Teaching Greek Verbs: A Manifesto

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Stephen Carlson
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Teaching Greek Verbs: A Manifesto

Post by Stephen Carlson » June 1st, 2016, 8:53 am

I found this on the web about teaching the Greek verb (classical, but still pertinent to Koine) by Wilfred E. Major of Louisiana State University and
Byron Stayskal of Western Washington University: http://tcl.camws.org/sites/default/file ... skal_0.pdf

Particularly interesting are their recommendations on teaching voice.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Paul-Nitz
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Re: Teaching Greek Verbs: A Manifesto

Post by Paul-Nitz » June 1st, 2016, 10:22 am

I like his advice. Delaying the teaching of "passive" verbs is his main point, but more valuable to me are his suggestions on verbs that can be used in teaching voice. For anyone teaching three voices, it makes very good sense to delay the confusion of saying that λύομαι is middle or passive. I think delaying teaching passive verbs is less important if you never called verbs passive in the first place. Call all the ασθαι, εσθαι, θῆναι verbs forms Self-Affected Voice and understand them correctly based on a) context, and b) the verb's meaning (transitive, intransitive).
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Teaching Greek Verbs: A Manifesto

Post by Stephen Carlson » June 1st, 2016, 6:10 pm

I found their point striking that most American students don't really understand the passive in English to begin with. Part of it is due to poor grammar teaching of English in secondary schools, but another part is the rather severe (too much in mine and Pullum's opinion) deprecation of the passive in writing in certain style guides and their poorly chosen examples. Strunk & White is a major offender in this.
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cwconrad
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Re: Teaching Greek Verbs: A Manifesto

Post by cwconrad » June 2nd, 2016, 8:34 am

Paul-Nitz wrote:I like his advice. Delaying the teaching of "passive" verbs is his main point, but more valuable to me are his suggestions on verbs that can be used in teaching voice. For anyone teaching three voices, it makes very good sense to delay the confusion of saying that λύομαι is middle or passive. I think delaying teaching passive verbs is less important if you never called verbs passive in the first place. Call all the ασθαι, εσθαι, θῆναι verbs forms Self-Affected Voice and understand them correctly based on a) context, and b) the verb's meaning (transitive, intransitive).
Stephen Carlson wrote:I found their point striking that most American students don't really understand the passive in English to begin with. Part of it is due to poor grammar teaching of English in secondary schools, but another part is the rather severe (too much in mine and Pullum's opinion) deprecation of the passive in writing in certain style guides and their poorly chosen examples. Strunk & White is a major offender in this.
I think this is a generally helpful, useful statement about teaching voice, although I think there are some questionable points in it. I wonder why the authors think it’s useful to use the term “deponent” at all, particularly inasmuch as verbs like δύνασθαι and βούλεσθαι are suggested as among the first middle verbs to use — I guess that I simply think it’s better to talk about “middle verbs” than about “deponents”; the latter term carries too much baggage.

They speak of explaining the polysemy of middle/subject-affected voice; it seems to me that this is worth getting at when middle morphology is first introduced, and I see no reason why the full range of related middle meanings shouldn’t be called attention to at once as conceptual framework that is to be filled in at a later point of the instructional sequence.

Stephen mentions students’ inadequate grasp of English grammar and talks about the overblown warnings against use of the passive voice. I think I had a pretty good grounding in English grammar in grammar school and high school ages ago, but I realize now that what I was taught about voice in the English verb was woefully inadequate, inasmuch as it was concerned exclusively with transitivity as polarity of active and passive constructions and included the rather quaint notion of a “received object of a passive verb” (as in “I was given a book”). It has always been necessary, in my experience of teaching any foreign language to native English-speakers, to talk about the hows and whys of English usage while explaining how Latin or Greek constructions work. What’s always been wanting in standard instruction in English, so far as I know (but I don’t know what’s done in ESL English) is an accounting of the verbs in sentences like “The ball rolled across the floor”, as opposed to “The child rolled his ball across the floor.” We can say that the verb in the former sentence is intransitive and the verb in the latter sentence is transitive and causative. I think that discussion of such sentences might be helpful in explaining middle usage.

