Teaching meaning of middle voice

Resources and methods for teaching and learning New Testament Greek.
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Chris Servanti
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Teaching meaning of middle voice

Post by Chris Servanti » October 14th, 2015, 11:21 am

One method of teaching languages is to translate sentences over and over and practice by trial and error (the highly successful Duolingo uses this method). So, were this method combined with some explanations about the vowel compounding and some other things, this method might be good for Koine. The problem I see is translating sentences consistently. How can you translate the middle/passive voice?

cwconrad
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Re: Teaching meaning of middle voice

Post by cwconrad » October 14th, 2015, 4:17 pm

Chris Servanti wrote:One method of teaching languages is to translate sentences over and over and practice by trial and error (the highly successful Duolingo uses this method). So, were this method combined with some explanations about the vowel compounding and some other things, this method might be good for Koine. The problem I see is translating sentences consistently. How can you translate the middle/passive voice?
If by "translating sentences consistently" you mean always using similar expressions when converting Greek middle verb-forms into English, I have my reservations. I think it's fundamentally questionable to think of translation as a process of representing individual words of the Greek by English phrasing expressive of those words. I believe we should always think of translation as understanding the Greek text as a whole and converting it into the idiomatic expression most appropriate for that meaning as understood. I think one needs to know the verbs uniquely rather than as categories. For instance παύει τρέχοντα τὸν ἁνδρα "he makes the man stop running" -- but παύεται τρέχων ὁ ἀνήρ "the man stops running." Then there are the middle verbs like πορεύεσθαι; is there any point in trying to bring out the force of the middle voice? It could be done, e.g. πορεύονται οἱ φίλοι ᾿Αθήναζε, "They make their way to Athens", but isn't it more normal to write,"They travel to Athens."
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Chris Servanti
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Re: Teaching meaning of middle voice

Post by Chris Servanti » October 14th, 2015, 4:49 pm

cwconrad wrote:
Chris Servanti wrote:One method of teaching languages is to translate sentences over and over and practice by trial and error (the highly successful Duolingo uses this method). So, were this method combined with some explanations about the vowel compounding and some other things, this method might be good for Koine. The problem I see is translating sentences consistently. How can you translate the middle/passive voice?
If by "translating sentences consistently" you mean always using similar expressions when converting Greek middle verb-forms into English, I have my reservations. I think it's fundamentally questionable to think of translation as a process of representing individual words of the Greek by English phrasing expressive of those words. I believe we should always think of translation as understanding the Greek text as a whole and converting it into the idiomatic expression most appropriate for that meaning as understood. I think one needs to know the verbs uniquely rather than as categories. For instance παύει τρέχοντα τὸν ἁνδρα "he makes the man stop running" -- but παύεται τρέχων ὁ ἀνήρ "the man stops running." Then there are the middle verbs like πορεύεσθαι; is there any point in trying to bring out the force of the middle voice? It could be done, e.g. πορεύονται οἱ φίλοι ᾿Αθήναζε, "They make their way to Athens", but isn't it more normal to write,"They travel to Athens."
Concurred. That's not really what I'm trying to get at. What I mean is for words like ποιοῦμαι; how can you translate it consistantly so that the student can understand it? Should it be translated "I am made" or maybe "I make for myself"?

Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: Teaching meaning of middle voice

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » October 15th, 2015, 12:36 am

Can you give an example of a situation where this is needed? I need some context to understand what you mean.

cwconrad
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Re: Teaching meaning of middle voice

