Defective verbs ... for some
Over at Language Log Geoff Pullum critiques a "passive rewrite" of a Wikipedia article by pointing out that many of the sentences were not, in fact, passive. Here's one point:
In Mineola, New York, Kim Richards … was born. [Passive, though not converted from an active: born is a possibly unique case of an English verb that is defective in that it must be used in the passive; the sentence also has an ungainly preposing of adjuncts designed to make it unbalanced and unnatural.]Ummm. Really?
How about In Mineola, New York, on September 19, 1964, Kathleen Richards (neé Dugan) bore a daughter, Kim, to her husband Kenneth E. Richards.Sure, it's old-fashioned or formal, and puts the emphasis on the wrong (or at least a different) thing, but it's hardly ungrammatical. (The Holly and the Ivy, anyone?)
Pullum's not the only one - John Lawler says the same thing, though phrased differently:
Other English defective verbs include 'beware' (usable in the imperative only), 'blowdry' (try forming the past tense and you'll see what I mean), 'born' (technically, a "deponent" verb, with only passive forms), and the modal auxiliaries, but they're so irregular anyway that's hardly surprising.Oddly, to me, the context (why it's "other" verbs) is the verb wake, which he says has no past participle form. I find that very odd, even odder that saying born can only be passive. The MW Unabridged even offers a choice of three past participles:
I admit I use both waked and woken with a distribution I can't quite figure out, but I don't recall ever even hesitating before speaking.
edited to add: As picky notes in the comments, "blowdried" seems perfectly ordinary. Plus, beware, though not seen conjugated or in the past tense, is frequently found in modal constructions such as I would beware of that guy or you should beware of online medical info.
So I'm puzzled. Why do these eminent linguists insist these are defective verbs?