The Middle Voice in Modern Greek vs. the Koine Middle

The Middle Voice in Modern Greek vs. the Koine Middle

Postby Louis L Sorenson » August 24th, 2013, 6:28 pm

I'm very interested to know how the modern Greek 'middle voice' works and how it compares to the middle voice of Koine. Does the 'passive' voice in modern Greek generally convey a 'middle sense'? Are modern day Greek passives equivalent to modern English passives? As far as the modern linguistic studies, it seems that this comparison did not come to the head until the 1980's and following. How does this late development of the topic affect our reading (understanding) of traditional grammars of Koine Greek and primers? My list of questions goes on and on.

To start this discussion as a separate thread, here are a few quotes from ongoing discussions on B-Greek regarding the middle voice. I would really like to LIMIT this discussion to a comparison of modern Greek middle voice to Koine Greek middle voice.

Stephen Carlson wrote:
According to M. Klaiman, grammatical voice in the world's languages can be viewed as belong to one of three kinds of voice systems, two of which are found in Europe. One is a "derived voice system," which features an active-passive contrast. English is a good example. Another is a "basic voice system," which features an active-middle contrast. Greek is a good example. These two systems do different things and categorize diathesis somewhat different. Although some of the functions of the English passive correspond to some of the function of the Greek middle, there are also many differences.

As a result, it is better to try to understand how the Greek basic voice system works rather than try to force fit into a derived voice system. To use an analogy, asking whether a Greek middle is really a passive is like asking whether the word "house" in the phrase "in the house" is really a dative or an accusative. As meaningful as the distinction between a dative and an accusative might be to someone used to these categories, that question is not really looking at how prepositional phrases work in English.

To be sure, there is a long tradition of Greek pedagogy that uses the term "passive." Sometimes it refers to a morphological category (the -θη- forms); sometimes to a semantic category. People aren't always clear about what they mean. And it does not help matters that the English passive system is more complex and interesting than how it is usually presented in schoolbooks. For example, English has a category of "get-passives" (in competition with be-passives) that tends to be overlooked, even when the get-passive performs several functions similar to that of the Greek middle. But these tend to get ignored all too often in treatments of the Greek middle.


Mike Aubrey wrote:
the current standard linguistic literature on the subject [are]: Kemmer, Allan, Klaiman, Shibatani, Manney, etc.


For a start, I thought I would give worldcat links to the above works. I'm reading through Allan and Kemmer, and have ordered (Interlibrary loan) Manney. Are there any other articles or works an old guy like me, with a little ancient linguistic background (transformational generative syntax) can read to get a better overview. Is there any book which should be read first. Here is the list I have so far compiled:

Passive and Voice. Masayoshi Shibatani. Typological studies in language, v. 16. (1988) http://www.worldcat.org/title/passive-and-voice/oclc/715217548&referer=brief_results

Grammatical Voice. M. Klaiman. Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, no. 59. (1991). http://www.worldcat.org/title/grammatical-voice/oclc/23048672&referer=brief_results

Middle voice in modern Greek. Author: Linda Joyce Manney. DissertationThesis (Ph. D.)--University of Calif., San Diego, 1993. http://www.worldcat.org/title/middle-voice-in-modern-greek/oclc/81393468&referer=brief_results

The Middle Voice. Author: Suzanne Kemmer. Typological studies in language, v. 23.(Amsterdam ; Philadelphia : John Benjamins Pub. Co., 1993). http://www.worldcat.org/title/middle-voice/oclc/769188773&referer=brief_results

Middle voice in modern Greek: meaning and function of an inflectional category. Author: Linda Joyce Manney. Studies in language companion series, v. 48.
(Amsterdam ; Philadelphia : John Benjamins Pub., 2000). http://www.worldcat.org/title/middle-voice-in-modern-greek-meaning-and-function-of-an-inflectional-category/oclc/70767206&referer=brief_results

The middle voice in ancient Greek : a study in polysemy. Author: Rugter Allan (Note all a's in the name). Amsterdam studies in classical philology, v. 11. (Amsterdam : J.C. Gieben, 2003). http://www.worldcat.org/title/middle-voice-in-ancient-greek-a-study-in-polysemy/oclc/52217081&referer=brief_results

