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

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Fri Nov 23 2001 - 06:44:45 EST

Another long one, I fear (?!)

At 2:21 AM -0500 11/23/01, Harry W. Jones wrote:
>I do see though that you want to have seperate terms for form and for
>function. I noticed that the forms that you are using are,"Active", "Weak"
>and "Strong". I would advise to use "Normal" in place of "Active" to
>avoid confusing "Active" form with "Active" function. That would give,
>1. Normal form.
>2. Weak form.
>3. Strong form

Quite frankly I have serious doubts about the readiness of grammarians and
teachers to be willing to break out of the traditional mold, even though
it's badly broken. Moreover, since all terminology is less than quite
adequate and will require explanation in any case, I think that, to the
extent that a new perspective can be imposed upon a traditional terminology
retained so far as possible, we ought to retain traditional terminology so
far as possible. I really do think that voice-morphoparadigms fall into two
essential categories: an unmarked one (traditionally termed "active") and a
marked one (traditionally termed "middle-passive"); the innovation I'm
urging is that we acknowledge the -QH- voice-morphoparadigm as equivalent
in function to the alternative marked one. BUT, I'm trying to use "weak"
and "strong" the way they are commonly used to distinguish current standard
forms from more archaic forms still in common use--I think that they are
probably better terms than the also commonly-used "first ..." and "second
..." designations (some grammars speak of -SA aorists as "first aorists"
and of -ON aorists as "second aorists" while other grammarians speak of -SA
aorists as "weak aorists" and of -ON aorists as "strong aorists").

So: "weak form" and "strong form" won't do to designate
voice-morphoparadigms without an additional term to distinguish it from
"normal." For that reason I'd rather retain some continuity with
traditional terminology and designate the voice morphoparadigms as I've

1. "Active" morphoparadigm (because the vast majority of W/EIS/EI;ON/ES/E
forms are, in fact, active, even if some are intransitive and a very few
may be even passive).

2. "Strong middle-passive" morphoparadigm (MHN/SO/TO) (functionally
indicating semantic middles, passives, and intransitves)

3. "Weak middle-passive" morphoparadigm (-QH-) forms (functionally
indicating semantic middles, passives, and intransitives). An alternative
might be to term this "passive-middle" since more often than not this form
does indicate a semantic passive--but I think it would be more accurate to
recognize the -QH- morphoparadigm as a newer standard form that is
gradually supplanting the older -MHN/SO/TO morphoparadigm.

Having spent the greater part of a lifetime (just about exactly 50 years)
studying Greek and consulting a considerable variety of textbooks and
reference works--grammars, lexica, commentaries, etc.--, I am keenly aware
that one cannot innovate in this area in a way that makes two or three
whole generations of Greek students and scholars utterly confused. In fact,
what has amazed me as I've read carefully through A.T. Robertson and even
Smyth is that they have indicated the facts I'm calling attention to (ATR
the absurdity of the notion of "deponency", Smyth the manner of emergence
of the -QH- forms and their gradual supplanting of the -MHN/SO/TO forms)
but then they made no endeavor to alter the traditional names or
designations of these morphoparadigms. I do think it is imperative to
scuttle the term "deponent" and to make a clear statement about the common
function of the MHN/SO/TO and -QH- morphoparadigms--BUT: any new
designations for these morphoparadigms MUST, I think, have some continuity
with older designations and also MUST be taught in a manner that deals
honestly with the whole range of semantic voice functions of each

>With the functions being:
>1. Active.
>2. Middle.
>3. Passive
>4. Intransitive.

That's exactly right. And to clarify your next point (below), let me say
that pedagogically the practice of "parsing" serves fundamentally a
communicative purpose: it assists the student and assures the teacher of
the student's recognition of the importance of every item within a
verb-form that indicates a possible meaning or range of meaning. Therefore,
in parsing of verb forms the items that I think need to be identified are:

person (1/2/3)
number (sg./pl.--and dual in earlier Greek)
mood (indic/subj/opt/imptv--many grammarians include ptc. & inf. here)
tense (pres/impf/fut/aor/pf/plupf/futpf)
voice morphoparadigm ("active"/"strong mp" {MHN}/"weak mp" {QH})
semantic voice (active/middle/passive/intransitive--determined by context)
lemma or lexical form of the verb (usually the 1 sg. pres. indicative)

>In your parsing of EGENNHSEN: 3sg, wk, aor. "active" (semantic active) of
>GENNAW. I don't understand why you would include the word "active" after
>aor. ? That seems confusing to me. The same goes for your use of "mp" in
>your parsing as well. It seems to me all that you need is what you have
>minus "active" and "mp" and simply include the forms. For example,
>EGENNHSEN: 3sg, wk, aor. (semantic active) of GENNAW...etc.
>And EGENNHQH: 3sg, aor, wk (semantic passive) of GENNAW.

I hope I've already answered this, but let me do it again:

3d person
wk. aorist (i.e. -SA aorist rather than O/E or "strong" aorist)
active morphoparadigm
semantic active

Actually every teacher of Greek must somehow come to terms with a
centuries-old tradition of pedagogy and scholarship and lore. Almost every
good teacher of Greek has wanted, after teaching for two or three years or
using different textbooks come to the conclusion that he/she must write
his/her own textbook in order to "do it right." I finally decided that the
JACT "Reading Greek" course worked best for me in teaching classical Attic,
and I used it for the last 15 years of my career, but in doing even that I
gradually compiled a mass of supplementary material which I am now in the
process of trying to revise so that it can be used as a supplementary
reference work for students learning ancient Greek with any textbook, and
if and when I get it finished, I know that it won't do any good at
all--won't ever find acceptance and usage--if it completely breaks the
traditional mold. I've spent too many years myself grubbing around trying
to figure out that people who speak of "sigmatic aorist" and "first aorist"
and "weak aorist" are actually referring to the same morphoparadigm. The
simple fact is that people who learn from different textbooks MUST be able
to communicate with each other intelligibly about grammatical forms.

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/

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