Meaning of "voice"

Meaning of "voice"

Postby David Lee » April 19th, 2013, 8:28 am

Hi all,

I'm trying to read up on "middle voice", and how you interpret "voice" plays a large role in how you understand articles that discuss this topic. I wanted clarification for what "voice" means.

Option 1:
Voice refers to the way a verb sounds to the ears. It only deals with how it sounds superficially, and thus the only thing voice touches is form and morphology. This would make saying, "middle voice form", redundant since voice = form. This would also preclude there from being distinct middle and passive voices in the present, but only a single "middle-passive" voice.

Option 2:
Voice refers to the way a verb sounds to the mind. Having a "middle voice" means that the verb is interpreted as having a "middle" meaning (Wallace uses the term "force" for "meaning"). This would make "middle voice with active meaning" a contradiction, since voice = meaning.

I started off thinking that voice refers to the meaning, thus having a "middle voice" meant the verb had a "middle" meaning. However, this caused problems, because of certain contradictions that would appear, such as "middle voice with active meaning", or "middle voice with passive meaning".

So then I switched to thinking that voice refers to only the conjugation forms. This allowed me to understand "middle voice with active meaning" as active verbs that happen to use middle conjugation forms. Likewise, "middle voice with passive meaning" meant passive verbs that happen to use middle conjugation forms. However, this gave me an unsettling feeling, since now I'm forced to think that "middle voice" (middle form) isn't really "middle" in any strict sense, it just happens that verbs that use that form often have middle meanings (although other verbs with the "middle voice" have active meanings, and still others, passive meanings).

In Michael Palmer's grammar (http://greek-language.com/grammar/21.html), he claims "the forms traditionally called aorist middle in fact represent both middle and passive meanings of Greek verbs and that those traditionally called aorist passive are also used for both middle and passive meanings." If this is true, then that means that "aorist middle" and "aorist passive" are misnomers, and they should actually be called "aorist middle-passive A" and "aorist middle-passive B". And I would assume that the future tense would follow the aorist tense in abolishing any formal distinction between middle and passive, and just have forms A and B which can be used for both middle and passive meanings. Am I understanding this properly?

Finally, if for all tenses there is no formal distinction to indicate middle or passive meanings (since all forms are middle-passive, and there are no strictly-middle-only or strictly-passive-only forms), is there truly a distinction in the middle and passive force (= meaning)? Couldn't we just say that "middle force" and "passive force" are contextual/lexical variants within a larger "midpassive (=middle + passive) force"? That way, we are left with just two forces: active and midpassive, and we can line the forces up cleanly to the forms. The "active form" will always have an active force, and the "midpassive form" will always have a midpassive force.

--David
David Lee
 
Posts: 11
Joined: April 19th, 2013, 7:19 am

Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby cwconrad » April 19th, 2013, 1:37 pm

First of all, the term "voice" itself is perhaps the least useful of the terms applied to categories of verbal inflection -- voice doesn't have anything to do with the way a verb "sounds" either to the ears or to the mind. The ancient Greek term διάθεσις, "arrangement" or "disposition" is much more useful term, inasmuch as the inflections to which we are referring indicate the relationship of the action or process or event to the subject of the verb. The so-called "active" voice is really pretty much a "catch-all" common or garden-variety verb form that doesn't specify at all how the action, process, or event relatives to the subject (most verbs with "active" inflection probably are transitive and active, but many are intransitive, some are impersonal, and some (like πίπτω and ἀποθνῄσκω and πάσχω function as if they were passive. The middle-passive inflections and the -θη- inflections found only in the aorist and future tenses both are best understood as indicating some affect of the action, process, or event upon the verb's subject; hence we speak of these "voices" or διαθέσεις as "subject-affected." I've recently suggested that we could do worse that adopt the original Greek term διάθεσις for "voice" and that we should add the adjectives κοινή to refer to the "active" or "catch-all" inflection and the adjective ἑαυτική to the "subject-affected" "middle-passive" and "passive" inflectional patterns.

