Reflexive permissives and the middle voice

Axel Holvoet

The article deals with the ‘permissive middle’, a permissive construction characterized by the coincidence of the permittor and the embedded clause patient (as in They allowed themselves to be cheated) and belonging to the middle voice in the sense that its formal markers, though originating as reflexive pronouns, have lost their original reflexive function. Such permissive middles can be clearly set apart from permissive reflexives in those languages which have a formal differentiation of reflexive pronouns proper and originally reflexive markers that have shifted to middle or mediopassive function. The data of the Baltic languages are used in the article to illustrate the formal properties of permissive middles (a characteristic feature is the oscillation between reflexive marking on the matrix verb and on the embedded verb) and the tendencies in their development. Permissive middles are also shown to be attested outside Baltic, e.g. in East Slavonic. The second part of the article is devoted to a discussion of the place of the permissive middle on the semantic map of the middle voice, and in particular to its relationship to the ‘curative’ middle (the ‘causative-reflexive’).

Keywords: reflexives, middle voice, permissives