Re: Observations on Ancient Greek Voice (LONG!)

From: James H. Vellenga (
Date: Tue May 27 1997 - 09:16:45 EDT


Not that I'm anybody, but there is at least one semi-neophyte
out here who agrees with you (on deponents, etc.) and appreciated
what you're saying the last time you said it.

I find myself speculating about seemingly similar (usually
multi-word) expressions in English -- since the "passive" in
English is always (I think) multi-word. Many of these
are emotional statements -- "I'm delighted", "I was absolutely
thrilled," "I'm so excited." Well, yes, we could talk about
what is delighting or thrilling or exciting me, but as I look
at myself saying things like that, the focus seems more to
be on the internal state than on the receiving of an action.

It also seems to me that here is one case where what is in
active voice in Greek (ChAIRW) is best translated into
English as a passive ("I'm delighted"). I often here
people I know talk about being delighted, but almost nobody
outside of a church context talks about rejoicing.

In informal English, also, it seems that "get" often serves
as a modal auxiliary with a force similar to that of the
Greek "middle voice" -- as in, for your example, "my
feet got washed". But I also find it useful in creating
a more colloquial-sounding translation of the passive, so
that makes me like your observation that the middle and
passive are often closely related.

And for verbs of state rather than action, "get" works
very nicely to imply that sense of "self-propulsion"
-- in the case of John 3.30, "get more important," "get
less important," for example.

Anyhow, those are some thoughts from a "mere engineer" who
loves the English language.


James H. Vellenga |
Viewlogic Systems, Inc. __|__ 508-303-5491
293 Boston Post Road West | FAX: 508-460-8213
Marlboro, MA 01752-4615 |

"We all work with partial information."

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