Passive voice: not what he used to be

As a follow-up to this post, I thought I should point out that Mark Liberman at Language Log officially declared today the end of the passive voice as we know it:

[D]espite this long history, I’m afraid that the traditional sense of passive voice has died after a long illness […] Its ghost walks in the linguistics literature and in the usage of a few exceptionally old-fashioned intellectuals. For everyone else, what passive voice now means is “construction that is vague as to agency”.

And in case you were wondering, yes, the folks at Language Log have the authority to do that.


2 responses to “Passive voice: not what he used to be

  1. He did nothing like declare the end of passive voice. He noted that the way linguists and other scholars of language have used the term passive voice for centuries is no longer in keeping with popular usage because popular usage has changed it from a grammatical term to one denoting any expression that allows the writer to dilute an actor’s responsibility for the action described.

  2. mackereleconomics

    Yes, that would be the “as we know it” part. Thanks for your input, Paul.

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