[B-Greek] Present Middles with "Active" aorists/perfects
Carl W. Conrad
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Fri Mar 10 08:28:04 EST 2006
On Mar 10, 2006, at 6:54 AM, Randall Buth wrote:
> PERDESQAI raises another issue that Carl has often clarified elegantly
> here on the list.
> PERDESQAI is one of those words that is attested as middle/MESH FWNH
> in the present/ENESTWS, but then in the simple past one says EPARDON
> (PARDEIN). I would chalk this up to accident and the vagaries of
> language. This kind of inconsistency happens in languages in general.
> For language learning, I think that one can simply use the forms as
> However, in Greek it may reflect some older processes.
> ERXESQAI//ELQEIN shows the same shift between
> ENESTWS+MESH and
> AORISTOS+ENERGETIKOS(active). Is there a principle here that can
> elucidate these?
As I indicated in my earlier reply to Randall's message entitled "[B-
Greek] Body Humor and Voice," this is a separate topic deserving of a
new header and a fuller discussion in its own right. I've researched
this matter in response to Martin Culy's urging me to explain why we
should NOT call "deponents" such forms like HLQON and ELHLUQA as
actives associated with a present-tense middle lemma.
PERDOMAI/EPARDON is hardly unique; another like it is DERKOMAI/
EDRAKON, "look (distinctively) with its derivative aorist participle
DRAKWN which, as a substantive, is "the one with the fierce look."
So far as I've gotten, these verbs seem to belong to what Smyth
(§372) calls a "primitive" verb: "A verb forming its tense-stems
directly from a root is called a primitive verb. ... Verbs in -MI and
verbs in -W of two syllables (in the present indicative active, as
LEGW, speak) or of three syllables (in the middle, as DECOMAI
receive) are generally primitive."
One of my contentions concerning voice is that what we call "active"
and "middle-passive" paradigms in ancient Greek are more accurately
to be understood as "standard" or "ordinary" (unmarked) and "subject-
focused" (marked) forms. Originally these paradigms have nothing to
do with transitivity and, although there's some validity in referring
to the "active" forms by the name "active" -- by far the greatest
number of verbs with "active" lemmas turn out to be transitive and
active --, yet there are quite a few intransitives and even some
verbs with "active" lemmas that even function to indicate a semantic
passive: PIPTW as passive of BALLW, PASCW as passive of POIEW or PRATTW.
Another contention is that verbs with present-tense middle lemmas
should not be called "deponents" but should better be characterized
as "middle" verbs. While it would probably be misleading to call them
"reflexive," the fact is that the reflexive verbs in languages using
a reflexive pronoun generally function in much the same way as do
Greek "middle" verbs. Moreover, some verbs that in ancient Greek do
in fact have active forms or active lemmas are really "middle" verbs
whose somewhat less-common active forms are "causatives" of the
fundamentally inransitive verb. One such verb is EGEIROMAI, "arise"
or "awake" with an active EGEIRW, "roust" or "awaken." Another is
hISTAMAI "stand" or "come to a standstill" with an active hISTHMI
"cause to stand" or "bring to a halt."
"Primitive" verbs with aorist and perfect forms that are “active” in
form, are generally intransitive; they correspond to verbs that are
(or should be) lemmatized as “Middle” verbs: It has been observed by
some that a full accounting of what have traditionally been called
"deponent" verbs ought to clarify why it is that some "middle" verbs
have active forms in the aorist and in the perfect tenses. For
instance ERCOMAI has a middle future derived from a different root
(fELEUQ) -- a root that appears in the aorist (HLQON) active and in
the perfect (ELHLUQA) active forms; another is hISTAMAI (usually
lemmatized in the active form hISTHMI): there is an aorist active
form ESTHN which is intransitive and a perfect active form hESTHKA
(older hESTAA) which is also intransitive.
Why? The reason is that these aorist and perfect forms of these
"primitive" verbs emerged long before the development of the middle-
passive perfect tense and the distinctive -QH- forms of the aorist.
They are not really "active" in meaning -- they are certainly not
transitive and causative -- but rather they exemplify the "default"
function of the "active," the form that is not distinctly marked for
subject-focus. Some of these verbs have causative transitive aorists
in -SA-, e.g. ESTHSA -- but the older “second” or “strong” aorists
really correspond to present-tense forms that are middle rather than
active. Moreover, the -QH- forms of the aorist are originally
intransitive aorists with active endings; like the -MAI/SAI/TAI; MHN/
SO/TO forms they can bear either middle or passive semantic force,
although the lexical meaning of most verbs restricts the -QH- forms
ordinarily to either middle or passive semantic force.
This is just a brief sketch, and inasmuch as it's a topic that I have
researched and reached some tentative conclusions about since my 2002
version of "New Perspectives on Ancient Greek Voice," I've added this
to some other revised thinking about voice issues that I hope to
develop more expansively in a fresh revision of the "New
Perspectives." In the meantime, links to PDF forms of my older
discussions and a brief sketch of some of my revised thinking can be
accessed at WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/GrkVc.html
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
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