The antipassive voice (abbreviated ANTIP or AP) is a type of grammatical voice that either does not include the object or includes the object in an oblique case. This construction is similar to the passive voice, in that it decreases the verb's valency by one - the passive by deleting the subject (and "promoting" the accusative object to a nominative subject), the antipassive by deleting the object (and "promoting" the ergative agent to an absolutive subject). Some languages that commonly feature the antipassive voice are Australian Aboriginal or Native American languages.
The antipassive voice is found in ergative languages where the deletion of an object changes the subject from ergative case to absolutive, and also in certain accusative languages that have verbal agreement with both subject and object and where the antipassive is usually formed simply by deletion of the object affix. Examples of accusative languages with this type of antipassive are Maasai, Comanche and Cahuilla. A number of direct–inverse languages also have the antipassive voice.
The antipassive voice is very rare in active–stative languages generally and in nominative–accusative languages that have only one-place or no verbal agreement. There are a very few exceptions to this rule, such as Krongo and the Songhay language Koyraboro Senni language, both of which rely on dedicated antipassive markers that are rare in the more typical type of language with an antipassive.
- "Mary-ERG eats pie-ABS." → "Mary-ABS eats."
- "He-ERG is speaking the truth-ABS." → "He-ABS is speaking."
As with passive voice, the deleted argument can be re-introduced as an optional complement or oblique argument.
- "Mary-ERG eats pie-ABS." → "Mary-ABS eats from the pie."
The purpose of antipassive construction is often to make certain arguments available as pivots for relativization, coordination of sentences or similar constructions. For example in Dyirbal the omitted argument in conjoined sentences must be in absolutive case. Thus, the following sentence is ungrammatical:
- *baji jaɽa bani-ɲu balan ɟuɡumbil buɽa-n
- M-ABS man-ABS come-NFUT F-ABS woman-ABS see-NFUT
- 'The man came and saw the woman'
In the conjoined sentence the omitted argument (the man) would have to be in ergative case, being the agent of a transitive verb (to see). This is not allowed in Dyirbal. In order to make this sentence grammatical, the antipassive, which promotes the original ergative to absolutive - and puts the former absolutive (the woman) into dative case -, has to be used:
- baji jaɽa bani-ɲu baɡun ɟuɡumbil-ɡu buɽal-ŋa-ɲu
- M-ABS man-ABS come-NFUT F-DAT woman-DAT see-APASS-NFUT
- 'The man came and saw the woman'
Examples from Basque
Basque has an antipassive voice, which puts the agent into the absolutive case, but does not delete the absolutive object. This leads to the agent and object being in the same case.
- Gauza miragarriak ikusi ditut (nik)
- thing wonderful-PL-ABS see-PERF have-PRES-PL-I (I-ERG)
- I have seen wonderful things.
when transformed using the antipassive voice, becomes:
- Gauza miragarriak ikusirik nago / ikusia naiz
- thing wonderful-PL-ABS see-PERF-STAT am / see-PERF-ACT am
- *I am seen wonderful things
- What is Antipassive Voice? at SIL
- Antipassive voice bibliography at Ethnologue
- "Asymmetries between Passivization and Antipassivization in the Tarramiutut Subdialect of Inuktitut" by Matthew Beach (MS-Word file)