[b-greek] Re: The interaction of Greek voice with other parts of the language

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Wed Oct 31 2001 - 23:50:17 EST

At 7:32 PM -0500 10/31/01, Mike Sangrey wrote:
>First let me say a big thank you to Carl and Iver for having this
>conversation out in the open. It gives those like me a chance to see
>the STUFF which ends up getting distilled into a grammar. It's not
>without some rather intense thinking on my part, but it is still hugely
>Second, I have two questions that I'd love to see you two (and others)
>address, work through (and hopefully out the other side), stumble
>through <chuckle>, etc:

Fair enough questions, although I think that both of them HAVE been
addressed in the course of our discussions, so I'll offer very quick
observations that really would need to be fleshed out.

> 1. OK, I'm sitting here looking at a verb in my GNT. It is
> morphologically (A) or (M) or (P), pick one. If that
> morpheme doesn't tell me what it is, then what does? And I
> mean this to be a very serious question. I'm looking for
> guidance so that I can look at a GNT text (with its
> associated grammar and lexis) and tell from how the author
> has used that grammar and lexis how to interpret the
> morpheme. There is an interplay going on between the
> morpheme and other semantic pieces; what are those pieces and
> what's the interplay[1]?

From my perspective, your morphological distinction is not threefold but
twofold: the morphology is either "basic" (traditionally termed "active")
or what I'm provisionally calling "subject-focused" (traditionally termed
"middle-passive"--the MAI/SAI/TAI, MHN/SO/TO paradigms) AND "passive"--the
-QH- paradigms). From recognition which of the two morphological patterns
the verb-form belongs to one moves on to lexis: what does the dictionary
entry tell you about this verb, about its differentiation in the different
voice forms. Ultimately, I think, one has to train one's sensibility by
reading a lot of Greek literature, but if one makes good use of the grammar
and of the unabridged lexicon, one has a basis for making a judgment about
the interplay you're talking about.

> 2. Why is it that future and aorist have three voice paradigms
> and the other tense/aspects don't? Even if you can argue
> that the other tenses/aspects actually do have all three
> voices, the fact would still remain that people of the time
> rarely used them. What is there about the intersection of
> the semantics of voice with the semantics of tense/aspect in
> Greek that causes what to us English people looks anomalous?

This is something that I, at least, have been talking about ad nauseam in
the course of these threads; my position is that we don't really have three
voice forms so much as we have two forms of the middle-passive, the earlier
MAI/SAI/TAI,MHN/SO/TO forms that appear in most tenses and the later -QH-
forms that became more regular in the aorist and future--although we've
beenn talking about some verbs that retained MHN/SO/TO forms in the aorist
that are pretty clearly passive in meaning even there.

And as for the last question of #2, I'd say that the grammarians have done
a royal job of obfuscating the relationships between form and meaning
through the contradictory processes of (a) postulating "deponent" verbs
that are actually by no means irregular, and (b) confusing transitivity
with the paradigms traditionally called "active", "middle-passive" and
"passive" when any one of those three may be intransitive in sense (even
the "active" may bear a passive sense). In other words, I think that the
grammarians have formulated rules that are so very maladjusted to the
actual forms and usage that it's hardly any wonder that anomalies seem to
be more numerous that verb-forms that conform to the rules that one has
learned. In fact, however, I think that there are not nearly so many
anomalies, if the factors involved are stated clearly and intelligibly in
the first place.

>And there is interaction between these two questions, too. If there is
>something in the language which disambiguates middle and passive in
>(say) the present, then why is that not utilized in (say) aorists?

It is, it is: clear designation of agent or instrument does it best, but
often enough context itself is likely to point to whether an aorist form is
really "middle" or "passive."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad@ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

B-Greek home page: http://metalab.unc.edu/bgreek
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: [jwrobie@mindspring.com]
To unsubscribe, forward this message to leave-b-greek-327Q@franklin.oit.unc.edu
To subscribe, send a message to subscribe-b-greek@franklin.oit.unc.edu

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:10 EDT