Teaching the New Perspective on Greek Voice

Teaching the New Perspective on Greek Voice

Postby cwconrad » August 11th, 2013, 1:53 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:I believe that students can learn to read and understand Greek texts with the various voice usages without analyzing the constructions. Perhaps it doesn't matter that much what we call the forms in terms of morphological terminology; I do think that inconsistencies arise when we assume and teach that μαι/σαι/ται;μην/σο/το forms are fundamentally passive or that θη forms are fundamentally passive.
,,,
What I think needs to be brought into grammatical explanation of voice usage is that the ancient-Greek voice system is built upon a polarity of "standard" (traditionally "active") voice forms and "reflexive" (traditionally "middle-passive" voice forms -- RATHER THAN on a polarity of "active" and "passive" with a "middle" usage of which students never quite understand what's "middle" about it.


Do you have any ideas about how to bring that out practically in teaching?


I’ve given a lot of thought to the question for quite some time; I have also looked closely at how voice morphology and usage are presented in “the new perspective” in some newer primers, including Micheal Palmer’s online “Hellenistic Greek Grammar” (http://www.greek-language.com/grammar/) , Rod Decker’s forthcoming Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook (see http://ntresources.com/blog/?p=3549) and the second edition of the JACT course Reading Greek (http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Greek-Ass ... 0521698510). I’ve liked what I’ve seen in all of these, although I’ve thought something might be added to each of them. The fact is that ancient Greek voice morphology and usage are quite complex, partly because of the gradual shift from the older μαι/σαι/ται;μην/σο/το middle-passive forms to the newer θη forms that came gradually into standard usage over several centuries, and partly becaue of the survival in everyday usage of older forms long superseded in less-frequently used verbs. The long survival of the doctrine of “deponency” can be accounted for partly by this very complexity, involving in several instances an apparent mismatch of morphology and semantic force (e.g. the “active” endings on the aorist θη forms, “active” numerous aorist- and perfect-tense verb-forms associated with present-tense middle forms, etc., etc. The question for pedagogy, therefore, is how to get students of Greek started toward an understanding of the morphology and usage of voice/διάθεσις without using terminology and categories that aren’t going to have to be unlearned or replaced by more useful terms and categories at a later date. So: I think that the question, how to present the new perspective on Greek voice, must be open for discussion and alternative or supplementary proposals may emerge in the course of an ongoing discussion.

I have said that I taught Greek voice for all my teaching career (from 1961-2001) in terms of the traditional pedagogy that set forth active, middle-passive, and passive morphology corresponding to active, middle, and passive meanings, along with a doctrine of deponency that sought not so much to make sense as to lay down rules for the unintelligible mismatches of morphology and meaning in the voice-forms. I would not, under any circumstances, undertake to teach that traditional account of ancient Greek voice if I were teaching today.

I am convinced that some extensive experience with reading – and speaking and hearing – Greek voice-forms has to precede any helpful attempt to offer an account of their form and function. I’m in agreement with Randall (and Aristotle) that one must already have an intimate sense of what right behavior is, whether we’re talking about morals or about Greek voice, before we can sensibly talk about why that behavior is right.

Here are some things that need to be part of what students are taught about voice/διάθεσις in the New Perspective – this is not necessarily the right order to present them, and I’m not sure that I’ve even included all of what should or could be brought into what is taught at a beginner’s or intermediate stage.

1. Review some of the significant groups of verbs that appear with middle morphology: principal parts and paradigms of several prominent types of verbs found in the middle voice:
(a) benefactives: middle-voice forms of common transitive active verbs; this is probably the first and only clearly-understood category of middles that students learning the traditional account ever really understand.
(b) middle verbs of locomotion: ἔρχομαι, πορεύομαι – with all their vexatious alternations
(c) middle-voice forms of transitive active verbs with direct objects and subject as beneficiary: e.g. λαμβάνομαι, αἱροῦμαι
(d) middle-voice forms of intransitive verbs of self-manipulation with active causative counterparts: e.g. πείθομαι/πείθω, ἵσταμαι/ἵστημι, ἐγείρομαι/ἐγείρω
(e) middle-voice forms of process, spontaneous or volitional: e.g. γίνομαι, δύναμαι

