Agent Demotion in German and Polish

  • Jochen Matthies


This paper provides a contrastive account of agent demotion in German and Polish. While agent demotion is a relatively broad term that is often used including mere backgrounding, the focus is on lexical and morphosyntactic means that allow for agents to be omitted entirely, such as different forms of the passive voice, reflexive constructions, generic pronouns or unaccusative verbs with impersonal subjects (among others). It is argued that passive constructions consisting of an auxiliary and a participle seem to exhibit much higher frequencies in German, while Polish commonly uses subjectless constructions such as agentless reflexives, certain modal elements or the -no/-to-construction. This confirms the more central position of German within the SAE Sprachbund and accounts for transfer phenomena that may arise when speakers of either language become learners of the other.

Matthies, J. (2022). Agent Demotion in German and Polish. Linguistik Online, 115(3), 91–118.