Direct Objecthood

Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 29th, 2013, 2:40 am

cwconrad wrote:the form taken by these middle-voice verbs indicates that their subject is somehow affected: λούομαι τὰς χεῖρας, "I wash my hands" or just λούομαι, "I bathe (myself)."

I'd be interested if you could explicate your rendering of "I wash my hands" for λούομαι τὰς χεῖρας. I take the accusative as a limitation of the self-action, like, "I wash myself, but only my hands".
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby cwconrad » August 29th, 2013, 6:51 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:the form taken by these middle-voice verbs indicates that their subject is somehow affected: λούομαι τὰς χεῖρας, "I wash my hands" or just λούομαι, "I bathe (myself)."

I'd be interested if you could explicate your rendering of "I wash my hands" for λούομαι τὰς χεῖρας. I take the accusative as a limitation of the self-action, like, "I wash myself, but only my hands".


Precisely. I'd go farther and say that all so-called "direct objects" of verbs do precisely the same thing: indicate the terminal or limit of the verbal process. For my spur-of-the-moment illustrative phrases compare the folowing from the GNT:
Heb 10:22 προσερχώμεθα μετὰ ἀληθινῆς καρδίας ἐν πληροφορίᾳ πίστεως ῥεραντισμένοι τὰς καρδίας ἀπὸ συνειδήσεως πονηρᾶς καὶ λελουσμένοι τὸ σῶμα ὕδατι καθαρῷ·

2 Pet 2:22 συμβέβηκεν αὐτοῖς τὸ τῆς ἀληθοῦς παροιμίας· κύων ἐπιστρέψας ἐπὶ τὸ ἴδιον ἐξέραμα, καί· ὗς λουσαμένη εἰς κυλισμὸν βορβόρου.


The more immediate 'inspiration' was the pedagogical formula I learned in first-year French, "Je me lave les mains." I think that's as close as one can get in French to the Greek middle usage (or one of the most common Greek middle usages. And I was taught to understand "Je me lave les mains" as the French equivalent of "I wash my hands."
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 29th, 2013, 9:34 am

cwconrad wrote:I'd go farther and say that all so-called "direct objects" of verbs do precisely the same thing: indicate the terminal or limit of the verbal process.
Your further is the context from which I made my limited statement. My thinking perhaps goes further than yours again.

There are no direct objects. The are limitations on a verbs actions, not directions for a verbs actions (as the name object might imply- this role being taken by verbs with datives, and btw, I see the role of a genitive - absolute, temporal, "object" or otherwise as a point of reference unaffected by the action of the verb). I see verbs as acting themselves and the action limited, rather than verbs allowing the verb to be able to happen. Hence - for the μι/ω verbs - my seeing vt as a derivative form from stative and vi within the verbs that can interact with their surroundings, but - for the μαι verbs - my seeing the basic non-interaction with surroundings which can have an outside input using υπο "under the influence of (something outside the closed system)" and later in Modern Greek the απο + accusative designating "coming from outside the closed system)". εν with the dative usually designates something of secondary importance "it is in the box" (the box is not so important as the thing - just a context - different from the English sense of surrounded on all (or most) sides), in the case of closed system μαι verbs that means that the closed system verbal goings on are more important than the εν with the dative such as to say it plays a part by its not what we would really be looking at.
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby cwconrad » August 29th, 2013, 11:34 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:I'd go farther and say that all so-called "direct objects" of verbs do precisely the same thing: indicate the terminal or limit of the verbal process.
Your further is the context from which I made my limited statement. My thinking perhaps goes further than yours again.

There are no direct objects. The are limitations on a verbs actions, not directions for a verbs actions (as the name object might imply- this role being taken by verbs with datives, and btw, I see the role of a genitive - absolute, temporal, "object" or otherwise as a point of reference unaffected by the action of the verb). I see verbs as acting themselves and the action limited, rather than verbs allowing the verb to be able to happen. Hence - for the μι/ω verbs - my seeing vt as a derivative form from stative and vi within the verbs that can interact with their surroundings, but - for the μαι verbs - my seeing the basic non-interaction with surroundings which can have an outside input using υπο "under the influence of (something outside the closed system)" and later in Modern Greek the απο + accusative designating "coming from outside the closed system)". εν with the dative usually designates something of secondary importance "it is in the box" (the box is not so important as the thing - just a context - different from the English sense of surrounded on all (or most) sides), in the case of closed system μαι verbs that means that the closed system verbal goings on are more important than the εν with the dative such as to say it plays a part by its not what we would really be looking at.


