RE: Carl's refined theory of Greek Voices

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Apr 19 1999 - 09:08:20 EDT

At 1:04 PM -0500 4/18/99, Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
>I quoted two paragraphs from your recent post on your theory of Greek
>voices. To
>create a whole picture, I needed to ask some clarifying questions.

I appreciate your assistance in raising these questions to help me see
where clarifications are needed to make my hypothesis more consistent as
well as to give me some indications of the kind of checks I need to do to
be sure of my evidence.

>[Carl] it is only those
>transitive verbs regularly having an active voice that have this full
>complement of forms in all three voices in the aorist and the future, e.g.
> On the other hand, the
>so-called "deponent" verbs that have no active voice form in the present
>but only a middle voice form, fall into two separate categories which are
>traditionally called "middle deponents" and "passive deponents."
>[Moon] It seems partially correct. For example, consider EGEIRW and
>Your theory says that HGERQHN is a "passive deponent" of EGEIROMAI. But
>this verb
>has an active form EGEIRW, even though the passive deponent is derived from
>the middle
>form EGEIROMAI. So wouldn't it be less confusing to say "middle deponent
>and "passive deponent aorists" without mentioning their present forms?

This is a very good point; I guess I was thinking that these -QH- aorist
forms that are not really passive must relate primarily to a present tense
form in -OMAI. I still think that is fundamentally the case, but I think I
really need to look at all of the NT verbs and see to what extent that is
the case. So far as EGEIRW is concerned, the question is complicated by at
least a couple factors: (1) the verb is used in both a concrete literal
sense of "awaken," and also, with respect to the analogy of death and
sleep, in the sense of "resurrect." (2) there are GNT passages where
EGEIRETAI and HGERQH appear to be essentially middle/reflexive: "awaken,"
"arise" and there are other passages where one suspects that these really
are understood as passive: "be awakened," "be raised from the dead." I
rather think this would strengthen my basic argument: that the MAI/SAI/TAI
forms as well as the -QH- forms are fundamentally middle/reflexive in
meaning but may in the right context take on a passive sense. On the other
hand, it complicates the question of "middle deponents" and "passive
deponents" insofar as it shows that the ambivalence of those -QH- forms
doesn't depend upon the verb being a deponent verb without an active voice
morphology. There's more to think about in all this.

>"Middle deponents": QEAOMAI has only a middle aorist and future:
>deponents" constitute a much larger group: many or most of these have a
>middle future and a "passive" aorist: DUNAMAI: HDUNHQH/DUNHSETAI;
>POREUOMAI: POREUQH/POREUSETAI; some have both aorist and future -QH-
>>So, to sum up, what I now hypothesize is that the -QH- type of "Third
>aorist" came to be identified in the minds of Greek-speakers at some point
>as the aorist equivalent of the older MAI/SAI/TAI morphology of the
>middle/reflexive, and that it came to be extended finally to the future
>with standard middle/reflexive endings added to the -QH- stem forms:
>QHSOMAI/QHSHi/QHSETAI KTL. BUT: neither the -QHN aorists nor the -QHSOMAI
>futures ever came to be associated exclusively with passive meaning;
>these morphological patterns came to function in the aorist and future
>the same sort of ambivalence that MAI/SAI/TAI and MHN/SO/TO morphological
>patterns have in the other tenses:
>[Moon] Your example using EFANHN seems to suggest that what is true of
>the -QHN- stem is also true of the -HN- stem, doesn't it?

Yes, and I've already pointed to the so-called "Second passive" forms such
as EGRAFH and EBLABH which are older than EGRAFQH and EBLAFQH and are
eventually supplanted by the latter. You might also note as comparable to
EFANH such compounded forms of hISTHMI as KATESTH, common in older Attic
but not found, I think, in the NT: KATESTH may mean "got into a state" or
"was put into a state"--i.e. it may be understood as a middle/reflexive or
as a passive depending on the context. And it may very well be that a
contributing factor to this ambivalence is the fact that Greek not
uncommonly uses verbs from different roots to supply the "passive" of other
verbs: e.g. APOQHNiSKW serves as a passive for APOKTEINW; PIPTW and its
compounds can be used as a passive for BALLW and its compounds (e.g.
EKBALLW: "divorce," "send into exile"; EKPIPTW: "be divorced," "be sent
into exile") and KEIMAI (lie) and its compounds may function as passives
for TIQHMI (put down) and its compounds (e.g. DIATIQHMI: "put X acc. into Y
pred.acc. condition" has as a passive counterpart DIAKEIMAI: "X nom. be put
into Y pred. nom. condition." And I think there are probably several
others that are similar.

> they MAY be passive--especially if there
>are already active forms of the verb in question,
>but they may simply be
>the aorist and future equivalents of obsolete -SAMHN/SW/SATO (** 1st middle
>aorist ** by Moon)
>or -OMHN/OU/ETO (**2nd middle aorist*** by Moon) (aorist
>or -SOMAI/SHi/SETAI (future "middle/passive").
>[Moon] Do you mean that verbs with passive deponent aorists had
> originally middle aorists as well, which became obsolete? Are there
>examples that indicate it?

Yes; one example that comes readily to mind is BOULOMAI: in Homer and in
Attic you can find an aorist EBOULHSAMHN and a future BOULHSOMAI, whereas
in later Greek you find only HBOULHQHN and BOULHQHSOMAI. Earlier Greek
likewise has middle forms of DUNAMAI for the aorist and future, whereas the
-QH- forms are standard in later Greek.

>This new theory of Greek verbs is really helpful to me;
> Brute force memorization does not work any more for me!

I'm delighted to hear you say this. While I'm not sure that one can avoid
memorizing, I've always felt that remembering is easier if one can
understand at the same time.

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

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