English Text Construction vol:1 issue:2 pages:169-197
In this article we investigate whether verbs of perception, affection, cognition and verbalization can be construed in the English middle voice against (at least partial) claims to the contrary such as Fellbaum (1986), Keyser and Roeper (1984), Quirk et al. (1985). We view the middle as a modal statement about the conduciveness of the subject entity to action on or with it by the implied agent in the way specified by the predication (Heyvaert 2003, Davidse and Heyvaert 2007). Examples with mental and verbal predicates that correspond to this definition were found in data extracted from the COBUILD corpus as well as from the Internet.
We then propose that, on the basis of Halliday’s (1994) description of process types and their participant roles, mental and verbal middles can be classified into five subtypes, containing respectively: 1) verbal predicates, e.g. The stories narrate easily, 2) please-type mental predicates, e.g. You astonish easily, 3) like-type mental predicates, e.g. Two-line display sees easily, 4) perception predicates used in attributive mode, e.g. That cheese smells nice, and 5) verbal predicates used in identifying mode, e.g. Xitaqua pronounces chi-ta-qua. We also investigate to what extent these subtypes instantiate the characteristics of core middles, viz. letting modality, conducive subject and specification by the predication of the way the process is carried out.