I am in full accord with what you say, which is one reason I referred to "so-called direct objects". Isn't it the case that accusative-case forms always indicate the limitation in terms of which a verbal process, an adjectival description, or an adverbial qualification is to be understood? Nowadays many seem to prefer to use the term "direct complement" rather than "direct object"; that is indeed probably a better term, since it can refer to a dative used with a verb like ἕπεσθαι. In any case, traditional usage of the term "object" skews the understanding of transitivity, inasmuch as verbs of perception or mental action, for example, do not impact what is perceived. I've often thought that the way we have traditionally analyzed constructions involving an accusative case form are about as silly as the readiness of some grammarians to multiply categories and subcategories of adnominal genitive usage.

And also, I'm somewhat amused by the newly-coined noun that graces our topic-header: "Objecthood." Hmmm ... Is it Stephen Carlson that hath coined this word? If there really aren't any direct objects, can there be such as thing as "direct objecthood"? Shades of the old quarrel over nominalism and realism. And how shall we Hellenize the term "object"? Perhaps as τὸ παθόν? And "objecthood" then becomes παθότης? I fear it's a murky morass we're wading into here. If you'll allow another sesquipedalian word of my own, it's πολυονοματοποιία, which should be illustrated in a sentence, aye, perhaps a parody: οὐκ ἀγαθὸν πολυονοματοποιίη: ἓν ὄνομα ἔστω. I know, I know, it doesn't scan! But after all, it's all about the creation of jargon.
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 29th, 2013, 12:40 pm

cwconrad wrote:And also, I'm somewhat amused by the newly-coined noun that graces our topic-header: "Objecthood." Hmmm ... Is it Stephen Carlson that hath coined this word?

Well, I was the one who named the split-out topic, but I can't claim credit for coining the term. It seems to have some currency in philosophy.
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 29th, 2013, 1:12 pm

To a large extent, what one this a direct object is depends on one's linguistic theory or pre-theoretical notions. SIL gives this definition here: http://www-01.sil.org/linguistics/Gloss ... Object.htm

A direct object is a grammatical relation that exhibits a combination of certain independent syntactic properties, such as the following:

  • The usual grammatical characteristics of the patient of typically transitive verbs
  • A particular case marking
  • A particular clause position
  • The conditioning of an agreement affix on the verb
  • The capability of becoming the clause subject in passivization
  • The capability of reflexivization

The identification of the direct object relation may be further confirmed by finding significant overlap with similar direct object relations previously established in other languages. This may be done by analyzing correspondence between translation equivalents.


Is this definition applicable to Greek?
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby cwconrad » August 29th, 2013, 1:39 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:To a large extent, what one this a direct object is depends on one's linguistic theory or pre-theoretical notions. SIL gives this definition here: http://www-01.sil.org/linguistics/Gloss ... Object.htm

A direct object is a grammatical relation that exhibits a combination of certain independent syntactic properties, such as the following:

  • The usual grammatical characteristics of the patient of typically transitive verbs
  • A particular case marking
  • A particular clause position
  • The conditioning of an agreement affix on the verb
  • The capability of becoming the clause subject in passivization
  • The capability of reflexivization

The identification of the direct object relation may be further confirmed by finding significant overlap with similar direct object relations previously established in other languages. This may be done by analyzing correspondence between translation equivalents.


Is this definition applicable to Greek?


Well, it sounds like it's a relative thing that's not necessarily a pronoun. The more significant question might be: is it really very helpful in grammatical analysis of Greek syntax.
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 29th, 2013, 1:54 pm

cwconrad wrote: Isn't it the case that accusative-case forms always indicate the limitation in terms of which a verbal process, an adjectival description, or an adverbial qualification is to be understood?

Well, if you want to analyse things in a strictly rhematocentric manner, then all other elements become "ad-verbs" (ἐπιῤῥήματα). I understand where you are coming from, the classical grammars say that such and such an accusative is adverbial, while another is a case. I guess we are in agreement that giving the name "adverb" to one type of accusative is misleading not that it is wrong, but that it might suggest that others are not.

If all are taken as adverbs, then the nominative is able to add will or the power to execute / start both -μι/-ω and -μαι verb types and but is not marked in language as being affected by -μι/-ω verbs. The accusative case is in someway limiting the time, extent, or manner of an action. The genitive is not involved in the action and unaffected, but is used as a counterpoint. The dative is the direction in which an action is directed (clumsy!).

