On Friday, I said that the following sentence is in the passive voice:
The work of the symbolic in institutional processes is embodied in shared sociolinguistic meanings and practices.
Jonathan pointed out that "is embodied" only looks like the passive voice. The "to be + plus participle" construction is really used as an adjective. I immediately concurred, but this morning I am once again unsure.
The University of North Carolina Writing Center offers this "sure-fire formula for identifying the passive voice":
form of "to be" + past participle = passive voice
Jonathan offers a counterexample—a case where the formula would mis-fire, as it were.
He is dressed in black.
To see what this might mean, consider the following example. The UNC Writing Center gives us this sentence as an example of the passive voice:
The working class was marginalized.
But we can, of course, talk about a marginalized group of people just as we can talk about a dressed man. If that is what the sentence means, argues Jonathan, then it is not passive voice. Alternatively, we can talk about a group that is going through the process of marginalization, i.e., a group that is being pushed to the margins.
Consider this one:
Symbolism in institutional processes is produced in shared sociolinguistic meanings and practices.
That's clearly passive voice. But notice that we had to remove "the work" (which could not be "produced").
Now consider this one:
The work of the symbolic in institutional processes is marginalized by shared sociolinguistic meanings and practices.
Here we had to replace "in" with "by". The original sentence was telling us where the work happens; this one is telling us that something is happening to the work.
More on Wednesday.