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Gothic Passive: the old, the odd and the data

13 December 2018
Comparative Indo-European Linguistics (CIEL) Seminars
Reuvensplaats 3-4
2311 BE Leiden


The Gothic mediopassive is routinely contrasted with the periphrastic forms, and those are contrasted with each other, and some of the terms used are ‘stative vs terminative’, ‘attained-state vs entailed-state resultative’ or ‘durative vs punctual’. However, the Gothic Passive is a fascinating and rather complex net that consists of several nodes; in its center are the mediopassive and the four periphrastic forms, while the reflexive and the -nan verbs are always close nearby.
In the talk, I will try to provide an overview of the Gothic passive as I have come to see it through statistics as well as specific usage. Much of this specific usage stems from the fact that almost all Gothic we have is a translation, and as such has a distinct source that was analyzed and rendered by the mind of a translator who had never studied Translation Theory and was led, as many ‘naïve’ translators are, by good intentions, gut feeling and the syntax of the original.
Hopefully, I will convincingly show that this complex net was not necessarily a set of dichotomies, nor a zero-sum game where functions of one form could be simply overtaken by another, but rather a stand-off, fixed in time, with overlapping semantics and functions – and an unpredictable outcome.

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