1

In a mathematical context,which was published in 1956,I noticed a weird construction;in which "made" was used in a dubious way.

Here's The Sentence

When increasing and decreasing quantities are made the subject of mathematical investigation.

My Attempt

Firstly I consider the term "made" is functioning as an adjective but I found the negative result.It isn't used in the way "made" is used as an adjectival form i.e man-made,Japanese-made etc.

secondly,I assumed it as a verb and the sentence as a passive one ,which implies the presence of some hidden doer, I assume the doer as "X" so the new sentence is "when increasing and decreasing quantities are made by X the subject of mathematical investigation", which perceived me as follow "when increasing and decreasing quantities becomes the subject of investigation."

what I concluded from above is that the term "Made" is the synonym of "Become". Since I am not a native English speaker,I may be wrong.

link:(https://archive.org/stream/anelementarytre01edwagoog#page/n23/mode/1up)

  • 2
    It's an academic passivization of something like "When we make increasing and decreasing quantities [the] subject of [our] investigation". – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 21 '17 at 12:25
  • But I am still unable to get the "central idea" of the sentence. – confused guy Nov 21 '17 at 12:28
  • 2
    When we decide to investigate increasing and decreasing quantities; Another: We suspected him of the crime and decided to investigate him = We made him the subject of our investigation – mplungjan Nov 21 '17 at 12:29
  • @mplungjan-Is"When the increasing or ..... are become..." Equivalent to "when the increasing or .....are made...." – confused guy Nov 21 '17 at 13:46
  • @StoneyB- So "make" is used here as "become" – confused guy Nov 21 '17 at 13:51
3

Your example sentence is not a complete sentence.  It is a subordinated clause.  We need to lose the "when" in order to treat it as an independent clause: 

Increasing and decreasing quantities are made the subject of mathematical investigation. 

Yes, "made" is a verb.  Specifically, it's the so-called past participle form of "to make".  The complete verb of the clause is "are made". 

The subject "increasing and decreasing quantities" is a semantic patient.  The noun phrase "the subject of mathematical investigation" is a subject complement.  This is a passive-voice clause. 

An active-voice equivalent is easy enough to produce: 

Someone or something makes increasing and decreasing quantities the subject of mathematical investigation. 

The pattern here is subject / verb / direct object / object complement. 

Merriam-Webster's ninth definition of the verb "make" shows this pattern:

9 a :to cause to be or become
        made them happy
        makes it possible

  b :appoint
        made him bishop

Oxford Learner's Dictionaries lists this same meaning and structure in definition 6

 

This sense of "to make" and the sense of "to become" are quite different when both are in the active voice, but this "to make" in the passive voice has a very similar meaning to the active voice of "to become": 

when increasing and decreasing quantities are made the subject of mathematical investigation
when increasing and decreasing quantities become the subject of mathematical investigation

The difference here is that the passive "are made" does imply a hidden doer, an unreferenced semantic actor or agent.

 

We can, if we choose to use the generic "you" or the editorial "we", easily paraphrase the entire original sentence in the active voice: 

When we subject increasing and decreasing quantities to mathematical investigation, we frequently need to estimate their rates of growth. 

1

Well here’s a similar passage from a book called An Elementary Treatise on the Differential Calculus: With Applications and Numerous Examples, by Joseph Edwards (Macmillan, 1892):

enter image description here

From An Elementary Treatise on the Differential Calculus, in Google Books

When increasing or decreasing quantities are made the subject of mathematical investigation, it frequently becomes necessary to estimate their rates of growth.

As I understand it, you’re asking what the word “made” means in this context.

I agree with your answer: when we say that “A is made B,” we mean that (through our efforts) A becomes B. So Edwards is saying that if we subject increasing or decreasing quantities to mathematical investivation – if we make them the subject of mathematical investigation – it frequently becomes necessary to estimate their rates of growth.

(I wonder why he distinguishes increase from decrease but not growth from decay. As he published in 1892, he may be past caring; but we must struggle on.)

  • 2
    Mathematically, both increases and decreases involve rates of growth. Increases relate to positive rates of growth, and decreases relate to negative rates of growth. – Gary Botnovcan Nov 21 '17 at 15:59
  • @Gary Botnovcan I agree: that's what the author means. But why? Why treat the word "growth" as capable of negative and positive values but not the word "increase"? Are you saying that's some sort of standard math jargon? I'm not aware of it. If it involves the common-sense use the words, it would seem that both "growth" and "increase" imply larger quantities at later times, while "change" is silent on that point. – Chaim Nov 21 '17 at 16:52
  • The author intends to present rates of growth as a single mathematical concept. He does not intend to present rates of growth as one concept and rates of decay as a separate, mathematically distinct concept. He's not going to show us two different kinds of math, so he has reason to avoid using two different labels. That's not jargon; that's just plain English. – Gary Botnovcan Nov 21 '17 at 17:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.