Voice and grammatical relations : In honor of Masayoshi Shibatani. Authors: Masayoshi Shibatani; Tasaku Tsunoda; Tarō Kageyama. Typological studies in language, v. 65; Amsterdam ; Philadelphia : J. Benjamins Pub. Co., 2006) http://www.worldcat.org/title/voice-and-grammatical-relations-in-honor-of-masayoshi-shibatani/oclc/133163893&referer=brief_results

Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language. David Holton, Peter Mackridge, Irene Philippaki-Warburton, Vassilios Spyropoulos (Routledge; 2 edition - revision of 1997 edition, 2012). http://www.worldcat.org/title/greek-a-comprehensive-grammar/oclc/704121318&referer=brief_results
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Re: The Middle Voice in Modern Greek vs. the Koine Middle

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 25th, 2013, 2:49 am

While we're collecting references, I might add:

Fox, Barbara & Paul J. Hopper (eds.). 1995. Voice: Form and function. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. http://www.worldcat.org/title/voice-form-and-function/oclc/756484667&referer=brief_results

Geniusˇiene˙, Emma. 1987. The typology of reflexives. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. http://www.worldcat.org/title/typology-of-reflexives/oclc/16277366&referer=brief_results

Haspelmath, Martin. 1990. The grammaticalization of passive morphology. Studies in Language 14, 25–72. http://www.worldcat.org/title/the-grammaticization-of-passive-morphology/oclc/4794615582&referer=brief_results
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Re: The Middle Voice in Modern Greek vs. the Koine Middle

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 25th, 2013, 6:31 am

Louis L Sorenson wrote:I would really like to LIMIT this discussion to a comparison of modern Greek middle voice to Koine Greek middle voice.

Are you interested in primary or secondary sources?

Are you happy to see things from the Byzantine, Venetian rule and Turkish rule periods in between Koine and Modern? I know I've mentioned it before, but to say again Modern Greek is a learnt language and its formation represented a slight discontinuity from the natural evolution from the Koine.

Your current LIMIT is something like, "I want to compare <...> in Old English and 20th century English."
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Re: The Middle Voice in Modern Greek vs. the Koine Middle

Postby Louis L Sorenson » August 25th, 2013, 11:01 am

I would like to include all sources throughout the history of Greek, even going back to Pre-Greek and Indo-European. But keep the discussion focused on (1) the meaning of the middle voice ( I understand we will have to discuss the morphological changes) and (2) How, why and to what extent the forms have changed and (3) Do middle forms in the modern language (GCGML terms the forms as passives) function the same as middle forms in the ancient language

Because there are several ongoing threads about the middle voice, and I do not want to start another uncontrolled discussion fraught with rabbit trails and destined to get sucked into either Scylla or Charubdis or cut off the head of a Hydra only to find another appear. I do want to include links to literature so that people who read this post later can go to the literature easily. I do not know modern Greek. I've been studying it a little lately and trying to compare it to the Koine, mainly reading through Houlton's GCGML and Jannaris' Historical Grammar (http://books.google.com/books?id=QrwUAAAAQAAJ&dq=jannaris%20greek%20grammar&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=jannaris%20greek%20grammar&f=false). I'd also like to keep the terminology used to discuss this topic not dependent on knowing any particular linguistic framework, pragmatics, etc., but to be as dumbed-down (= practically applied) as possible.

Voice Terminology: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1977
Thrashing through Thrax on Voice http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1982
Middle vs. Passive in 1 Cor 10.12 http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1799
Semantic differences between Aorist/Future Middle & Passive? http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1785
Mediopassive morphoparadigms http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1744
Passive Imperatives http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1444
Middle Voice Categories http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=903
Middle Voice with Object and without Object http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=839
Historical reasons for active endings: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=391
Passive Imperative http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=123

I will be including a little of Houlton's Grammar in the next post as a starting point so people without access to those grammars can see how most modern Greek grammars - at least grammars written in English -- do not talk about the middle voice, but rather talk about the passive voice. The fact that GCGML (2nd ed. 2012) does not even list the term middle confuses me greatly, when I find statements, theses, linguistic literature about the middle voice in modern Greek. but I'm not a teacher nor scholar, I'm a student, and really would like to see a diachronic study of the middle voice and the development or transformation of the θη morpheme. Surely, there are articles written on some of these topics (as listed in the literature above).

