Feedback on Greek Voice Tagging and Rationale

Anything related to Biblical Greek that doesn't fit into the other forums.

Re: Allomorphs

Postby cwconrad » April 21st, 2014, 3:15 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
MAubrey wrote:The η middles that lack the theta are allomorphs of the θη form. Allan has a lengthy discussion of their distribution and syllable structure, if I remember correctly.

Indeed he does. Pretty fascinating if you're into that kind of stuff.

Well, yes, it would be appropriate to use the term "allomorph" for ἐβλάφθησαν and ἐβλάβησαν, My own recollection of that section in Allan's dissertation was that it was speculative and not altogether convincing. But it's been a while since I looked at it.

Incidentally, I've just changed the "subject" header, somewhat sheepishly. This practice of changing the subject header within the thread does help signal a shift in focus, but on the whole, I'm not sure that I like it.
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My thoughts on changing the subject on posts in a thread.

Postby Stephen Hughes » April 21st, 2014, 4:32 pm

cwconrad wrote:Incidentally, I've just changed the "subject" header, somewhat sheepishly. This practice of changing the subject header within the thread does help signal a shift in focus, but on the whole, I'm not sure that I like it.

HJJ once PMed me to ask which of my posts explained my ideas about ... It was dreadfully hard to find the relevant post, I had to read the posts themselves, not just scan the subject lines.

After that, I made changing the subject in cases where it would be useful to myself and others, my "personal best practice", and do that habitually now.

There are three reasons why I do it:
  1. Some threads are really long, with many parallel thoughts running through them. I hope that readers will be able to follow these braided threads more easily,
  2. not everybody will be interested in what I have to say all tbe time, so I give readers the option of skipping my post if they are not really interested in my take on the topic, or preparing themselves for close reading if they are, and
  3. to be able to find things myself in my view user's posts list.
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Re: Feedback on Greek Voice Tagging and Rationale

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » April 22nd, 2014, 3:41 pm

cwconrad in the new version of the text wrote:What distinguishes active voice morphology from middle-passive voice morphology is not transitivity or causality, but the fact that active verb-forms are unmarked for subject- affectedness while middle-passive verb-forms are marked for subject-affectedness.


(Old text: "In fact, however, it is not transitivity that constitutes the determining factor of voice-form and voice-function in the Greek verb; rather it is subject-affectedness.")

The first part (not t. or c. ...) is a bit vague. It gives a feeling that transitivity and subject-affectedness are used here "symmetrically", i.e. that you mean that the relationship between transitivity and voice in the old view is similar to the relationship between subject-affectedness and voice in the new view. But you use them "asymmetrically". I believe that people don't usually think A/M/P distinction in terms of transitivity or causality per se. Rather the origin, endpoint and direction of the event (or action or whatever) are the factors in the old view, at least in the popular version of it. For example, if I see something, its direction and object is something which I see. If I feel something, the object and direction of the feeling is the thing about which I feel (I love or hate something). Intransitive verbs, for example verbs of motion, don't have direction (motion has but the event as an event doesn't, if you see what I mean) and are thought to be active.

In a later post you seem to say the same thing which I'm saying here more informally (italics mine):

So here's my question: WHY is this is so difficult a conception to grasp -- even by people supposedly knowledgeable in Greek Linguistics?

If I've read and rightly understood Suzanne Kemmer (The Middle Voice and Rutger Allan, they are building on the self-same understanding of this basic distinction between the two διαθέσεις or "voices" in Greek. 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.

What do you think? I really do want to know whether the conception really is unintelligible or if it just needs to be formulated in a clearer and more convincing fashion?


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*
Last edited by Eeli Kaikkonen on April 22nd, 2014, 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Feedback on Greek Voice Tagging and Rationale

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » April 22nd, 2014, 3:59 pm

Some kind of diagram or illustration could make visible how the viewpoint of other languages rules.

Code: Select all
1. Active:

1.a Transitive:

I ---------------> her (transitive direction)
      love

I ---------------> her
      see


1.b Intransitive

I -------------| (no transitive direction)
      walk

I -------------|
      sleep

I -------------|
      am

I -------------|
    just love


2. Passive:

2.a Transitive:

I <--------------- by her
      am loved

I <--------------- by her
      am seen

I <--------------- (by someone; implied agent)
      am loved

... but no 2.b:
I <---------------
      *am sleeped   Not possible


This seems to be the underlying idea which is forced onto Greek. It's cognitively and emotionally difficult to throw this into trashbin when studying Greek. Yet that's what must be done. We can't save it and tune it a bit by adding the middle voice there.
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Re: Feedback on Greek Voice Tagging and Rationale

Postby cwconrad » April 22nd, 2014, 5:23 pm

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.
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Re: Feedback on Greek Voice Tagging and Rationale

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » April 23rd, 2014, 1:33 am

cwconrad wrote: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:


You mean the old model?