2. Terminology and assumptions about the categories:
(a) διάθεσις ἡ κοινή, διάθεσις ἡ ἑαυτική as Greek names for what have traditionally been called “Active” and Middle-Passive” voice-categories. English equivalents: “Standard diathesis” and “Reflexive diathesis.”
(b) ἤ κοινῆ διάθεσις (“standard” diathesis) should be understood as an inflectional paradigm that is neutral with respect to subject-affectedness, while ἤ ἔαυτικὴ διάθεσις (“reflexive diathesis”) should be understood as marked for subject-affectedness. (Caveat: verbs conjugated in the “standard” or “active” voice/diathesis paradigm may bear transitive, intransitive, “active” or even “passive” meanings, although by far the majority of verbs so conjugated are what have been traditionally termed “active” in meaning. But verbs such as
(c) It needs to be understood that what is traditionally called “passive” morphology (the aorist and future forms in θη) are to be understood as the morphological pattern that grew up alongside of the traditional μαισαι/ται;μην/σο/το forms and were bidding to replace those older paradigms in the course of the long Hellenistic era.
(d) In earlier years, I have referred to the μαι/σαι/ται forms as MP1 (middle-passive 1) and to the θη forms as MP2 (middle-passive 2), since both paradigms may carry either a middle or a passive meaning.
(e) I think it’s important for an English-speaking student to grasp the fundamental difference between the English-language polarity of active/passive and the Greek-language polarity of active/middle (or “standard/reflexive” – that is to say, it’s important to grasp that the basic semantic indication deriving from the μαι/σαι/ται;μην/σο/το form or from the θη form is that the subject is affected by the process referred to by the verb. Another way of putting this would be to say that what we mean by “passive meaning” is only one of several kinds of subject-affectedness that the middle or “reflexive” morphology encodes.
(f) IF one continues to use traditional terminology, I think it’s important to distinguish between the terms used to refer to the forms and the terms used to indicate meaning. With regard to transitive verbs that take a direct object/complement we may speak of “active” meaning where the subject performs an action upon an external object or we may speak of “passive” meaning where the patient in an active construction has become the subject of a verb and an external agent or instrument has performed the action.

3. Once these basics of a framework of the voice/διάθεσις system are understood, it’s time to list and give examples of the kinds of verbs that most commonly appear in middle διάθεσις in Greek – as well as in many other languages:
(a) Direct reflexive: λούεσθαι
(b) Indirect reflexive (autobenefactive): ποιεῖσθαι, κτᾶσθαι
(c) Perception: γεύεσθαι, ὀσφραίνεσθαι, αἰσθάνεσθαι
(d) Mental activity: λογίζεσθαι, οἴεσθαι
(e) Speech act: λοιδορεῖσθαι
(f) Reciprocal act: μάχεσθαι,
(g) Mental process· φοβεῖσθαι
(h) Body motion· ὄρμᾶσθαι, ἵστασθαι, κοιμᾶσθαι, ἐγείρεσθαι
(i) Collective motion: ἀγείρεσθαι, συνάγεσθαιi
(j) Spontaneus process: καίεσθαι, σήπεσθαι, γίνεσθαι
(k) Passive: ποιηθῆναι, γεννηθῆναι

4. Depending on the native language of students to whom this account is presented, it may be helpful to discuss equivalents of the Greek middle voice in other languages with which they may be familiar, e.g., German expressions like sich verstehen, sich finden, French language verbs conjugated with être and reflexive verbs, expressions such as il s’agit de … , Spansish aquí se habla español. In English one can point to verbs with “middle” meaning such as “the ball rolls” or “the cookie crumbles” or the “get” passive which can carry a full passive sense as in “get killed” or more of a middle sense as in “get filled” (stuff oneself).

As I noted above, I reiterate that these are some suggestions of what should be included in a teaching srategy and that the order of my suggestions is not necessarily the best. What happens in a classroom -- according to my own experience, at least -- involves a give-and-take with the students, a process of mutual enlightenment. I can't conceive of a teaching-learning situation that is wholly one-sided.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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Re: Teaching the New Perspective on Greek Voice

Postby RandallButh » August 11th, 2013, 6:39 pm

Carl, that is a great foundational post for a thread.

since I do not have the time to interact with the whole, let me make a small contribrution by picking up one piece at random.

ποιεῖσθαι is an interesting middle that I think is best handled as a list of idioms. It usually refers to appropriating or executing some verbal idea that is expressed as the complement, while ποιεῖν more simply expresses the making of a product or the activity of an implied context.

