Autonomous & the Passive
Progressive in 20th-Century Irish
Studia Celtica Upsaliensia No. 5

By Karen Hansson
August 2004
Uppsala University Press
ISBN: 9155458998
175 pages, 6 " x 9 "
$47.50 Paper Original

This Ph.D. thesis is a corpus-based investigation of the use of the two Irish verb constructions the autonomous and the passive progressive. The corpus consists of eleven 20th-Century texts from the three main dialects of Irish. From this corpus, 2,956 instances of the autonomous and 467 instances of the passive progressive were extracted and included in the analysis.

The investigation focuses on the textual functions of the autonomous and the passive progressive. The features surveyed include verb and clause type, text function in relation to the eventline, and personal perspective. Patients and agents are studied in regard to their topicality (centrality) in the text. The variables explored are, for example, given vs. new referent, continuity, and co-reference with active subject. Differences between the three dialects are also considered.

The main conclusion to be drawn from this study is that the autonomous and the passive progressive have different functions in the text in several respects. Most prominently, the autonomous tends to be used when the patient is topical, or central in the text, while the passive progressive, on the other hand, is used mainly with an overt agent that is more topical than the patient. In agent-less passive progressives, patients and implicit agents are equally low in topicality.

Further, the autonomous occurs in main clauses and is used to denote actions as part of an eventline considerably more frequently than the passive progressive. By applying a corpus-linguistic methodology on a comparatively large material this study provides empirical evidence of the many functional differences in use between the autonomous and the passive progressive.

Language Studies

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