What would it be in the new model? Why not turn it around? Just let's take the old "deponent" verbs of feeling or motion and teach them first and show there what the middle is all about. Done that way, we have to explain early on the idea of asymmetric markedness and subject-affectedness. The teacher must make them clear and make sure everyone understand them, otherwise the students won't understand what mediopassive is and how "deponents", reflexive and passive belong together. D. Wallace says in his grammar: "With the direct middle, the subject acts on himself or herself. The genius of the middle can most clearly be seen by this use." But isn't the genius of the middle most clearly seen in the so called "deponents"?

It looks to me clearer and clearer that the acceptance of the asymmetric markedness is the key to the acceptance of the new view. The first question of the students, if they have really understood the idea of the subject-affectedness, will be: "why then there are active, not middle, words for love?" If the scholarly giants haven't understood and accepted it, why would they?
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Re: Feedback on Greek Voice Tagging and Rationale

Postby Stephen Carlson » April 23rd, 2014, 2:49 am

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:It looks to me clearer and clearer that the acceptance of the asymmetric markedness is the key to the acceptance of the new view. The first question of the students, if they have really understood the idea of the subject-affectedness, will be: "why then there are active, not middle, words for love?" If the scholarly giants haven't understood and accepted it, why would they?

Yeah, that's a great insight. I suppose one answer is that the words for love are based on doing loving acts. For example, in Homer ἀγαπᾶν means to greet with love.
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Re: Feedback on Greek Voice Tagging and Rationale

Postby cwconrad » April 23rd, 2014, 7:58 am

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
cwconrad wrote: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:


You mean the old model?

Yes, of course. That was the point of the "We" in my "program for teaching voice" -- it's what teachers of ancient Greek do when they teach voice.

What would it be in the new model? Why not turn it around? Just let's take the old "deponent" verbs of feeling or motion and teach them first and show there what the middle is all about. Done that way, we have to explain early on the idea of asymmetric markedness and subject-affectedness. The teacher must make them clear and make sure everyone understand them, otherwise the students won't understand what mediopassive is and how "deponents", reflexive and passive belong together. D. Wallace says in his grammar: "With the direct middle, the subject acts on himself or herself. The genius of the middle can most clearly be seen by this use." But isn't the genius of the middle most clearly seen in the so called "deponents"?

It looks to me clearer and clearer that the acceptance of the asymmetric markedness is the key to the acceptance of the new view. The first question of the students, if they have really understood the idea of the subject-affectedness, will be: "why then there are active, not middle, words for love?" If the scholarly giants haven't understood and accepted it, why would they?

I think that, if I could start with a new beginning ancient Greek class today, I'd start out as usual with "active" voice forms, but I would introduce at the outset the variety of intransitive (πίπτειν, βαίνειν, κτλ.), transitive (κλέπτειν, ῥίπτειν, κτλ.), impersonals like δεῖ, πρέπει, ἔξεστιν and explain that this is the category into which most verbs fall. I would introduce middle verbs fairly early in the course (as I also think it's important in Latin to introduce the subjunctive early in the course), and I'd begin with intransitive verbs of locomotion, sensation, grooming, mental action (e.g. πορεύεσθαι, γεύεσθαι, λούεσθαι, βούλεσθαι). I would note that λούεσθαι means "take a bath" or "bathe oneself" and that there is indeed an "active" form λούειν that is used when we're talking about bathing another person or perhaps a dog. I think it's important to clarify early this distinction between the intransitive verb in a middle form that has a corresponding "active" form that is causative. A key verb here would be ἵστασθαι "stand up, come to a standstill" in opposition to ἱστάναι "station, make stand, establish, bring to a halt." At some point too one needs to note that middle verbs may be used in "active" forms. For instance, ἐγειρομαι "wake up, arise" is regularly middle, but we see the "active" imperative forms ἔγειρε, ἐγείρετε in Mark's gospel, although we also find ἐγείρεσθε. The point is that students must come to understand that the middle-voice forms are indeed "marked" for subject-affectedness, but that "active" verb forms may in fact be subject-affected but not be morphologically marked as such.
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Re: Feedback on Greek Voice Tagging and Rationale

Postby cwconrad » April 30th, 2014, 7:05 am

For any who may be interested, I have pondered the very helpful feedback provided me in this lengthy thread and have substantially revised the draft of my proposed document. I don't intend to post it here, but it is accessible for online reading or download at my own site: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/%7Ecwconrad/docs/RevAGNT 5.3.docx Feedback on this may be sent to me by PM.
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Re: Feedback on Greek Voice Tagging and Rationale

Postby Paul-Nitz » May 2nd, 2014, 8:30 am

Carl, That was quite a revision and improvement. I appreciate you sharing it.
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