Here are some of the idioms that can be given to students either in TPRS stories or in some kind of meaningful context:

ἀναβολὴν ποιεῖσθαι as an idiom for 'delaying proceedings' and a periphrasis for ἀναβάλλεσθαι
δεήσεις ποιεῖσθαι as a periphrastic circumlocution for προσεύχεσθαι and δεῖσθαι
πορείαν ποιεῖσθαι as a periphrastic circumlocution for πορεύσθαι and ὁδοιπορεῖν
κοινωνίαν ποιεῖσθαι as an idiom for 'share'
λόγον ποιεῖσθαι as an idiom for 'report' and periphrasis for ἀναγγέλλειν.
αὐξάνην ποιεῖσθαι as a periphrasis for αὐξάνειν

These all share a structure of ποιεῖσθαι plus a verbal noun (usually accusative though οὐδενὸς λόγου ποιεῖσθαι X X)
It is a way for Greek to make many an idiom.

A similarly productive way to create idioms in Greek is ἔχειν plus adverb (e.g., εὖ ἔχω, where many languages would use a 'be' verb plus adjective)
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Re: Teaching the New Perspective on Greek Voice

Postby Barry Hofstetter » August 12th, 2013, 6:14 am

Thank you, Carl -- very helpful post.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Re: Teaching the New Perspective on Greek Voice

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 12th, 2013, 8:29 am

Whatever the origin of "deponent" verbs, they continue to be created and coined thoughout the history of the Greek language even until day. There's an article on modern Greek deponents to this effect. So there has to be something more to them than the fact that the active forms are coincidentally missing. Some of them never had active forms. I think the approach of seeking to understand how the so-called deponents can be semantically middle is a good one.

I don't know if this helpful, but even English has a handful of passive-only verbs and constructions, such as "be reputed," "be rumored," "be said to be." This bit of trivia may help to demystify the behavior a little (or perhaps mystify the students' mother tongue a bit more!).
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
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Re: Teaching the New Perspective on Greek Voice

Postby Barry Hofstetter » August 12th, 2013, 9:49 am

My deepest apologies to Carl -- I accidentally deleted his post. I hit "edit" instead of "quote" and started deleting only to respond to one part, and when I posted it, saw his sig at the bottom instead of mine, and thinking something had gone wrong, deleted it to start over. Mea culpa, mea maxima...

Anyway, what I was trying to say was:

Quite helpful. One of the reasons that I pursued this was to get you (Carl) and others to respond more fully, and it worked... :roll:
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Re: Teaching the New Perspective on Greek Voice

Postby cwconrad » August 12th, 2013, 12:11 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:My deepest apologies to Carl -- I accidentally deleted his post. I hit "edit" instead of "quote" and started deleting only to respond to one part, and when I posted it, saw his sig at the bottom instead of mine, and thinking something had gone wrong, deleted it to start over. Mea culpa, mea maxima...


"This was the most unkindest cut of all!" :D Better perhaps: do you recall that image from Amadeus where the mad Salieri is escorted through the inmates of the asylum as he intones to them all, "Absolve te ... "

Anyway, what I was trying to say was:

Quite helpful. One of the reasons that I pursued this was to get you (Carl) and others to respond more fully, and it worked... :roll:


No harm done, of course. I'm gratified that you found it useful. One item in that deleted post was a comment that the doctrine of Deponency has endured lo these many centuries precisely because of the numerous apparent mismatches of voice form and meaning. I remember being surprised to find Martin Culy using the term "deponent" for forms like πέποιθα as linked with πείθομαι. Just about every irregular Greek verb retains within its principal parts and puzzling paradigms relics of Greek linguistic archaeology. It has seemed easier to dump (or "lump") all the apparent mismatches of voice form and function into the catch-all category of "Deponents" and treat them like disobedient children who won't obey the rules of good systematic grammar.

Another item in that post which Barry deleted was that I intend to follow up on Randall's initial response: we do indeed need to develop a catalog of idiomatic expressions involving middle verbs such as ποιεῖσθαι, and we also need to account for the apparent irregular voice-forms in the irregular verbs. Ultimately we need a solid, full-scale presentation of Middle Voice that carries into Hellenistic/Koine Greek the discoveries expounded in Rutger Allan's work on Homeric and Classical middle voice.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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Re: Teaching the New Perspective on Greek Voice

Postby Alan Patterson » August 13th, 2013, 9:04 am

Dr. Conrad wrote:

Ultimately we need a solid, full-scale presentation of Middle Voice that carries into Hellenistic/Koine Greek the discoveries expounded in Rutger Allan's work on Homeric and Classical middle voice.


Let us all know as soon as you get this done! :D
χαρις υμιν και ειρηνη,
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