The middle verb

So there may be a few inherent ones.

Yesterday I said that I couldn’t think of any verbs that I myself might use in the middle voice. From what I’ve found (see this thread on, there are some verbs which I would use in the middle voice. Obviously, these form a subset of all of them, with speakers of American English using others in this way, even although I wouldn’t myself.

The question about this latter group is whether the middle use of raise or delete is inherent or derived. That is, whether the middle of these verbs is formed by zero derivation, or whether this particular function is lexically listed. I think I’d say that my grammar limits me to middle verbs which have this function as part of their specification. I can’t simply take any old transitive verb and make it middle using zero derivation.

03.08.14. Is the spread of the middle in American English due to one or more of the following?

  1. It’s a consequence of the Americans’ fear of the passive voice.
  2. It’s a consequence of the pernicious effects of Microsoft Word English on linguistically ignorant users. (And there would seem to be some sort of link with the first reason.)
  3. It’s been influenced by Spanish. (I assume that like other Romance languages, the passive is less frequent than reflexive forms essentially performing the same function.)
  4. It’s a consequence of English being acquired by a large body of non-native speakers (i.e., immigrants). (I suspect the historical evidence is against me.)
  5. It’s a consequence of the independent development of the language, being an innovation rather than the spread of an archaism. (I know everyone thinks American English is less formal than English, and somehow more cutting edge. I disagree. I think that it’s a linguistic museum. Certainly, it’s not the pinnacle of the development of the English language as [American] books about the history of the English language typically imply. Yes, I know I’m being peevish, but I’m fed up with seeing American all over the Internet, and ever having the feeling that Britain trots along behind like some mentally retarded poodle.)

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