[b-greek] Re: The New approach to Middle/Passive Verbs

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Thu Nov 22 2001 - 08:34:39 EST

Harry, I suspect that people are getting tired of my haranguing on this
subject, but I do appreciate your continued interest in it. I think your
account perhaps makes more categories and subcategories than are necessary
in the new "paradigm" for voice that I have been trying for the past three
years or so to develop. I have a couple problems with what you've suggested:

(1) I don't understand "nonfinite"--traditionally the term "finite" when
applied to verbs means that the verb-form shows markers of person and
number--as opposed to infinitives and participles, so that only verbs in
the indicative, subjunctive, optative, or imperative forms would be
"finite." I don't see that the term "nonfinite" has any clear relevance to

(2) I also think that the term "Modes" is (a) too readily confused with
"moods", and (b) sub-categorizes voice more specifically than I think is

The fullest account I have set forth thus far was in a message to the list
on Fri, 2 Nov 2001 08:40:17 -0500 with subject-header "[b-greek] Voice:
Names & Frames of reference."

Briefly summarized, here's my current thinking:

(a) Morphoparadigms fall into two basic categories:
  1. "Basic" (traditionally termed "Active" (W/EIS/EI;ON/ES/E); most of
        the verbs in this morphoparadigm are in fact semantically
        active, but quite a few are intransitive, and a few of them
        may even be semantically passive (e.g. PAXCW, a verb that
        compels translators to exercise great ingenuity)
  2. "Subject-focused" includes two morphoparadigms, (a) that traditionally
        termed "Middle-Passive" (MAI/SAI/TAI;MHN/SO/TO), and (b) that
        traditionally termed "Passive" (-QH- forms). My contention is that
        both these morphoparadigms display forms that may be semantically
        middle, passive, or intransitive. While a "head-count" of verb-forms
        in either morphoparadigm in a particular literary corpus might well
        show that a majority of the verb-forms are semantically passive, I
        contend that Greek-speakers (at least in the Hellenistic and Roman
        Koine periods) felt that either one of these paradigms was inclusive
        enough to cover the range from intransitive to middle to passive

(b) Semantic functions fall into four basic categories:
  1. "Active"
  2. "Middle"
  3. "Passive"
  4. "Intransitive"
  While these could be defined more-or-less precisely, it's worth noting that
        Greek-speakers seem to have been content to let the "subject-focused"
        morphoparadigms do their job and leave it to the listener/reader to
        understand the implied semantic function in specific instances.

(c) Names (trickiest of all). I do think we need, when teaching the
morphology and syntax of Greek voice, to make clear that the "basic" or
traditionally-termed "active" morphoparadigm is simply the standard
conjugational form for most verbs ever used by Greek speakers and writers
and that while most such forms really ARE active, yet they MAY be
intransitive or, in very rare instances, even semantically passive. And
yet, if we cannot get past the weight of traditional grammatical
terminology, we can at least use the traditional terminology in a more
refined manner, perhaps as follows:

  1. "Active" morphoparadigm (W/EIS/EI,etc.) -- mostly semantic actives,
        several intransitives, one or two semantic passives)
  2. "Weak Middle-Passive" morphoparadigm (-QH- aorist and future forms) --
        verbs that are semantically middle, passive, or intransitive; I use
        the term "weak" in the common grammatical sense to refer to the more
        recent and basic form currently in use, probably as a consequence of
        analogical leveling; the -QH- forms, I've argued, are supplanting
        the older MAI/SAI/TAI;MHN/SO/TO forms--and will do so increasingly
        in the centuries of Greek language usage following the Koine.
  3. "Strong Middle-Passive" morphoparadigm (MAI/SAI/TAI;MHN/SO/TO forms) --
        verbs that are semantically middle, passive, or intranstive; I use
        the term "strong" in the common grammatical sense to refer to the
        older MAI/SAI/TAI;MHN/SO/TO forms that are in the course of being
        supplanted by the -QH- forms in the same way that older English
        "strong" past tense forms (sing/sang/sung; speak/spoke/spoken) are
        being supplanted by regular "weak" past tense forms (greet/greeted/
        greeted; allow/allowed/allowed).

(d) Parsing. I think this would be greatly simplified if we specify for
finite verb forms the following: person, number, tense,
voice-morphoparadigm (with an additional element: SEMANTIC voice-function).
One virtue of this is that we are liberated from the absurdity of the
"deponent" categorization; another is that we are careful to distinguish
voice-morphoparadigm from semantic voice-function. Here are a few examples:

        EGENNHSEN: 3 sg. wk. aor."active" (semantic active) of GENNAW
        APHLQEN: 3 sg. str. aor. "active" (semantic intr.) of APERCOMAI
        ELEUSETAI: 3 sg. fut. "mp" (semantic intr.) of ERCOMAI
        EGENNHQH: 3 sg. aor. wk. "mp" (semantic passive) of GENNAW
        POREUETAI: 3 sg. pres. "mp" (semantic intr.) of POREUOMAI
        EPOREUQH; 3 sg. aor. wk. "mp" (semantic intr.) of POREUOMAI
        hEILETO: 3 sg. aor. str. "mp" (semantic middle) of hAIREW/hAIREOMAI

At 5:51 AM -0500 11/22/01, Harry W. Jones wrote:
>It looks like to me that you are wanting to 'reengineer' the complete
>on Voice and Deponents. For example, the Voice classifications Active,
>Middle and Passive would be changed to Forms of Active, Middle,
>Middle/Passive and Passive. By doing this you can completely eliminate
>Voice and Deponent terminology. For example, Deponents would be called not
>Deponents but Normal Middle(NM) or Normal Passive(NP) verb forms. And a
>particular verb might be said to have a M/P form and functioning
>transitively in a particular context. Or a verb might have a Middle form
>and be functioning intransitively in a reflexive mode in a particular
>context. That is, it's not taking a direct object and the action is
>directed toward an implicit subject. A normal mode would indicate that
>it's taking an external subject. This scheme would involve four Forms,
>Active, Middle, Middle/Passive and Passive. It would involve probably at
>least three functions, Transitive, Intransitive and Nonfinite. And with
>three modes for the Intransitive function of Normal, Reflexive and
>The New Way
>Three Modes
>But Ward Powers wants to stay with the old way of doing things by
>classifying things that don't seem to want to fit in the old way as,
>Of course, in your way Carl there wouldn't be any exceptions.
>Do you think I have the right picture of your approach now, Carl?
>Best Regards,
>Harry Jones
>B-Greek home page: http://metalab.unc.edu/bgreek
>You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: [cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu]
>To unsubscribe, forward this message to
>To subscribe, send a message to subscribe-b-greek@franklin.oit.unc.edu


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 - 15:37:12 EDT