Meaning of "voice"

Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby Louis L Sorenson » May 12th, 2013, 7:35 am

Here is another question I have. Does the Greek active voice map directly to the English active voice. If we think of them as set theory (a group of circles), do they line up entirely, is one inside the other. What areas do they not match up. If the κοινή διάθεσις is unmarked for subject affectedness, is it marked for something else?
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Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby Stephen Carlson » May 12th, 2013, 8:10 am

Louis L Sorenson wrote:Here is another question I have. Does the Greek active voice map directly to the English active voice. If we think of them as set theory (a group of circles), do they line up entirely, is one inside the other. What areas do they not match up. If the κοινή διάθεσις is unmarked for subject affectedness, is it marked for something else?

No, the English active voice is broader than the Greek. For example, there is the "unergative" use with an active in sentences like "The window broke" where Greek would use a middle. Also, English has two kinds of passives, one with be and another with get. The two voice systems just don't line up well.

I'm pretty happy that the Greek active voice is unmarked for subject affectedness. I can't think of what it could be marked for that is generally true.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
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Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby cwconrad » May 12th, 2013, 8:29 am

Louis L Sorenson wrote:Here is another question I have. Does the Greek active voice map directly to the English active voice. If we think of them as set theory (a group of circles), do they line up entirely, is one inside the other. What areas do they not match up. If the κοινή διάθεσις is unmarked for subject affectedness, is it marked for something else?


Your question makes me realize how little confident I am that I can describe English verb forms and usage clearly. As I see it, a key problem here is how we use the word "active" to refer to any verb-form indicating a subject performing an action, whether the verb is transitive or intransitive. I think we would say that "The dog runs" and "The dog bites the boy" both have verbs in the active voice; we would probably say that the verb in "The boy bathes" is active also, but I think that ancient Greek would formulate that last sentence in a middle-voice form, λούεται ὁ παῖς. If that's accepted, then I think we'd have to say that ancient Greek active voice does not map directly to the English active voice.

I don't see how the κοινὴ διάθεσις in ancient Greek can be said to be marked for anything. But maybe I'm wrong; there are a number of middle verbs that are intransitive, e.g. παύεσθαι, λούεσθαι, ἀνίσταμαι, the active form of which might be said to be "marked for causativity": παύειν, λούειν, ἀνίστάναι, That is to say: verbs such as these are probably best understood as middle verbs and should probably be lemmatized in the middle form, and their active forms should be understood as marked for causativity. But I don't see that anything can be said about Greek active forms -- the κοινὴ διάθεσις -- that is a valid attribute of all such forms.

I'm sure that others can speak much more precisely and helpfully to your question, Louis, but I do think it's worth noting that the simple description of voice usage in English that we were taught in school (if we had any teaching in English grammar at all) seems pretty superficial. I recall vividly one item of voice lore that I learned in the fifth grade (back in the 40's of the last century) about "the received object of a passive verb" -- as in "I was given this book by John", where "this book" is the object of "was given" as a passive transformation of "John gave me this book." It was reflection upon this usage that got me to thinking about how we should really best understand τρίχας καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν with ἦν ὁ Ἰωάννης ἐνδεδυμένος in Mark 1:8: is ἦν ... ἐνδεδυμένος really a passive or shouldn't it rather be understood as a middle, "he had clotthed himself with ... "

So: as I said at the outset, I have become painfully aware of how little I understand about English grammar and of the inadequacy of what I was taught about it.
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: Meaning of "voice"

Postby RandallButh » May 12th, 2013, 12:21 pm

It may be some consolation to know that a 'clean, airtight' definition of voice in a language is a logical improbability. It's just that speakers of any one language are unappreciative of the the potentially mixed categories. (The snow melted, the snow was melted by the sun.) There are more logical parameters than there are morphological categories. That means that the labels are compromises to some degree.