Post by cwconrad » October 15th, 2015, 7:38 am

Chris Servanti wrote:
cwconrad wrote:
Chris Servanti wrote:One method of teaching languages is to translate sentences over and over and practice by trial and error (the highly successful Duolingo uses this method). So, were this method combined with some explanations about the vowel compounding and some other things, this method might be good for Koine. The problem I see is translating sentences consistently. How can you translate the middle/passive voice?
If by "translating sentences consistently" you mean always using similar expressions when converting Greek middle verb-forms into English, I have my reservations. I think it's fundamentally questionable to think of translation as a process of representing individual words of the Greek by English phrasing expressive of those words. I believe we should always think of translation as understanding the Greek text as a whole and converting it into the idiomatic expression most appropriate for that meaning as understood. I think one needs to know the verbs uniquely rather than as categories. For instance παύει τρέχοντα τὸν ἁνδρα "he makes the man stop running" -- but παύεται τρέχων ὁ ἀνήρ "the man stops running." Then there are the middle verbs like πορεύεσθαι; is there any point in trying to bring out the force of the middle voice? It could be done, e.g. πορεύονται οἱ φίλοι ᾿Αθήναζε, "They make their way to Athens", but isn't it more normal to write,"They travel to Athens."
Concurred. That's not really what I'm trying to get at. What I mean is for words like ποιοῦμαι; how can you translate it consistantly so that the student can understand it? Should it be translated "I am made" or maybe "I make for myself"?
Your picking "words like ποιοῦμαι" -- as I think Eeli implies -- doesn't really make any clearer what you're after. If you'll check out the verb ποιεῖσθαι in BDAG, you'll see a slew of usages under 7:
7. make/do someth. for oneself or of oneself mid.
a. mostly as a periphrasis of the simple verbal idea (s. 2d) ἀναβολὴν ποιεῖσθαι Ac 25:17 (s. ἀναβολή). ἐκβολὴν ποιεῖσθαι 27:18 (s. ἐκβολή); αὔξησιν π. Eph 4:16; δέησιν or δεήσεις π. Lk 5:33; Phil 1:4; 1 Ti 2:1 (s. δέησις). διαλογισμοὺς π. 1 Cl 21:3; τὰς διδασκαλίας Papias (2:15); τὴν ἕνωσιν π. IPol 5:2; ἐπιστροφὴν π. 1 Cl 1:1 (ἐπιστροφή 1); καθαρισμὸν π. Hb 1:3 (καθαρισμός 2). κοινωνίαν Ro 15:26. κοπετόν Ac 8:2 v.l.; λόγον (Isocr., Ep. 2, 2; Just., D. 1, 3 al.) 1:1; 11:2 D; 20:24 v.l. (on these three passages s. λόγος: 1b; 1aγ and 1aα, end). μνείαν Ro 1:9; Eph 1:16; 1 Th 1:2; Phlm 4 (μνεία 2). μνήμην 2 Pt 1:15 (s. μνήμη 1). μονήν J 14:23 (μονή 1). νουθέτησιν 1 Cl 56:2 (Just., A I, 67, 4). ὁμιλίαν IPol 5:1 (ὁμιλία 2). ποιεῖσθαι τὴν παραβολήν AcPlCor 2:28. πορείαν π. (=πορεύεσθαι; cp. X., An. 5, 6, 11, Cyr. 5, 2, 31; Plut., Mor. 571e; Jos., Vi. 57; 2 Macc 3:8; 12:10; Ar. 4, 2) Lk 13:22. πρόνοιαν π. make provision, care (Isocr. 4, 2 and 136; Demosth., Prooem. 16; Ps.-Demosth. 47, 80; Polyb. 4, 6, 11; Dion. Hal. 5, 46; Aelian, VH 12, 56. Oft. in ins and pap [esp. of civic-minded people]; Da 6:19 προν. ποιούμενος αὐτοῦ; Jos., Bell. 4, 317, C. Ap. 1, 9; Ar. 13, 2) Ro 13:14; Papias (2:15). προσκλίσεις π. 1 Cl 47:3; σπουδὴν π. be eager (Hdt. 1, 4; 5, 30 πᾶσαν σπουδὴν ποιούμενος; 9, 8; Pla., Euthyd. 304e, Leg. 1, 628e; Isocr. 5, 45 πᾶσαν τὴν σπ. περὶ τούτου ποιεῖσθαι; Polyb. 1, 46, 2 al.; Diod. S. 1, 75, 1; Plut., Mor. 4e; SIG 539A, 15f; 545, 14 τὴν πᾶσαν σπ. ποιούμενος; PHib 71, 9 [III BC] τ. πᾶσαν σπ. ποίησαι; 44, 8) Jd 3. συνελεύσεις ποιεῖσθαι come together, meet 1 Cl 20:10 (Just., A I, 67, 7). {p. 842} συνωμοσίαν ποιεῖσθαι form a conspiracy (Polyb. 1, 70, 6; Herodian 7, 4, 3; SIG 526, 16) Ac 23:13.—Cp. use of the act. 2d.
One strategy for what you're after might be suggesting that the student employ a direct- or indirect reflexive usage with the verb in question: βαπτίζεσθαι = "get oneself baptized" (with the understanding that this can be refined to "get baptized" or "submit to baptism" or "let oneself be baptized"); or λούεσθαι = "bathe oneself" (with the understanding that this can be refined to "bathe" or "take a bath" or "wash up"). I hesitate to suggest a regular strategy for this but this might help convey the kind of thing to look for. The deeper problem with suggesting such a translation strategy is that the verb in English only very partially parallels the arrangement and usage of the Greek voice-forms. That's why I think one has to learn the verbs one-by-one (just as one gets to know persons as individuals!) and that a translation strategy can't be laid down other than the broad advice to think in terms of reflexive usage, of acting upon oneself or for oneself.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Chris Servanti
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Re: Teaching meaning of middle voice

