Re: Observations on Ancient Greek Voice (LONG!)

From: A K M Adam (
Date: Wed May 28 1997 - 10:02:31 EDT


My thanks also to Carl for his lucid and persuasive post on voice. I'm with
Randy on the terminological/pedagogical dimension of the issue; I teach my
students that the middle voice is different from active or passive, and that
it may best be glossed (and understood) in ways that vary depending on the
verb involved.

I resist the "reflexive" character of the middle voice as a pedagogical
problem (certainly not as a dimension of diachronic grammatical analysis!),
based on repeated frustrating experiences. In the weeks after I introduced
the middle voice, students would spot every form that might morphologically
be middle or passive, and ask, "Well, is it okay to translate that as 'I
raise myself' " (or whatever, depending on the verb). I was then obliged to
talk about the way that some verbs appear in the middle but not the passive,
some in the passive but not the middle, some in both, and to urge students
not to twist their minds into knots trying to come up with "to myself"
translations whenever they see a m/p form without an explicit agent.

Now I just teach students that middle forms should be checked against the
textbook or a lexicon or grammar, and omit the (often misleading) "for
myself" explanation.

Awaiting correction--

A K M Adam
Princeton Theological Seminary

"To translate is human; to parse, divine"

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