Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
cwconrad wrote:If I had to bet on a single overwhelming reason why the two-διαθέσεις conception seems unintelligible, it would be the assumption/conviction that "voice" is fundamentally a matter of the relationship of agent, patient, and verb in transitive usages and a corresponding suspicion that any other usage of verb forms is anomalous and to be explained as some sort of mismatch of morphology and meaning.
Probably you are right. Where does such a assumption/conviction come? It might be useful to find it out. It could open some eyes. Maybe the reason is that people have always thought of Greek from a viewpoint of another language. First it was Latin, and the idea of deponency comes from there, right? Later people have used German, English and Romance languages as the reference. Even in Finnish we have active and passive which work largely the same way than in English, at least when compared with Koine. It must be difficult to change one's idea towards the new, that the active voice in Greek is semantically very different than in other languages, and that passive is just a special case of middle (or mediopassive), and that middle isn't in the "middle" of active and passive. For example in the Finnish textbook for NT Koine, "Alfasta alkuun" ("From alpha to beginning", used in the universities), they first teach active, then passive, and say about middle that "According to its name it is some kind of middle form of active and passive (cf. its English name "middle")." The whole chapter about passive and middle - including deponents, of course - is hopeless mess. For example: "The meaning of middle is related to active, and in the New Testament it is always translated as active." *SHUDDER*
Thanks, Eeli, and thanks also for your further thoughts and diagram in the ensuing post. Here's my own rough outline of the pedagogical model for teaching ancient Greek voice -- details will differ, but some such sequence as this is employed:
1. λύειν is the "classic" verb for illustration -- the paradigm doesn't take up a lot of room, and it's a simple, conveniently transitive verb. "We" teach the "active" construction thus: ὁ παῖς λύει τὸν ἵππον. Here the subject, ὁ παῖς is an agent
, the direct object or patient
is τὸν ἵππον, and the verb is active
2. A week or two later "we" introduce the present middle-passive, ordinarily with a comparable example, ὁ ἵππος λύεται ὑπὸ τοῦ παιδός, and we explain that here the subject is the patient
, the verb is semantically passive, and the agent
is typically phrased in Greek with a ὑπὸ + genitive construction. At the same time, perhaps, we will explain that the verb λύεται may be semantically middle
in a sentence, λύεται ὁ παῖς τὸν παῖδα, "The boy unties his (own) horse."
3. After we've taught the aorist, our illustrative sentence is formulated in the following three ways:
ὁ παῖς ἔλυσεν τὸν ἵππον "The boy untied the horse."
ὁ παῖς ἐλύσατο τὸν ἵππον "The boy untied his (own) horse."
ὁ ἵππος ἐλύθη ὑπὸ τοῦ παιδός "The horse was untied by the boy."
4. Of course we'll be introducing several intransitive verbs, e.g. παράγειν, εἶναι, some impersonal verbs like δεῖ and ἔξεστι and πίπτειν. But all of these verbs are called "active" because they are conjugated in the "active" morphoparadigm.
5. Sooner or later we have to teach the "anomalous" verbs, like ἔρχεσθαι, δύνασθαι, πορεύεσθαι. We explain that these verbs have middle
forms but active
meanings; they are mismatches
-- and there are lots of them. Like teachers of the Romance languages insisting that students memorize list of reflexive verbs, we tell them they must learn these "deponent" verbs
6. What we do not
typically do is to explain the nature of middle voice itself. We make it easy for students to get the notion that typical middle-voice verb-forms are of the self-benefactive reflexive or direct reflexive type; certainly we make no effort to explain that these "deponent" verbs fall into several distinct categories that are by no means arbitrary. Moreover, we get tongue-tied trying to explain that the intransitive English verb "stand (up)" must be middle-voice
ἵστασθαι in Greek, and that ἱστάναι doesn't mean "stand" but "cause to stand."
In sum, the way we traditionally teach ancient Greek voice shows ignorance of the real semantic
distinction between "active" and "middle-passive", namely, that middle-marking underscores the fact that these verbs are subject-affected
Note: although the term deponent may have been derived from Latin grammarians, a good classical Latin grammar like Gildersleeve will tell you that the so-called "deponent" and "semi-deponent" verbs in Latin are actually middle-voice forms.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)