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Abstract

The aim of this article is to give an overview of theoretical approaches to (generalized) deponency, i.e., morpho-syntactic phenomena in the world's languages that resemble deponent verbs in Latin (where passive morphology accompanies active syntax) in that a ‘wrong form’ is apparently used. The paper has three parts. First, the concept of deponency is introduced. Second, a new taxonomy of approaches is developed that extends Stump's original classification by adding two further groups: (i) form deponency, (ii) property deponency, (iii) spurious morpho-syntactic deponency, and (iv) spurious morphomic deponency. The discussion yields interesting results concerning preferred choices among (i)–(iv) in the literature (with (i) emerging as surprisingly rare and (iv) as surprisingly widespread), and concerning potential correlations between analysis type and overall grammatical framework (there aren't any). In the third part, I sketch a version of what is arguably a fairly straightforward approach to deponency (even though an actual instantiation so far appears to be outstanding): an optimality-theoretic analysis that takes the hypothesis that deponency involves ‘wrong forms’ literally.