Widmaier Verlag Hamburg

StudMon volume


The study concerns passive voice in Earlier Egyptian (Old and Middle Egyptian combined), providing a text-based description of the relevant forms and constructions, and of their functions in discourse. It is argued that the passive is not merely a symmetrical pendant to the active, but a complex domain of its own, morphologically, semantically, and in terms of its discourse functions. This is manifest for example in the morphological types of inflectional passives, the productivity of subjectless passive constructions of various sorts, or the interaction of the passive with stative/resultative voice. Passive voice further interacts with aspect: in the unaccomplished, the passive has fewer forms than the active, while in the accomplished a reverse situation is observed. The two inflectional passives in the accomplished—the perfective V-passive (the ‘[TL: encoding=lingaeg]sDm(w)=f[:TL]’) and the T-passive of the [TL: encoding=lingaeg]sDm.n=f[:TL] (the [TL: encoding=lingaeg]sDm.n.t=f[:TL])—are thus shown to contrast with one another in principled semantic, not syntactic, ways. Major changes affecting passive voice during the history of Earlier Egyptian are discussed: the loss of the prospective V-passive, the spread of T-passives over the perfective V-passive in various environments, and the rise of an ‘impersonal’ subject pronoun [TL: encoding=lingaeg].tw[:TL] out of an inflectional passive marker. The last, a rare change and an instance of de-grammaticalization, is analyzed in details in terms of the processes involved and of the particular intra-linguistic situation that made it possible. Broadening the perspective, relevant elements of the Semitic background are evoked.

Content overview


Part I: Passive morphology and the passive construction

  • 1 Passive morphology
    • 1.1 T-passives
    • 1.2 V-passives
    • 1.3 Passives associated with partial reduplication: [TL:]cDmm=f[:TL] and [TL:]Ddd[:TL]
    • 1.4 Non-finite and originally non-finite passive formations
  • 2 The Earlier Egyptian passive construction
    • 2.1 The semantic condition for passivization in Earlier Egyptian
    • 2.2 The Agent-expressing phrase
    • 2.3 Semantically oriented constructions: PO PsP and NPO r sDm
    • 2.4 Interim summary
    • 2.5 Functions of the passive
    • 2.6 The passive in interaction with transitivity alternations
    • 2.7 Earlier Egyptian active impersonal constructions
    • 2.8 The [TL:]smn sw[:TL]O construction: Passive participles in a non-verbal construction
    • 2.9 Part I, opening up: Earlier Egyptian and early Semitic detransitive morphology in contrast

Part II: Voice, aspect, and perspective

  • 3 The passive in the unaccomplished and in the future
    • 3.1 Passive subjects in the unaccomplished
    • 3.2 Active-passive counterpart relationships in the unaccomplished
    • 3.3 Expressions of the passive in the future
  • 4 The passive in the accomplished
    • 4.1 The complementary distribution PO PsP ~ V-pass non-P
    • 4.2 V- and T-passives in the accomplished ‘emphatic’ construction
    • 4.3 Two inflectional passives in the accomplished
    • 4.4 Setting the analysis into a broader context
    • 4.5 Part II, opening up: Passive voice as an autonomous linguistic domain

Part III: The loss of inflectional passives

  • 5 The rise of an impersonal subject pronoun [TL:].tw[:TL] out of the inflectional marker of voice {T}
    • 5.1 Describing the change in the record
    • 5.2 A rare instance of degrammaticalization
    • 5.3 Analyzing the change in its intralinguistic context
    • 5.4 Part III, opening up: A sketch of the longer Earlier Egyptian durée


  • Texts
  • References
  • Index locorum


Chris H. Reintges, in: Lingua Aegyptia 23 (2015), 289-316