The different “types” of Japanese passives has recently come up in another topic. This reminded me of a question that I have been wrestling with, but it seems better to raise it in a new topic, rather than confuse the issue there.
My question is about the mental model that native Japanese speakers have of the passive, I suppose, rather than the practical question of how to use the passive form in Japanese.
Basically, to what extent do native Japanese speakers understand the different types of passive as different things that just happen to use the same form? Or to what extent do they understand the passive form as a single thing?
The indirect passive seems to set out a general paradigm: “the subject verbed the object” becomes “the subject was in a subordinate position in respect of the fact that the agent verbed the object”. (Or, if the verb is intransitive, “the subject verbed” becomes “the subject was in a subordinate position in respect of the fact that the agent verbed”.)
The direct passive seems to fit nicely into this paradigm. For example, ケーキは私に食べられました would traditionally be translated “the cake was eaten by me”, but it could also be understood as “the cake was in a subordinate position in respect of the fact that I ate it”.
That is, the direct passive could be understood as the special case of the indirect passive, where the topic/subject happens to be the same thing as the object, and is therefore only stated once.
To adopt the terminology from Jay Rubin’s well-known explanations of the apparently subjectless sentence and the difference between は and が, we could say that the direct Japanese passive sentence does always have an object (if the underlying verb is transitive), but that object occurs as a zero pronoun.
A test of whether this is correct might be whether the direct Japanese passive necessarily bears a nuance of the topic/subject being in a subordinate position. The Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar seems to suggest that this might be so, it states that the Japanese passive always has a connotation that the situation is beyond the topic/subject’s control. (At least I think it says that - I do not have that book to hand at the moment.)
This special case explanation seems a lot more attractive to me than viewing the direct and indirect passives as effectively two different things, as the conventional explanations given to English speaking learners of Japanese seem to do.
But I am not a native Japanese speaker. How do they understand it? Do they feel the direct and indirect passives as different things?