Voice syncretism

Nicklas N. Bahrt  


This book provides a comprehensive typological account of voice syncretism, focusing on resemblance in formal verbal marking between two or more of the following seven voices: passives, antipassives, reflexives, reciprocals, anticausatives, causatives, and applicatives. It covers voice syncretism from both synchronic and diachronic perspectives, and has been structured in a manner that facilitates convenient access to information about specific patterns of voice syncretism, their distribution and development. The book is based on a survey of voice syncretism in 222 geographically and genealogically diverse languages, but also thoroughly revisits previous research on the phenomenon. Voice syncretism is approached systematically by establishing and exploring patterns of voice syncretism that can logically be posited for the seven voices of focus in the book: 21 simplex patterns when one considers two of the seven voices sharing the same marking (e.g. reflexive-reciprocal syncretism), and 99 complex patterns when one considers more than two of the voices sharing the same marking (e.g. reflexive-reciprocal-anticausative syncretism). In a similar vein, 42 paths of development can logically be posited if it is assumed that voice marking in each of the seven voices can potentially develop one of the other six voice functions (e.g. reflexive voice marking developing a reciprocal function). This approach enables the discussion of both voice syncretism that has received considerable attention in the literature (notably middle syncretism involving the reflexive, reciprocal, anticausative and/or passive voices) and voice syncretism that has received little or no treatment in the past (including seemingly contradictory patterns such as causative-anticausative and passive-antipassive syncretism). In the survey almost all simplex patterns are attested in addition to seventeen complex patterns. In terms of diachrony, evidence is presented and discussed for twenty paths of development. The book strives to highlight the variation found in voice syncretism across the world’s languages and encourage further research into the phenomenon.


  • Review on LinguistList by Valeria Generalova published January 31, 2022
    ... The book under review offers a novel view of grammatical voice, which makes this volume interesting for everyone interested in voice, diathesis, verbal alternations and marking of verbal categories. The definitions suggested in Chapter 2 can be implemented in any theoretical framework. The language data is presented from the perspective of voice syncretism, making the book under review a valuable source not only for typologists but also for specialists in individual languages. ...


Author Biography

Nicklas N. Bahrt

Nicklas N. Bahrt holds a doctoral degree in general linguistics from the University of Helsinki. His research interests include typology, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics as well as language contact and documentation. He has conducted fieldwork on Jivaroan languages in Eastern Ecuador and on Finnic languages in Western Russia.

Cover image of  "Voice syncretism"


May 20, 2021
LaTeX source on GitHub

Online ISSN


Print ISSN

Cite as
Bahrt, Nicklas N.. 2021. Voice syncretism. (Research on Comparative Grammar 1). Berlin: Language Science Press. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.5948872


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Details about the available publication format: PDF


ISBN-13 (15)


Date of first publication (11)




Details about the available publication format: Hardcover


ISBN-13 (15)