'm not a native speaker, I might be wrong about the emphasis.

    Unfortunately, I can't come up with any such constructions in German right now, apart from the same distinction that 'lubić' and 'podobać' pose (German: 'mögen' and 'gefallen').
  3. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Hi, Roy. I think some linguists call such constructions also quasi-personal. "Lubię tą piosenkę" -- is a personal construction in Polish, I think. Podoba mi się, on the other hand is an impersonal construction. (Dative construction). Something appears attractive to me (Dative). I think "marzy mi się" and "podoba mi się" are similar. The objects just assume some reality of thier own and appear to the experiencer as something to wish for or to find attractive.
  4. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Another name is "middle voice". The Romance languages have similar constructs, ordinarily called "reflexive". Dreaming is not reflexive in Portuguese, but remembering (lembrar) and forgetting (esquecer) can be reflexive. Examples:

    Pergunto-me onde deixei o carro I wonder where I left the car, lit. "I ask myself where I left the car".
    de onde estacionei o carro
    I remember where I parked the car, lit. "I remember/remind myself of where I parked the car".
    Esqueci-me das chaves do carro, I forgot the car keys, lit. "I forgot myself of the keys of the car".
    O parque de estacionamento é tão grande que se esquece onde se deixou o carro, "The parking lot is so big that you forget where you left your car", or more literally "The parking lot is so big that one forgets where one left one's car". This would be impersonal.
    Vendem-se casas, houses for sale, lit. "houses are sold". A passive construct where "houses" is the subject, and the (unspecified) agent is implied.

    Wikipedia has a more modern classification, and further examples.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013

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