Exploring spontaneous-event marking though parallel corpora: Translating English ergative intransitive constructions into Norwegian and Swedish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


English ergative verbs in one-participant constructions such as ‘The door opens’ often correspond to reflexive verbs or -S forms in Norwegian and Swedish. Following Kemmer (1993) such constructions profile spontaneous event meaning and belong to the middle domain. This study uses corpus methodology to explore spontaneous-event marking in Norwegian and Swedish from the point of view of Kemmer’s suggested two-cycle development path for middle marking in the Scandinavian languages. The results suggest that there are differences in the middle systems in the Scandinavian languages to the effect that Norwegian has completed Kemmer’s two cycles, whereas Swedish has not. Further, there is tentative indication that ergative verbs are on the increase in both Norwegian and Swedish for certain Subjects and in discipline-specific contexts, possibly due to influence from English.


External organisations
  • Chalmers University of Technology
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • contrastive linguistics, corpus-based approach, ergative alteration, ergative verbs, parallel corpora, spontaneous-event marking, the middle voice, English/Norwegian/Swedish
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-250
JournalLanguages in Contrast
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch