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

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Thu Nov 01 2001 - 16:53:25 EST

> Dear Iver:
> Please explain what you said in English :).
> I do not understand what you mean by 'experiencer,' beneficiary,'
> 'patient,'
> etc. If this is linguistic terminology, then it may be wise for
> those of the
> group who are dealing with linguistics, to give a definition of the terms.
> This will allow those of us who are on the outside looking in the
> ability to
> understand what you are talking about.

I'll be happy to. It is not very complicated, once you have learned the few
basic terms.

You didn't ask about Agent so I assume you know that Agent is the one who
does the action. In almost all verb forms the semantic agent comes out in
the syntax as the subject. But not all nouns that are grammatically subject
have the semantic role of Agent.

The Patient is the thing to which the action is done. It would normally be
the object for the verb, as in "I hit him" or "I wrote the book". The name
Patient is a bit strange in English, but it is the standard term. It was
chosen because it is the Patient that becomes subject in the corresponding
passive sentences like "He was hit" or "The book was written by me". If you
think of the Latin basis for "patient" you can remember that it is the
Patient who suffers the effects of the action. Some people call the Patient
the Undergoer, because it undergoes an action.

If the semantic Patient is a person, it can be termed an Experiencer. An
Agent can also be an Experiencer. For instance, in clauses like "I am
running" and
"I saw the film" one can argue whether "I" is an Agent or Experiencer. Some
verbs for "see" in Greek are active like BLEPW, but others like QEAOMAI are
middle in form. Maybe the reason is that in the "active" form - BLEPW - the
focus is more on the activity of seeing and what I see. In the "middle"
form - QEAOMAI - maybe the focus is more on what I take in, what I observe
and how it impacts me. hORAW is basically active in form, but has future in
middle. It is as if some of these verbs are sitting on the fence and cannot
decide whether they ought to be Agent-Active or Experiencer-Middle.
Another sub category under Patient would be Content. This is common with
speech verbs and the Content may be noun or a whole clause.

In a clause like "I scare you" the subject is definitely Agent and not
Experiencer. But "you" are the Experiencer. The case frame would be
scare(A,E). That is FOBEW in Greek. The more common one is FOBEOMAI "you got
scared" or "you were afraid" with the frame be-afraid(E,C) where the C here
stand for Cause. The E role would be in nominative as subject and C would be
in accusative as object as in "I am afraid of you". (Or the object could be
an adverbial accusative. I am not sure. The term Cause is not a standard
semantic role, but it is useful at times.) In the GNT all the forms of this
verb are in the M/P and they often have an object. The Cause is broader than
Agent, because I can be afraid of someone without that someone having tried
to scare me.

The Beneficiary is the person who benefits from the action like in
"I gave you a book".
The Beneficiary is the indirect object which in Greek normally comes out as
dative. This role only occurs in a few verbs like "give".
A related verb is "put" or "place" which has three arguments. Just as
give(A,P,B) has the three arguments or basic semantic roles of A, P and B,
so put(A,P,L) has the three roles of A, P and Location. "I placed the book
on the table".

If you would like to know more, I would encourage you to borrow a book with
an introduction to semantics. But I hope this helps to understand the basic

Best wishes,
Iver Larsen

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