I know modern Greek word order has changed somewhat to be more structured as in English -- at least I've read that somewhere. So has Greek voice usage changed?
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Re: The Middle Voice in Modern Greek vs. the Koine Middle

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 25th, 2013, 11:20 am

If you would like to read a number of articles in (Modern) Greek on (Modern) Greek, I think that the (Modern) Greek on this page is quite straightforward and (besides the examples) confined to the topic at hand. I guess it could be okay for some one with a better than average command of Koine Greek. I expect that you will be plesantly surprised at how much you can understand.

http://www2.media.uoa.gr/language/gramm ... .php?id=87
There is also a links to related topics (Σύνδεση με συναφή θέματα) near the bottom of the page.

I think that if one puts them through an online translator, they come out okay.

Are you interested in references in Greek?
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Re: The Middle Voice in Modern Greek vs. the Koine Middle

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 25th, 2013, 12:55 pm

Louis L Sorenson wrote:I will be including a little of Houlton's Grammar in the next post as a starting point so people without access to those grammars can see how most modern Greek grammars - at least grammars written in English -- do not talk about the middle voice, but rather talk about the passive voice. The fact that GCGML (2nd ed. 2012) does not even list the term middle confuses me greatly, when I find statements, theses, linguistic literature about the middle voice in modern Greek. but I'm not a teacher nor scholar, I'm a student, and really would like to see a diachronic study of the middle voice and the development or transformation of the θη morpheme. Surely, there are articles written on some of these topics (as listed in the literature above).

I know modern Greek word order has changed somewhat to be more structured as in English -- at least I've read that somewhere. So has Greek voice usage changed?


The fundamental problem is that there are number of different camps in linguistics and they all have their slightly varying terminology, so you can't go by the terms the use but what they mean by the terms. This has the unfortunate effect of making linguistics scholarship more inaccessible to outsiders than it could otherwise be. Also, English has become the new Latin, in which English's categories, concepts, and terminology tend to dominate the nomenclature among modern grammarians, particularly those who no longer have a strong classical education, but rather a modern humanities/liberal arts. So, when linguists (and I have in mind mainly American linguists of a certain school) starting giving age-old grammatical concepts a new look, starting the 60s and 70s, they often started from English and worked their way from there. This leads to such things as the English perfect becoming the model for a perfect, even though, as it turned out, cross-linguistically the English perfect is really just a particular type of one from a set of related constructions. So we have one set of scholars using the term in a narrow sense and others in a broad sense. And this repeats over and over again.

In this case, I suspect that Holton et al.'s attempt to be theory neutral and reduce modern linguistic terminology (see p. xxiv) has simply led to them choosing a name for the voice that is most familiar to English university students. Those students are, of course, familiar with the active-passive distinction taught in English grammar, and the superficially similar opposition in the Modern Greek voice system gets the same name. This also plays into a certain position that Modern Greek should be studied on its own merits, not as a descendant of the (more highly prestigious) Ancient Greek, so it is actually a bonus not to keep the same term as used in treatments of the older form of the language (cf. pp. xxvii-xxviii, justifying their abandonment of the terms aorist and subjunctive), though morphologically it does looks like the Modern Greek aorist passive continues the Ancient Greek aorist passive in -θη-, not the sigmatic aorist middle. It is a shame, however, they don't discuss why they abandoned the term middle in favor of passive, so we just have to guess at it.

For those linguists that are more invested in terminology and the theoretical difference between a middle, a passive, and, heck, a mediopassive, the trend as I understand it, is to consider both the Ancient and Modern Greek main form opposing the active to be a middle.
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Re: The Middle Voice in Modern Greek vs. the Koine Middle

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 25th, 2013, 5:12 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote: This also plays into a certain position that Modern Greek should be studied on its own merits, not as a descendant of the (more highly prestigious) Ancient Greek, so it is actually a bonus not to keep the same term as used in treatments of the older form of the language


Let me continue some of this preliminary discussion of terms and points of reference, sharing some thing of the political nature of Modern Greek grammar.

