verbal voice, aspect, etc.
Tue, 7 May 1996 2:10:00 -0700 (PDT)

I know better than to post anything serious this late (or early, depending on
your biological clock) because of brain drain, but for some reason (probably
brain drain) I can't resist. So here are a few comments on several subjects.
I agree with Carl and others about problems with voice terminology, and I
think the problem lies in Greek itself. It seems clear that verbs are trans-
itive or intransitive depending upon their meanings, and in some cases the
same verb can have both transitive and intransitive meanings; perhaps verbs
of professions like "teach" can be used as examples (I'm trying to think of
better examples because I know there are better ones). It strikes me that
Greek never developed an "intransitive" voice, so it has to make do with the
three voices that essentially assume transitive action, and there's the
rub. To me the worst case is so-called passive deponents like EPOREUQHN.
When a student asks me why and/or how such an action can be passive, my
reply is that none of the three voices makes any sense with an intransitive
idea, so maybe passive is no worse than either of the other two. Of course
some of the confusion results from the novice inference that "active" means
the subject is just that (like "breathing" as opposed to being dead), which
is really not the novice's fault but again a symptom of poor terminology.
I'm trying to bite my lip and pull away from the keyboard as I think of all
the talk about aspect and some of Porter's ideas. First, aspect is a very
old idea and seeing all the fuss about it worries me (the kind of worry you
have when you think something is obvious and others don't). Maybe someone
can tell me (us) what it is that seems so mesmerizing about it. I do talk
about it all the time in Greek classes because of the difficulties the
students have in understanding the concept of tenses outside the indica-
tive, so to me it just seems rather routine, and I hope I'm not missing
something. BTW, Stan Porter and I were colleagues at a small Christian col-
lege for a couple of years, and we discussed some of his ideas. I consi-
dered him brilliant (and still do), but we disagreed strongly over his
theories, so maybe there are some aspects (no grammatical pun intended) of
his views that concern or fascinate some of those on this list. I would be
willing to cast in a few obols to a discussion of any specifics, and would
like very much to hear or learn something that I should probably know
already, if I have missed it (hope that makes sense, the brain is definitely

Don Wilkins
UC Riverside