Stephen Carlson wrote:
cwconrad wrote:And also, I'm somewhat amused by the newly-coined noun that graces our topic-header: "Objecthood." Hmmm ... Is it Stephen Carlson that hath coined this word?

Well, I was the one who named the split-out topic, but I can't claim credit for coining the term. It seems to have some currency in philosophy.

The cartoon artist brushed up the corners of my mouth too, when I read that the posts that assert that direct object is an questionable category is called
"Direct Objecthood".

Thread heading wrote:Direct Objecthood

In any case, I don't think the words direct and indirect (as a pair understood in opposition) are suitable. Those terms were perhaps borrowed from a binary system. Our system is not binary (stating the obvious, it has more than two cases). Even in the classical verb to reallocate property ("give"), only the situation "I give the ball to Peter" could we imagine the binary system. If we think about where the person got the ball from to give to Peter, then there are three parties involved. Actually each case expresses a particular relationship to the action, and that relationship can be further defined / clarified by prepositions as needed.
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 29th, 2013, 2:16 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:To a large extent, what one this a direct object is depends on one's linguistic theory or pre-theoretical notions. SIL gives this definition here: http://www-01.sil.org/linguistics/Gloss ... Object.htm

A direct object is a grammatical relation that exhibits a combination of certain independent syntactic properties, such as the following:

  • The usual grammatical characteristics of the patient of typically transitive verbs
  • A particular case marking
  • A particular clause position
  • The conditioning of an agreement affix on the verb
  • The capability of becoming the clause subject in passivization
  • The capability of reflexivization

The identification of the direct object relation may be further confirmed by finding significant overlap with similar direct object relations previously established in other languages. This may be done by analyzing correspondence between translation equivalents.


Is this definition applicable to Greek?
I take point with a few of the things here:
"transitive verbs" - I question this way of looking at verbs - verbs in a larger context which can be limited / or are being limited in how much they can do. If the term transitive is used then many verbs need a double designation simply in the case whether they have an accusative with them. IF we wanted to extend that folly to washing our hands λούομαι τὰς χεῖρας then that is a "self-contextualised transitive verb" - which of course it is not. Verbs act and at sometimes we want to explicate their limitations and at other times we don't, so we do or don't add an accusative case to the context.
"passivization" (sic on the "z")- well, that may be true in other languages, but in Greek it is what I call small contexting (in the sense that only the person involved becomes the context) and what Carl calls ἑαυτικὴ διάθεσις, which he explains as "it seemed to me to bear the sense "reflexive" pretty transparently."
"reflexivization" (sic on the "z") - we are yet to discuss the overt reflexives ἑαυτοῦ κτλ.
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 29th, 2013, 3:31 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:I take point with a few of the things here:
"transitive verbs" - I question this way of looking at verbs - verbs in a larger context which can be limited / or are being limited in how much they can do. If the term transitive is used then many verbs need a double designation simply in the case whether they have an accusative with them. IF we wanted to extend that folly to washing our hands λούομαι τὰς χεῖρας then that is a "self-contextualised transitive verb" - which of course it is not. Verbs act and at sometimes we want to explicate their limitations and at other times we don't, so we do or don't add an accusative case to the context.

I'm not sure where this transitivity skepticism is coming from. In fact, I think it is a rather strong claim to deny they exist in Greek, for which I'd like to see a theoretically informed argument and accompanying evidence.

I'm also not sure this notion of "limiting" is so helpful. Isn't this basically what any argument to a predicate does???

Stephen Hughes wrote:"passivization" (sic on the "z")- well, that may be true in other languages, but in Greek it is what I call small contexting (in the sense that only the person involved becomes the context) and what Carl calls ἑαυτικὴ διάθεσις, which he explains as "it seemed to me to bear the sense "reflexive" pretty transparently."

Yeah, we'd have to translate it for the basic voice system of Greek. Maybe "mediopassivization" would be a better term. But let's get to the substance. The idea is to cover alternations such as ὁ Πέτρος τύπτει τὸν Ἰωάννην ~ ὁ Ἰωάννης τύπτεται ὐπὸ τὸν Πέτρον. The idea is that a direct object of an active transitive is one which can be promoted to be the subject of the corresponding (medio)passive.

Stephen Hughes wrote:"reflexivization" (sic on the "z") - we are yet to discuss the overt reflexives ἑαυτοῦ κτλ.

P.S. I think SIL is an American outfit, so no need to be sic'ing American spellings.
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