A new consensus has been in the process of formation over recent years; it's beginning to emerge in the teaching of Classical Greek and barely beginning to emerge in the teaching of Koine Greek, but as yet there is no definitive publication setting forth the emerging consensus as it relates to Hellenistic -- including NT Koine -- usage. For what it's worth, some of the questions and items under consideration regarding Ancient Greek "Voice" are set forth on my web pages entitled "Propositions Concerning Ancient Greek Voice" (http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/GrkVc.html).
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
cwconrad
 
Posts: 1261
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:52 pm
Location: Burnsville, NC 28714

Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby Stephen Carlson » April 22nd, 2013, 12:02 pm

Yes, the term voice is a rather unfortunate term. It has nothing to do with how it "sounds" as the name suggests but it is, for some reason, the Latin grammatical tradition's equivalent of Greek διάθεσις, "disposition" or "arrangement." All these terms, and many others in grammar and linguistics, are unfortunately vague, so it's important to understand what these labels refer to, rather than try to derive what it means from the words chosen for the label.

As for what the term voice refers to, I think the best practice is to use it for the inflectional / morphological forms and use the term diathesis for the more abstract or conceptual notion of how a verb's synactic subject and object relate to the verb's arguments (your "meanings" or "force"; note that the "force" in linguistics relates to declaratory, interrogatory, exclamatory forces). So there are two "voices" in the present indicative and three in the aorist indicative. The traditional names are active, middle, passive. (For those who want a term for the category is that is both middle and passive, the more traditional name is mediopassive rather than "midpassive.") Again, you should understand these categories by looking at the range of phenomenon that they refer to, rather than trying to use the name of labels to define what they are.

One of the best things to come from the recent look at voice is to avoid thinking of diathesis (or your "force" or meanings) in terms of, say, English or our mother tongue, but to under its own logic. For example, who is say that a verb like ἔρχομαι is really "active" as in "I come" or more middle-like as in "I get myself here"? I think the answer has to defer to the Greeks: if Greek marks the form as middle, we ought to understand how it is middle rather than say, "but its meaning seems active, so it must be deponent."

As for Micheal Palmer's statement, while it is true that the aorist middle has some "passive meanings" and the aorist passive as some "middle meanings," the overlap is not complete. There still are some middles which don't take the aorist passives, and many "passives" (esp. from prototypical transitives in the active) that do not take the aorist middle. So there is some difference, but it is not easy to point to. Rather, the distribution of meanings among the forms is much more complicated than either what the traditional names imply or what one might misunderstand from Micheal's comment that anything goes.

But don't worry about the names. It is a fallacy to derive defintions from the names anyway. (These categories many not even admit themselves to being characterized with a single name.) Rather, worry about understanding the categories that the names refer to. There is a benefit to having mnemonic names (lots of people are dissatisfied with the traditional names), but ultimately you have to understand more than the names.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
Stephen Carlson
 
Posts: 1845
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Uppsala University

Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby RandallButh » April 23rd, 2013, 3:44 am

Στέφανος ἔγραψεν
As for what the term voice refers to, I think the best practice is to use it for the inflectional / morphological forms and use the term diathesis for the more abstract or conceptual notion of how a verb's synactic subject and object relate to the verb's arguments (your "meanings" or "force"; note that the "force" in linguistics relates to declaratory, interrogatory, exclamatory forces). So there are two "voices" in the present indicative and three in the aorist indicative. The traditional names are active, middle, passive. (For those who want a term for the category is that is both middle and passive, the more traditional name is mediopassive rather than "midpassive.") Again, you should understand these categories by looking at the range of phenomenon that they refer to, rather than trying to use the name of labels to define what they are.


I agree, Stephen, but disagree in execution.
Yes, διάθεσις is the better term for the category. It would probably help Greek students to go directly to that term and bypass English 'voice,' they won't get to collect $200 in either case.

So Greek diathesis has two formal categories in some tenses and three formal categories in other tenses. But I don't recommend calling the morpho-syntactical categories "voices". That word is already defined in English, and it is always more difficult to erase a common, errant meaning, than to create a neologism built on a zero-meaning word. It may be simplest, and better, to say that some tenses have two categories of diathesis (whose FORMS are called ἐνεργητική and μέση ) and some tenses have three categories of diathesis (whose FORMS are called ἐνεργητική, μέση, παθητική). When a student inevitably asks, "is the παθητική like 'passive voice' in English?", the teacher can say "No, the Greek uses this category for many things that are not passive in English, like πορευθῆναι 'going away'."

At the stage of explaining, not naming, the categories, then [κοινή] and [ἑαυτική] become useful because they unite the μέση and παθητική categories, something that the Greeks did in some tenses, and then add the special use of παθητική with transitive verbs as 'passive'.

