Kemmer's Middle-voice categories

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Thu Oct 18 10:06:15 EDT 2001

Partly as an answer to Iver's question regarding Middle voice and the agent
experiencing, and also as a contribution to the broader discussion of
Middle and Passive voice, here's an item that I intend to include within my
final revision of my May 1999 "Observations on Ancient Greek Voice." It is
a listing of middle-voice categories (to which I've added notes on some
Greek and Latin verbs falling into these categories) compiled from Suzanne
Kemmer's _The Middle Voice_, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: J. Benjamins
Publishing Co., 1993. It is a list of the kinds of verbs that typically
find expression in middle-voice morphology. It is to a considerable extent
a compilation, and the illustrative verbs are my own addition, for the most

1. Grooming, body care: washing,dressing, shaving, bathing, undressing,
cutting hair/nails, anointing self, buttoning clothes (Fr. se laver, Gr.

2. Change in body posture: sit down, lie down, kneel down, arise, stand up

3. Non-translational motion: stretch out, turn around, bend, shake head,
move neck, clench fists (Gr. TREPOMAI, KAMPTOMAI)

4. Translational motion: fly, flee, go away, run, hurry, go away from,
climb, arrive, leave, come, go (Gr. PETOMAI, ERCOMAI, POREUOMAI, Fr. s'en
aller, Lat. se removere)

5. Indirect reflexive: break one's arm, etc.; build oneself a house

6. Indirect middle, self-benefactive:choose, acquire for self, pray,

7. Naturally reciprocal events: meet, fight, greet, wrestle, embrace,
quarrel, converse, agree with, mate, take stock together (Gr. ASPAZOMAI)

8. Stative, naturally reciprocal: adjoin, be linked (copular), resemble one
another, match (Gr. ECOMAI)

9. Reciprocal marked naturally collective: assembling, gather, merge, be
packed, accumulate, multiply, thin out, densify

10. Emotion: be frightened, hate, be angry, marvel at, delight in, take
consolation, pity, care/worry, grieve/mourn, regret, be charmed, take
pleasure, repent, be satisifed (Gr. hHDOMAI, Lat. misereor)

11. Emotive speech: complain, lament, blame (Gr. OLOFUROMAI, MEMFOMAI)

12. Other speech actions: confess, boast, chide, accuse, lie, deceive,

13. Simple cognitive events: ponder, meditate, interpret, devise, reflect,
consider, deliberate, calculate (Gr. hHGEOMAI, BOULEUOMAI, STAQMAOMAI)

14. Perception: look at, feel, hear (Gr. DERKOMAI, AISQANOMAI, AKROAOMAI,
Lat. conspicor)

15. Complex cognitive events: believe, forget, remember, suspect,
conjecture (Gr. OIOMAI, EPILANQANOMAI, Lat. obliviscor)

16. Commissive, intensive: resolve, view, undertake, promise, intend, swear

17. Spontaneous events: die, sink, develop, become light, change, dissolve,
evaporate, germinate, dissipate, grow, burst, spread out, convalesce, thaw,
melt, open, split, be born (a very large group, the mother of all of which

18. Facilitative: inherent characteristic of patient allows action to take
place: "soup eats like a meal."

19. Impersonal: generic agent (both this and the above have generic aspects).

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

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