From: Carl W. Conrad (email@example.com)
Date: Wed Feb 26 1997 - 10:04:02 EST
At 8:33 AM -0600 2/26/97, Ronald Wong wrote:
>Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>> (1) One of the little points of grammar I've found myself emphasizing
>> more and more frequently happens to apply here: you tentatively
>> identify GENESQAI as passive, but actually it is middle. If you have
>> middle endings and you don't have a clear indication that the verb in
>> question is being used in a passive sense (which most simply means it
>> doesn't have the hUPO + genitive agent construction, although there
>> certainly are passives without a clear expression of agent), then you
>> ought to assume it is middle and assign it the meaning standard for
>> the middle of that verb. In this case the verb GINOMAI only appears in
>> the middle voice (although the root GEN/GON/GN does appear in an
>> active verb like GENNAW) and normally means "become," "come into
>> being," or--particularly in the aorist, is often an equivalent of EIMI
>> which doesn't have an aorist tense. Here I think "to become manifest"
>> is the basic and simple sense of EMFANH GENESQAI.
>isn't the GENESQAI deponent? if it is would that make any bearing what
>you said...instead of it being the middle voice?
Ron, this just happens to be one of the things that I throw temper tantrums
about, one of those boils that's built up over 35+ years of teaching Greek;
you are probably fortunate not to have been around the last time it burst.
"Deponent" is precisely the term that I object to, although I'm sure it
will survive my death by decades and centuries. What I object to is the
assumption built into the name that this form is somehow out of place
because it isn't middle or passive in English or whatever language we
happen to speak--that is, the term is based on the assumption that it is
natural for a verb with the meaning of GENESQAI to be in the active voice.
But that's precisely what is not true. It is natural for GENESQAI to be in
the middle voice (it kicks and screams when you try to put it in the active
voice!). There are many verbs that have natural forms in the middle voice
only, and there are several other verbs which, even though they are active
in one tense and middle in another (e.g. LAMBANW/LHYOMAI/ELABON,
What's further wrong with the term "deponent" is that, the way voice
generally is taught, the assumption seems to be that the normal verbs are
active and passive and middle is an odd-ball thing that Greeks had but that
we are superior to, we who speak English.
A more accurate description of the voice system of Greek is that it has two
real voices, an active and another that would be best called
"middle-reflexive." What we call "passive" is not really so much a distinct
voice as a function that is assigned to the middle voice forms when the
object of an active verb becomes the subject--that's what happens in most
tenses. In two tenses, the aorist and the future, a distinct passive form
has developed out of the intransitive aorists in an H- or QH- stem.
I will put up with the term "deponent" because too many people whom I
respect continue to use it, but I "groan inwardly" every time I hear anyone
use that term orally or read it in print. To make a long story short,
GENESQAI is a verb that was born to be middle voice; it isn't passive; it
isn't in any way irregular; it is a normal, garden-variety Greek verb that
happens to be middle, which is to say, like the soul as Plato defines it
somewhere, it is self-moving, like all respectable verbs of the
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
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