Agentless passive construction

Along with nominalisation , the agentless passive construction is a linguistic structure which has received much attention in CDA, espeically in Critical Linguistics.  It involves a 'transformation' whereby the affected takes the subject position of the sentence and the agent is left out of the ojbect position.  In syntactic terms, the agentless passive voice means there is no direct reference to who performed the action designated by the verb, thus causing a separation of agent and action (Trew1979: 98).  The construction is therefore said to conceal or 'mystify' responsbility for the action or process described, particularly for readers unwilling to invest the extra effort required to recover the relevant information.

However, there is now some doubt as to the significance of the agentless passive.  For example, O'Halloran (2003) argues that pragmatic principles of relevance mean that readers can be expected to recover the 'concealed' information automatically based on background assumptions.  Consequently, agent exclusions may not be mystificatory at all but simply based on a co-operative principle of economy.