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. The antipassive voice is found in some Mayan, Salishan, Northeast Caucasian, Austronesian, and Australian languages as well as in Basque. One Amazonian language, Cavineña, also has an antipassive.:xxvii
The antipassive voice is found in ergative languages where the deletion of an object "promotes" the subject from ergative case to absolutive case. In certain accusative languages that have verbal agreement with both subject and object, the antipassive is usually formed 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, both of which rely on dedicated antipassive markers that are rare in the more typical type of language with an antipassive.
The following is an example of the antipassive voice:
- "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 reintroduced 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-ANTIP-NFUT
- 'The man came and saw the woman'
The term antipassive is applied to a wide range of grammatical structures and is therefore difficult to define. R. M. W. Dixon has nonetheless proposed four criteria for determining whether a construction is an antipassive::146
- It applies to clauses containing traditionally transitive predicates and forms a derived intransitive.
- The Agent takes the Subject role.
- The Object takes a peripheral role in the clause, getting marked by a non-core case/preposition/etc. This can be omitted, but there's always the option of including it.
- There is some explicit marking of the construction.
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-1P (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
- Antipassive constructions Accessed 24 April 2014
- Dixon, R.M.W. & Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald (eds) (1990). The Amazonian Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Nichols, Johanna; Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time; pp. 154-158. ISBN 0-226-58057-1
- WALS - Krongo
- WALS - Koyraboro Senni
- Dixon, R.M.W. (1994). Ergativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Jacques, Guillaume (2014). "Denominal affixes as sources of antipassive markers in Japhug Rgyalrong". Lingua. 138: 1–22. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2013.09.011.
- 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)
- Cooreman, Ann. 1994. A functional typology of antipassives. In Barbara A. Fox & Paul J. Hopper (eds.), Voice: form and function, 49–88. Amsterdam: Benjamins.