From: Carl W. Conrad (email@example.com)
Date: Sat Oct 18 1997 - 14:55:58 EDT
At 10:27 AM -0500 10/18/97, Ward Powers wrote:
>At 08:29 97/10/15 -0500, Carl Conrad wrote:
Restrict the cited part to that which left Ward's jaw on the ground for
>> . . . Oh, if only we could
>>ignore morphology! Greek would be so easy if its verb morphology were not a
>>great morass--but that's what it is.
>Wow!! After receiving this it has taken me three days to catch my breath
>and pick my jaw up off the floor, whence it fell.
Obviously I must watch my language in e-mail or I'll end up being
prosecuted for electronic assault and battery. I regret very much that I
seemed to imply a contempt for verb morphology and seemed to suggest that
it is a silly game. That is not what I meant. I hasten to add that I do
indeed spend hours teaching students both forms and a procedure for
analysis of complex forms into constituent morphological elements so that
they can recognize which elements within the word add which particular
No, actually the "morass" of which I spoke and the "games we play" with
reference to morphology had less to do with the morphology itself than with
the terminology we use traditionally in order to draw distinctions between
instances of a form that have one meaning and other instances that have
another meaning. You have probably missed my harangue on the way voice is
traditionally taught. I expounded my views on this rather thoroughly
several months back (Tuesday, May 27, 1997) and won't repeat any of that
here except to say that what I find most confusing in the traditional
doctrine of Greek voices is (a) a misleading notion that the middle voice
is some sort of aberrant halfway house between the "real" voices, the
active and passive, so that we describe a verb like ERCOMAI as a "deponent"
and, even if we don't say it, we imply that it really ought to be active
but it is middle for no reason that anybody can think of; and (b) the
misleading notion that -QH- is essentially and primarily a passive-voice
indicator rather than an formative infix for athematic aorists that OFTEN
BUT BY NO MEANS ALWAYS bears a passive sense. The "morass" of which I
spoke, apparently too glibly, had to do with the way we have to hem and haw
when talking about at least three different kinds of aorists (Sigmatic,
Thematic, Athematic--and the Kappa aorists of DIDWMI, TIQHMI, and hIHMI
don't really fit into any of these) and about "middle deponents" and
"passive deponents" to explain that a form like ELECQHSAN really is passive
in meaning while EPOREUQHSAN is not--and our explanation tends to suggest
that there's something irrational about EPOREUQHSAN.
To be honest, since you have mentioned, Ward, how "irregular" English is, I
must certainly confess than just about any language I've ever taught
(mostly Greek and Latin, but also French and German) confronts the student
who gets beyond the bare basics of the language's structure with verbs and
nouns that, for one reason or another, do not strictly conform to the basic
structural patterns the neat rationality of which gratifies us so
intensely. The standard morphology of the Greek verb is indeed a marvelous
thing; those who seek to read or understand Greek of any period without
learning it doom themselves to profound frustration. When that is said,
however, it must be confessed that one continues for the rest of one's life
to learn new and unexpected things about the orneriness and peskiness of
Greek verbs that all too often do not behave or conform to the paradigms
that we teach and that we ourselves have been taught.
>Every time I begin to teach a new class of beginning Greek students (which
>is at the start of every semester), I praise the Lord for Greek morphology.
>It is so nice and neat and regular, especially when compared with English.
>A genuine joy to introduce would-be Greek students to it, and to reveal to
>them its regularity and patternedness!!
To which I say Amen! But I must add that, every time I begin to teach a
class of intermediate Greek students, I find and they find that the
morphological paradigms that they have worked so hard at learning are no
more than the first step toward really understanding the Greek verb.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
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