Long reply (was "short.response")

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Sun Jun 01 1997 - 07:54:48 EDT

At 6:55 AM -0400 6/1/97, BTHURMAN@unca.edu wrote:
>i had noted that one cannot say anything true about language and i guess that
>includes me. still, as with others, some could learn some truth by considering
>the statements taken as a whole.
>from what i think i understand so far of carl's position, i'll bet if we had
>time to talk it out and did so, venn diagrams of our commonalities on said
>matters would be hugely overlapping with very little left completely peculiar
>to each. if carl thinks otherwise, i'd accede to what he thinks on it, because
>he's a practicing professional and most of my time is now taken with movement
>arts ministry and questions of how to relate the power of love to spiritual
>warfare -- i'm particularly concerned with affairs near the headwaters of the
>tigris - euphrates and in my own 'backyard' called 'pisgah territory'.

Let me chime in here and add my support to what Bearded Bill has stated,
with regard to:

(1) what is true about language: I posted a separate response to this
Dictum Guilielmis Barbati immediately after I read it: it was the quote of
the day! Certainly it ill befits one who claims a Socratic agnosticism (I
will declare my CONVICTIONS openly but I shan't confuse them with what I
KNOW); if I were (as I am not [love them counterfactuals]) so bold as to
offer an expansive scholium on said dictum, it might endeavor to relate
said Dictum to the Uncertainty Principle (about which I may speak as boldly
as any other who knows as little about it as do I); I might even formulate
said scholium on said dictum as a counterfactual: if it were not necessary
to employ language to do so, then it might be possible to say something
true about you language, but since, as any plain fool can see ... (at which
point I adopt also the Stilus Guilielmi Barbati and allow readers to draw
their own conclusion.

(2) Relative stances of B.B. and myself on the ancient Greek voices: I know
less (and am much more uncertain) about Venn than about the Uncertainty
Principle. Nevertheless I rather think that B.B. and I are probably not as
far apart on this subject as it may appear on the surface. (I might even
bring Randy Leedy in on this, having spent a most enjoyable afternoon and
evening with him in both Carolinas {finding both mountains and valleys in
each of them, if the truth be told} and report that, although we found
weightier things to discuss than the Voices, we reached full and
unmitigated agreement on ELATTOUSQAI and its proper translation in
English--"decrease"). More specifically (and also more seriously):
        (a) B.B. has done us a service in reminding us that we really ought
to inform ourselves of what the remains of the ancient grammatical
tradition have to say on these issues before we go off (as I so enjoy
doing) half-cocked on our own grammatical tangents. If I thought UNC-A had
accessible texts of same, I think I would try to get them and read through
them--I wonder if they even have a Pauly-Wissowa. I'm not sure just how
thoroughly any speaker of a language DOES understand his/her own language,
but I wish I did know what those Greek-speakers who wrote about Greek
grammar had to say about it, and the plain fact is that I don't; every bit
of what I "know" of Greek grammar I have gotten from sources in English,
German, and French. Honestly I feel just a little silly talking about Greek
grammar without knowing more about that Greek grammatical tradition.
        (b) My "observations on ancient Greek voices" were just that:
observations--largely speculations on how they might be understood in a
somewhat more intelligible interrelationship. I really do think that
there's some complex relationship beyond my full understanding between
present-middles, athematic long-vowel (what I call "third") aorists and
second perfects--and I am thinking particularly of those verbs we tend to
think of as intransitive (but transitive/intransitive is another polarity
about which I have much less clarity than I once thought I had)--such verbs
as hISTAMAI/ESTHN/hESTAA. Nevertheless I honestly do think that the
phenomena of voice in the Greek verb may well be beyond any complete
rationalization. The other day I called attention to Smyth, ##800-821, pp.
218-224, s.v. "Peculiarities in the use of the Voice-Forms, etc." and
"Forms of One Voice in the Sense of Another." I believe that the lengthy
compendium of observations from A.T. Robertson cited by B.B. a couple days
ago pointed in much the same direction--which is to say, in ALL directions,
such that it would appear to require an Einstein to produce any "unified
field theory" of Greek voices. I don't think B.B. and I are all that far
apart, although we have differences of opinion on some matters. What I very
much want to see is a little less chaos in the understanding and
presentation of the Greek voice system than what the traditional
understanding and presentation seems to me to have offered.

It appears that I have adopted much of B.B.'s "oracular" style in this
message. I have two excuses: (1) all of western NC has been under a
continuing flash-flood warning since 11 p.m. last night, and I'm now
contemplating the risks of "crossing over the bridge" to drive 15 miles to
church this morning; (2) It's hard to give "voice" to a complete sentence
when your tongue is firmly planted in the side of your mouth.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(704) 675-4243
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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