Along the same lines, there’s this from the “Manifesto”:
Third, introduce the “aorist passive” forms with intransitive examples. There is nothing deceptive or harmful in doing so. The intransitive use of these forms is venerable, persistent and productive in the language. Again βούλομαι and δύναμαι are excellent models, verbs with aorist “passive” forms (ἐβουλήθην and ἐδυνήθην) but which make sense easily, and only, as intransitive. As a bonus, two similar forms often presented as irregular and troublesome can be presented at this point as regular and logical: the athematic aorist of βαίνω (ἔβην, again logically intransitive) and the intransitive strong (2nd) aorist of ἵστημι (ἔστην). The key point, however, as with middle endings, is to allow students to learn and become comfortable with the forms and without having to grapple with a complex new construction (not to mention issues of tense and aspect).
I haven’t yet figured out how best to get a handle on this, but we need, I think, to come to terms with the fact that aorist intransitives in -ῶναι, -ῦναι, -ῆναι and -θῆναι (what I used to call “third aorists”) all constitute a group, some of which are traditionall called “passive” while others are understood as “intranstive active.” The lines from Iliad 1 describing driving cattle onto a boat (βῆσε) and then boarding the boat (βῆ) are instructive, as is the distinction between transitive causative στῆσε and intransitive ἕστη — where both forms are termed “active” although ἔβη and ἔστη are “subject-affected” to the extent that the subject is both agent and patient. That is the pattern also of the forms traditionally termed “passive” in -ῆναι and -θῆναι. It seems to me that a useful ploy in explaining these usages in English is to show how the so-called “‘get’ passive” functions in much the same way in English as do these “active intransitives” and typical “aorist passive” forms: ἐμεθύσθην “I got drunk” — that’s not really passive, is it? It states that I entered into a state of drunkenness.” In my rural mountain setting I’ve heard tell of a certain kinsman who “went to Asheville and got himself killed.” Interesting expression, isn’t it? What’s the voice-form of “got himself killed”? Passive? Reflexive? In ancient Greek it’s unquestionably ἐκτάνθη. And what is unquestionable is that the expression involves a notion that the kinsman in question is somehow responsible for his own death — just as we can say that I am not free of blame for having gotten drunk. That’s one reason I think there’s no clear-cut distinction between the meaning of the “passive” θη/η forms and the meaning of “middle” μην/σο/το κτλ. forms.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Shirley Rollinson
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Re: Teaching Greek Verbs: A Manifesto

Post by Shirley Rollinson » June 11th, 2016, 7:43 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:I found their point striking that most American students don't really understand the passive in English to begin with. Part of it is due to poor grammar teaching of English in secondary schools, but another part is the rather severe (too much in mine and Pullum's opinion) deprecation of the passive in writing in certain style guides and their poorly chosen examples. Strunk & White is a major offender in this.
I just assume that my students don't know any English grammar, and do a quicky-intro to English grammar. eg
The dog chased the cat.
The cat was chased by the dog.
The cat scratched the dog.
The dog was scratched by the cat.
The dog sat (itself) down.
The cat washed itself.
(Subject, Object, Active, Passive, Reflexive for the Anglos, Middle for the Greeks)
Then we're all set for "I move myself" = "I come", "I go" for ἐρχομαι

Even with that, I've had students who never got beyond talking about "ing-words" (participles)
Shirley R.
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cwconrad
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Re: Teaching Greek Verbs: A Manifesto

Post by cwconrad » June 13th, 2016, 8:53 am

Shirley Rollinson wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:I found their point striking that most American students don't really understand the passive in English to begin with. Part of it is due to poor grammar teaching of English in secondary schools, but another part is the rather severe (too much in mine and Pullum's opinion) deprecation of the passive in writing in certain style guides and their poorly chosen examples. Strunk & White is a major offender in this.
I just assume that my students don't know any English grammar, and do a quicky-intro to English grammar. eg
The dog chased the cat.
The cat was chased by the dog.
The cat scratched the dog.
The dog was scratched by the cat.
The dog sat (itself) down.
The cat washed itself.
(Subject, Object, Active, Passive, Reflexive for the Anglos, Middle for the Greeks)
Then we're all set for "I move myself" = "I come", "I go" for ἐρχομαι

Even with that, I've had students who never got beyond talking about "ing-words" (participles)
Shirley R.
It might be worth including "The ball rolled across the room" -- in contrast with "the boy rolled his ball across the room." There are no few English verbs whose usage is comparable to that of Greek voice alternatives.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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