A new study on the English passive has been published. The author is Geoffrey K. Pullum, who has been Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh since 2009. He has written:
“Writing advisers have been condemning the English passive since the early 20th century. I provide an informal but comprehensive syntactic description of passive clauses in English, and then exhibit numerous published examples of incompetent criticism in which critics reveal that they cannot tell passives from actives. Some seem to confuse the grammatical concept with a rhetorical one involving inadequate attribution of agency or responsibility, but not all examples are thus explained. The specific stylistic charges leveled against the passive are entirely baseless. The evidence demonstrates an extraordinary level of grammatical ignorance among educated English language critics.”
The article has been made available online here: “Fear and Loathing of the English Passive,” Geoffrey K. Pullum, epub January 10, 2014, to appear in Language and Communication, 2014.