In this chapter we shall examine the characteristic properties of a construction wide-spread in the world’s languages, the passive. In section 1 below we discuss defining characteristics of passives, contrasting them with other foregrounding and backgrounding constructions. In section 2 we present the common syntactic and semantic properties of the most wide-spread types of passives, and in section 3 we consider passives which differ in one or more ways from these. In section 4, we survey a variety of constructions that resemble passive constructions in one way or another. In section 5, we briefly consider differences between languages with regard to the roles passives play in their grammars. Specifically, we show that passives are a more essential part of the grammars of some languages than of others.
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