Post by Chris Servanti » October 15th, 2015, 11:55 am

Essentially the problem is here: it is best for Greek verbs to be translated very loosely and to show the student the facets of each tense voice and mood. So, a verb like ποιοῦμαι in some places may be translated "I do/make for myself" but in others "I am made". Maybe the solution would be to add each of those as a possible answer.

Can someone give the possible translations for the following words:

ποιοῦμεν
ποιοῦμεθα
λύετε
λύεσθε
ἀκούει
ἀκούοται
καλῶ
καλοῦμαι
λέγουσιν
λέγονται

Thanks!

Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Teaching meaning of middle voice

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » October 15th, 2015, 5:02 pm

Chris Servanti wrote:Essentially the problem is here: it is best for Greek verbs to be translated very loosely and to show the student the facets of each tense voice and mood. So, a verb like ποιοῦμαι in some places may be translated "I do/make for myself" but in others "I am made". Maybe the solution would be to add each of those as a possible answer.

Can someone give the possible translations for the following words:

ποιοῦμεν
ποιοῦμεθα
λύετε
λύεσθε
ἀκούει
ἀκούοται
καλῶ
καλοῦμαι
λέγουσιν
λέγονται

Thanks!
What purpose would be served by a context free translation of ποιοῦμεν ... ? Would a complex periphrastic rendering of ποιοῦμεν in English reveal what is going on in Greek? Carl has already answered the second question.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Teaching meaning of middle voice

Post by Jonathan Robie » October 15th, 2015, 5:33 pm

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:What purpose would be served by a context free translation of ποιοῦμεν ... ? Would a complex periphrastic rendering of ποιοῦμεν in English reveal what is going on in Greek? Carl has already answered the second question.
Exactly.

An analogy with English. What would you teach ESL students about the verb 'sold' to prepare them for a sentence like this?
The book sold 1000 copies.
It's the context that gives this a passive or middle sense.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Chris Servanti
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Re: Teaching meaning of middle voice

Post by Chris Servanti » October 16th, 2015, 9:57 am

Valid point. So the teacher just needs a well grounded understanding of the middle.
Thanks! I'm not trying to teach Greek but in the future I hope to. Where can I learn more about the specifics and nuances of the middle?

RandallButh
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Re: Teaching meaning of middle voice

Post by RandallButh » October 16th, 2015, 10:08 am

What I mean is for words like ποιοῦμαι; how can you translate it consistantly so that the student can understand it? Should it be translated "I am made" or maybe "I make for myself"?
Sometimes it is helpful to ask how a little kid learned what ποιοῦμαι meant?
The example of "Books sold well" is a good clue for how to learn English.
That list quoted above from BDAG is a good clue for Greek.
Those are real contexts from real Greek users.

Go and do likewise.
That is what ποιοῦμαι means.
That is what a little kid links to the contexts.

Later, when they grow up the kids can learn to discuss the linguistic relationships involved, but learning the language means using a language in context.

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