There is a cline of logical parameters like 'agent, experiencer, possessor, recipient, patient' that can be compared crosslinguistically. Carl's example of a "Recipient" subject (John was given the book) is not possible in some subject-oriented languages. (Such observations led to a school of "Relational Grammar", once upon a time.) Kinds of subjects, degrees of transitivity, kinds of aktionsart, and voice are potential clines that must interact and fit into a restricted categorical matrix. Then again, the various categories must be held in tension and they provide a kind of internal definition within a language. That means that a language like Greek ends up with a binary distinction -ειν vs.-εσθαι (-ω vs. -ομαι), so that even if one of the members started out as "neutral", they may end up including a definition of "not the other group". This is the 'pie' phenomenon: the definition of the pieces is partially determined by how many pieces the pie is cut. With Greek, that is additionally blurred, because the aorist and future systems have a three-way cut, while the continuative and perfect have two-way cuts. However, it is significant that the two-way cut has more in common with Romance "se"-verbs than with English "passive" structures.
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Re: Meaning of "voice"

Postby Paul-Nitz » June 6th, 2013, 7:29 am

What are your comments on 1, 2, and 3 below?

ONE - an outline of voice - παράδειγμα και διαθέσεις
    In Greek, we have three Patterns of Forms which indicate one of two verbal forces.
    Ἑλληνική ἔχομεν τρία τὰ παραδει̍γματα τῆς μορφῆς ἅ δείκνυσι μίαν έκ δυο διαθέσεις

    Three patterns:
      1. το παράδειγμα σαι, ειν δείκνυσι τὴν κοινήν διάθεσιν.
      2. το παράδειγμα ασθαι, εσθαι και
      3. το παράδειγμα θῆναι δείκνυσι τὴν ἑαυτικήν διάθεσιν.

    Two forces:
      ἡ κοινή διάθεσις
      Τhe common force / function. This is like the “Active voice” in English. It is not marked for subject-affectedness.

      ἡ ἑαυτική διάθεσις
      The “having to do with him-itself” force / function – subject affectedness.
      The subject of the verb is more affected than in κοινή διάθεσις. He has more interest (φάγομαι), investment, care, or personal involvement in the action. At times, the subject is understood as being affected to the point of being the receiver of the action.
TWO - What Greek labels could we use for the different ideas within ἑαυτική διάθεσις;
    Some possible terms for the nuances of the ἑαυτική διάθεσις (as suggested by L. Sorenson on AGBP)
    1. Reciprocity ἀλλήλωσις
    2. Reflexivity ἑαύτωσις
    3. Self-Involvement αὐθάδωσις (>αὐθάδης)
    4. Self-Interest ἰδίωσις
    5. Receptivity δέχωσις
    6. Passivity πάθησις (κατὰ τὸ ποίησις )
    7. State στάσις

THREE - Would the following verbs, in the following forms, fit into a θῆναι παράδειγμα;

    Infinitive:
    δοῦναι θεῖναι ἀφεῖναι γνῶναι
    διδόναι τιθέναι ἀφιέναι γινώσκειν

    Imperative
    δός θές ἄφες γνῶθι
    δότε θέτε ἄφετε γνῶτε

    Aorist Indicative
    ἔδωκα ἔθηκα ἀφῆκα ἔγνων
    ἔδωκας ἔθηκας ἀφῆκας ἔγνως
    ἔδωκε~ν ἔθηκε~ν ἀφῆκε~ν ἔγνω
    ἐδώκαμεν ἐθήκαμεν ἀφήκαμεν ἔγνωμεν
    ἐδώκατε ἐθήκατε ἀφήκατε ἔγνωτε
    ἔδωκαν ἔθηκαν ἀφῆκαν ἔγνων

    Aorist Subjunctive
    δῶ θῶ ἀφῶ γνῶ
    δῷς θῇς ἀφῇς γνῷς
    δῷ θῇ ἀφῇ γνῷ

    Aorist Particple
    δούς θείς ἀφείς γνούς
    δοῦσα θείσα ἀφεῖσα γνοῦσα
    δόν θέν ἀφέν γνόν
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi
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