A comparison of the function of voice in biblical Hebrew, Chinese, and English

John Myhill, Zhiqun Xing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper gives a systematic comparison of the functions of voice alternations in three genetically unrelated languages. Biblical Hebrew, Chinese, and English, based upon both data originally written in each of these languages and translated data. It is shown that passive or 'passive-like' function can be divided into a number of discrete functional types, each of which is associated with a certain combination of translation equivalents in the three languages, and each of which can be given a functional profile in terms of factors such as the tense and semantics of the verb and the topicality and humanness of the Agent and the Patient. Such a typology of functions, when applied to more languages, would make it possible to characterize the function of a passive or 'passive-like' construction both objectively and simply, by specifying which of these functional types the construction is used for.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-283
Number of pages31
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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