Re: Bible translations

Lindsay J. Whaley (
21 Jan 97 08:25:55 EST

Hi all,

--- Dale Wheeler wrote:
As the language
progressed, the passive and then the active forms developed. As the
language developed, two types of verbs retained their middle forms, rather
than developing active counterparts.

The first type, which I would consider to be deponent, are the ones which
are "deponent" in virtually every language, i.e., those verbs which cannot
spawn a passive (or in most cases, middle) meaning. For example, ERXOMAI in
Greek and "to go" in English are both "deponent" (I suspect there is some
specific linguistic term for this, but I've never run across it). In
neither Greek nor English can you put this idea into the passive ("I was
goed" ???)
--- end of quoted material ---

Dale, I think, is right to recognize different categories of deponent verbs.
A. Rijksbaron does this to a degree in his 1984 book, "The syntax and semantics
of the verb in Classical Greek." The particular type of verb which Dale is
describing in the above quote is usually called "unaccusative" by linguists.
Roughly these are intransitive verbs which depict non-volitional actions by
their subjects (such as "slip" and "vomit"), verbs of being (such as "appear"
and "become") and verbs of motion (like "come" and "go"). Many languages use
morphology which strays from the typical pattern in simple declarative
sentences with unaccusatives. In fact, it is not uncommon to find languages
which use the same morphology to mark passive, reflexive, middle, and
unaccusative (sound familiar). This is true in Albanian and some Mayan
languages for example.
I have argued elsewhere that some deponent verbs are so because of
being unaccusagive, though I suspect that this system was not fully productive
in Classical Greek or Hellenistic Greek.
E. Bakker has a recent article which attempts to locate a semantic
similarity between the various uses of middle in Greek in "Voice", ed. by B.
Fox and P. Hopper. It provides a nice overview of some of the issues we have
been discussing and some interesting treatments of them.

Lindsay Whaley
Dartmouth College