Re: Observations on Ancient Greek Voice

Date: Thu May 29 1997 - 07:25:43 EDT

*carl, its fine to assert the morphological primacy of certain sets, and, if it
were a question of primacy of form, you may have a good case fort the middle,
but the functional, i said functional, classification of forms can be adjusted
as easily one way or the other in the minds of non-thinkers in the language,
and that includes most students, through the second language format of
verbalization. your statement seems to me to incorporate just such fudging.

*taking a mostly peripatetic and partly skeptic approach, which more
consistently grammaticizes in terms of function than form, relieves one of
having to cope constantly with the inconsistencies of, especially modern, stoic

*still, as inconsistent as stoic categories may be, being based now on form and
now on function, great benefits for beginners may be eclectically extracted
from the whole history of stoic grammar from dionysius thrax till now.

*the degree of confusion already generated here about middle voice could be
cleared up somewhat by repenting of ignoring what ancient and medieval greats
in the stoic tradition had to say about what some called gevh = gene 'kinds'
and others called dia0eceic = diatheseis of the verb (still others using other
terms, with fwvh = phone > vox being a relatively late comer on the block).

*incidentally, on carl's own terms, the discussion of elattouc0ai = elattusthae
in jn 3,30 now reaches a limit, not only because aorist passive and future
passive forms of it can be found in the requisite senses, but because, even
after presenting verbiage designed to deprive teachers of greek of thinking
even of these passive forms as passive, he does cite the touchstone of agency
and several loci citandi will activate said touchstone.

<<originally from an understanding (a misunderstanding, I'd say) of Latin

*historically backwards, exactly backwards. latin grammars mirror the more
ancient greeks. look at priscian's use of apollonius dyscolus. if carl's
statement has validity, it's because modern writers ignored the history of
grammar and thoughtlessly englished latin sources that they found more
intelligible to themselves than greek sources. still, if they should be blamed
for delving into latin grammatical lore, how could they ignore the discussions
of modi significandi in the scholastics (witness thurot's epoch making work)
which would have saved them from the inapplicability of many of their
generalizations (still being disputed here on b-greek).

<<a mistaken assumption that the fundamental logical opposition of the voice
system is active/passive and that the middle voice is an "intruder">>
<<very term "middle" ... the perspective on action represented by the "middle"
<<their morphology is thought to be abnormal--because it is alien to the common
usage of English>>

*to a peripatetic like myself it sounds like typical frustration of those who
try to make sense of the inconsistent stoic system, being based as it is, now
on function now on form. if, in describing the linguistic phenomena, a
principle of clear differentiation between form and function were observed, you
could explain the difference and then proceed to do something useful.

*if my memory holds, dionysius thrax himself, perhaps still the earliest
breviloquium on the subject, favored the term dia0ecic = diathesis of the
attitudinal fixation created for the subject by the verbal assertion (moderns
stupidly associating verbs with 'action' all the time, whereas phma = rhema
meant something more like statement or assertion, it being to us peripatetics
what creates a category, even a so-called adjective in a noun sentence) and,
again if my memory holds, he did not define his mecothc = mesotes mean between
evepghtikh = energetice and na0htikh = pathetice as a matter of morphology at
all. doesn't he have words like nenhga = pepega right alongside eloucamhv =

*as for points like what i brought up the other day in connection with john
3,30, e.g. that noreuw = poreuo had once been in normal use as a causative and
that disuse of the older active form led to its being classified as 'deponent'
(thus it will have historically been a causative middle or passive) or, e.g.
again, that in latin grammar utor (as an example of how so-called deponents
can be seen as original transitive passives) rather than taking an ablative
object meant something like 'i am benefitted by' -- these explanations, i say,
have been around for a long, long time.

<<imperfect HMHN>>

*are you sure 'past' of 'to be' is really 'imperfect'? why not aorist? is eivai
= inae really a 'present' infinitive?

<<hUPO + genitive, which became the standard agent construction>>

*i'd probably prefer 'a standard agent construction, maybe/probably the most
frequent one' and (especially here, where elattouc0ai = elattusthae would be of
immediate concern) would not want to omit npoc = pros with the genitive or
dative or napa = para with the genitive and maybe dative for agency and surely
would not want to omit the instrumental or dative of means as entering into a
demonstratively passive function.

<<no significant formal difference between EGNWN/ EGNWS/ EGNW, EBHN/ EBHS/ EBH,
all of these verbs are aorists-- and all use, it should be noted, ACTIVE
secondary endings--and there is nothing PASSIVE in HDUNHQHN or hHSQHN (any more
than there is about DUNAMAI and hHDOMAI or TERPOMAI) >>

*issues concerning the relationship between activity or passivity and
transitivity or intransitivity have not been sufficiently explored here. n.b.
ecthca, ebhca = estesa, ebesa function side by side with your ecthv, ebhv =
esten, eben &c., but as causative transitives! therefore what prevents an
interpretation of the root that sees the forms in -hv = -en &c. as causative
passives and therefore as being intransitives by virtue of their being true
passives? indeed, this would then harmonize their form in keeping with the
rationale mentioned above regarding noreuw > nopeuomai = poreuo > poreuomai.

*if ever one does venn diagrams for transitive, intransitives and copulatives,
one must be careful to note an area mutually common to all three, like three
ring time, and not to segregate the transitive from the

*back to the infinitive in john 3,30.

diodorus siculus 11,7,4 has means: elattoumevoi nukvoic tpaumaci nepienintov =
elattumeni pycnoes traumasi periepipton "they were succumbing because they were
being defeated by ... " in battle scenes the dative of what a party will have
been worsted by is very common, i think especially in diodorus, who likes the

other senses like diminution, degeneration, inferiority (which is more like
what it really was, namely a verbal form of elattwv or elaccwv, and therefore
susceptible of syntax found with said adjective, scil. typical comparative
genitives or constructions with h = e or prepostional phrase comparisons with
ano = apo or napa = para), as well as worsting and defeat can be found in
numerous loci citandi, some of which will demonstrate as much passivity of
function as any of which ancient greek is capable.

if ancient greek is not capable of passivity of function, say so and be done
with it. as for asserting primacy of morphological middles: that would be just
fine with me, and guys like latin language palmer and others have had some
really decent pitches for it.

bearded bill of asheville <>
unca not having approved either whom or thereof. scuse typos of old fingers,
please, e.g. prepostional > prepositional

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