I understand what you are attempting to do in general terms with Modern Greek, is what most people do when reading the NT, and what I was proposing to do with Sanskrit participles. Having learnt a little of the language, you want to make use deductions from the language without actually mastering the language. I think that is all good and well, and a noble aim with a valuable finding at the end. Let me talk about some of the pitfalls along the road that you might like to be weary of.

Grammarians find things in languages that they are looking for, usually based on other languages "well they must have a way to say...". Modern Greek is no exception. In addition to the schools of linguistics that use terminology in different ways, there is a whole dimension of the politicisation of the Modern Greek language, which came to a head first in the civil war following WWII, and most recently derives from the military junta that took over the country in the 1970's and tried to reintroduce the archaising form of the language, and subsequent reactions against that move.

The illusion of a linear development of Greek from Ancient (there never was such an animal called "Ancient Greek" as anybody who has gotten beyond those JACT books will tell you) to Koine (a much more homogeneous beast) and then to Modern Greek (in the many dialects that had sprung up in many places) and later still in the "standard" Modern Greek that has become the language of the state and people of the Hellenic Republic of Greece.

Now as regards the politics of the language: Grammars can be biased according to the views of the writer as to whether Modern Greek is the true descendent of Ancient Greek - a view that was pushed by Western Europeans, and adopted by the fledgling state to attract aid from philhelenic governments and individuals in their struggle against the Ottoman empire - or Modern Greek is a language of the people spoken by the people and preserved in folk songs and folk literature. The one is identified with the the right and the second with the left biases in the political spectrum. Admittedly, that is all the rambling and the background to understand the following statement of importance.

I think that as far as your present search for dichronical parallels is concerned, you are going to find in any given lexicon of Modern Greek some verbs that will have alternate endings in -ω or -μαι, which you may expect to find only in the active. That is to say that in the more folk usage (which I - not being party to the politics surrounding the language debate - believe to be the "true" (uncorrected / unliteracised) form of the verb in the Modern idiom as it derives from the Koine Greek that you are wanting to compare such forms to. A dictionary like Triantafyllides' is really a good and convenient one to use, for example;
http://www.greek-language.gr/greekLang/ ... %CF%8E&dq=
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Re: The Middle Voice in Modern Greek vs. the Koine Middle

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 25th, 2013, 5:38 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:I understand what you are attempting to do in general terms with Modern Greek, is what most people do when reading the NT, and what I was proposing to do with Sanskrit participles.

Uh, I'm not trying to do anything with Modern Greek. I have no idea what you imagine is my intention to do.
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Re: The Middle Voice in Modern Greek vs. the Koine Middle

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 26th, 2013, 1:33 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:I understand what you are attempting to do in general terms with Modern Greek, is what most people do when reading the NT, and what I was proposing to do with Sanskrit participles.

Uh, I'm not trying to do anything with Modern Greek. I have no idea what you imagine is my intention to do.

Sorry Stephen, my poor structuring. My reply was speaking back to the lead paragraph within the context of the views expressed in your post.

Louis L Sorenson (lead paragraph of the thread) wrote:I'm very interested to know how the modern Greek 'middle voice' works and how it compares to the middle voice of Koine. Does the 'passive' voice in modern Greek generally convey a 'middle sense'? Are modern day Greek passives equivalent to modern English passives? As far as the modern linguistic studies, it seems that this comparison did not come to the head until the 1980's and following. How does this late development of the topic affect our reading (understanding) of traditional grammars of Koine Greek and primers? My list of questions goes on and on.


Let me add stage direction that to make it clear to whom I thought I was speaking...
Stephen Carlson wrote wrote: This also plays into a certain position that Modern Greek should be studied on its own merits, not as a descendant of the (more highly prestigious) Ancient Greek, so it is actually a bonus not to keep the same term as used in treatments of the older form of the language

(Facing SC) Let me continue some of this preliminary discussion of terms and points of reference, sharing some thing of the political nature of Modern Greek grammar.

(Facing LLS) I understand what are attempting to do in general terms with Modern Greek...
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Re: The Middle Voice in Modern Greek vs. the Koine Middle

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 26th, 2013, 1:53 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:(Facing LLS) I understand what are attempting to do in general terms with Modern Greek...

OK, It might help to quote Louis then. In order to quote to multiple messages, you can start replying to one, and then scroll down to the other message you want to respond to and press the "quote" button.
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