Diathesis alternation

Diathesis alternation

In linguistics the term diathesis alternation or verb alternation[1] refers to the fact that verbs can be used in different subcategorization frames or with different valency where they slightly change their semantic meaning. It is a hard problem for theoretical linguistics how to encode constraints on the diathesis alternation of a specific verb to a lexicon. It is also claimed that the manner in which verbs undergo diathesis alternation can be used to identify the semantic class they belong to e.g. in a machine learning task.


  • Fred ate the pizza vs. Fred ate
  • Mary broke the window vs. The window broke
  • Mary presented the flowers to John vs. Mary presented John with the flowers


  1. ^ Levin, B. (1993) English Verb Classes and Alternations: A Preliminary Investigation, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL

See also