Future "deponents"

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Thu Oct 8 09:10:35 EDT 1998

At 7:30 AM -0500 10/8/98, Randy LEEDY wrote:
>Carl's contribution to the discussion Bill Combs got going about the
>voice of APWLLUNTO prompts me to ask him something that's been in the
>back of my mind about his view on middle and passive voice. Carl,
>maybe you've already explained this in your thesis on voice, of which
>I did not retain a copy when you posted it a year or two ago. As I
>recall, though, this is one of the questions it left me with: how does
>your view explain the formations of verbs such as LAMBANW that are
>"deponent" only in the future tense? If you did indeed deal with this
>in your thesis, perhaps you can just paste the relevant portion into
>an email and make quick work of a reply. Or may it is time to re-post
>the whole thing.

It's time to update it, as I suggested in a post a couple days ago; I now
have a lot more ammunition for it. Nevertheless the original is available
in the archives (the old archives, that is, prior to the list's move to
Sunsite this past June; the url for that original lengthy piece on Greek
voice (May 27, 1997) is:


Here's the part that's relevant to your question:

"        (c) What I have already said in (b) refers essentially to
transitive verbs that have both active and middle/reflexive forms. I would
also point out, however, that this understanding of middle/reflexive forms
may be helpful for dealing with the apparent "anomalies" of the so-called
"deponent" verbs like ERCOMAI and POREUOMAI which have no active forms
normally at all but which we would term Intransitive verbs of motion.
Perhaps it's perilous to attempt to get very deep into the underlying
psychology of the Greek verb, but I would be inclined at least to
understand these verbs as originally involving a notion of self-projection,
self-propulsion, and that this is the reason why their basic forms are
middle/reflexive rather than active. Of course, it is certainly true also
that there are intransitive verbs with active forms, and in fact, HLQON
functions as the ACTIVE aorist of ERCOMAI and BAINW or PROBAINW may be used
to mean much the same thing as POREUOMAI (at least when one is traveling on
foot!). I think the same psychology is at work in the fact that so many
Greek verbs that are active in the present tense go into the
middle/reflexive in the future--they apparently involve a notion of
self-projection or self-propulsion in the thought of the agent, e.g.:
        PASCW, PEISOMAI (from root PAQ/PENQ)
and I think anyone competent in classical or Attic Greek could readily add
many others to this list. It's rather curious to me that the verb EIMI,
which is certainly active in form in the present and imperfect in classical
Attic and Homer, has a future ESOMAI (Homeric ESSOMAI) and already in
Hellenistic Greek shows (with imperfect HMHN) that it is on its way to the
modern Greek verb which is conjugated wholly in the middle/reflexive
(EIMAI, HMOUN, etc.)."

I might note in addition to the above list the rather rare future (really
future perfect) of OIDA about which A.K.A. Adam and I had some off-list
Or maybe this is really the future to a "present tense" form EIDW (under
which OIDA is to be found in LSJG), a verb that is more likely to be found
even in Homer in the middle as EIDOMAI.

I'm hoping I can issue a fuller revised vision of the "Observations on
Voice" and post it to the list before the year is out; there's a good deal
more that I want to say about QH/QHS aorist and future "passive" than I
discussed in my version 18 months ago.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cconrad at yancey.main.nc.us
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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