Children's passive: A view from the by-phrase

Danny Fox*, Yosef Grodzinsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


This article argues that children's difficulty with passive constructions is related to properties of the by-phrase. Specifically, we argue that children are in full control of all aspects of the passive construction except for the ability to transmit the external θ-role of the predicate to the by-phrase; we thus reject Borer and Wexler's (1987) claim regarding the maturation of A-chains. Our conclusion is dictated by the results of an experiment we conducted, and supported by data already present in the literature.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)311-332
Number of pages22
JournalLinguistic Inquiry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • A-chains
  • Acquisition
  • By-phrase
  • External θ-role
  • Maturation
  • Passive
  • θ-transmission


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