By the way, shall we call these three κατηγορίαι τῆς μορφῆς, or something like three σχήματα? I have tended to use σχήματα for different classes of forms, like verbs ἀγαπᾶν ποιεῖν πληροῦν.
RandallButh
 
Posts: 571
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby Stephen Carlson » April 23rd, 2013, 10:00 am

Obviously a Greek naming approach for grammatical meta-language wouldn't use the term voice but the native Greek terms.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
Stephen Carlson
 
Posts: 1845
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Uppsala University

Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby Paul-Nitz » April 23rd, 2013, 10:55 am

RandallButh wrote:By the way, shall we call these three κατηγοραὶ τῆς μορφῆς, or something like three σχήματα? I have tended to use σχήματα for different classes of forms, like verbs ἀγαπᾶν ποιεῖν πληροῦν.


Seamus Macdonald, over on Ancient Greek Best Practices group, has shared an open file listing grammatical terms in Greek. I've been adding to it and would like to enter in these new terms. I've also been adding some examples of terms in use. So, a couple of questions:

I very much like σχῆμα, σχήματα for the "shape" or form of contract verbs.
How do you use the term? το "ἐπείνασα" ἐστι ρῆμα τοῦ Ἄλφα σχήματος ?

I'm hesitant about κατηγορή because I can't find it in any dictionary ("κατηγορία" accusation).
How about το γένος, τα γένη τῆς μορφῆς ? Too general?
And again, how would you use it? κατηγορὴ τῆς μορφῆς τοῦ ρῆμα τούτου εστιν παθητική ?


τί δοκεί σοι, Ἰωαννης;
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi
Paul-Nitz
 
Posts: 200
Joined: June 1st, 2011, 4:19 am

Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby RandallButh » April 23rd, 2013, 11:36 am

Sorry for the typo.
The phrase was intended to be κατηγορίαι τῆς μορφῆς. Aristotle uses it for logical predications and 'categories'. It's still around in Modern Greek, despite its etymological origin as "accusation". Think of it as 'speaking to the point,' and subsuming a head. On γένος, τὰ γένη, it's already a technical term in grammar for 'gender'. Still, it is a generic word for "kinds" of anything, and we can say things like τρία γένη τῆς διαθέσεως.
RandallButh
 
Posts: 571
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby RandallButh » April 23rd, 2013, 12:04 pm

How do you use the term? το "ἐπείνασα" ἐστι ρῆμα τοῦ Ἄλφα σχήματος ?


I would more likely say "ἐπείνασα" ἐστιν ῥῆμα τοῦ σχήματος "πεινάσαι πεινᾶν", ἢ τοῦ γελάσαι γελᾶν. Dionysios just quoted real words when he discussed this.
Dionysios:
"περισπωμένων δὲ ῥημάτων συζυγίαι εἰσὶ τρεῖς, ὧν
(α´)
ἡ μὲν πρώτη ἐκφέρεται ἐπὶ δευτέρου καὶ τρίτου προσώπου διὰ τῆς ει
διφθόγγου, οἷον νοῶ νοεῖς νοεῖ·
(β´)
ἡ δὲ δευτέρα διὰ τῆς αι διφθόγγου, προσγραφομένου τοῦ ι, μὴ
συνεκφωνουμένου δέ, οἷον βοῶ βοᾶις βοᾶι·
(γ´)
ἡ δὲ τρίτη διὰ τῆς οι διφθόγγου, οἷον χρυσῶ χρυσοῖς χρυσοῖ."

PS:
And checking just now I saw that he used SXHMATA for different kinds of "compound" verbs having prefixes or suffixes added to the stem to make a new vocab item. So let's drop SXHMATA, too.
Now that I think about it, in Living Koine Greek, Part 2a and 2b, we called the verbs "perispomena rhmata" like D.T.
RandallButh
 
Posts: 571
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby Paul-Nitz » April 23rd, 2013, 2:32 pm

I get the gist of that quotation from Dionysios, but school me about the key word:
περισποωμένων, περισπωμενα

The turning around of words? from περισπάω... (περισπάσασθαι) ?
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi
Paul-Nitz
 
Posts: 200
Joined: June 1st, 2011, 4:19 am

Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby Stephen Carlson » April 23rd, 2013, 3:05 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:I get the gist of that quotation from Dionysios, but school me about the key word:
περισποωμένων, περισπωμενα

The turning around of words? from περισπάω... (περισπάσασθαι) ?


Turning around of the accent. It's the circumflex.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
Stephen Carlson
 
Posts: 1845
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Uppsala University

Next

Return to Syntax and Grammar

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest