[B-Greek] A new stab at voice

Kimmo Huovila kimmo.huovila at helsinki.fi
Tue Oct 16 14:13:15 EDT 2007

Thanks for your response. The bibliography was excellent. If only I had the 
extra time to read more before I give a lecture on Greek voice :-(

On Tuesday 16 October 2007, Carl W. Conrad wrote:

> "Subject-affectedness" rather than transitivity is the chief feature  
> distinguishing the voice-forms in ancient Greek. Verbs with "active"  
> morphology are UNMARKED, while verbs with "middle" or "passive"  
> morphology are MARKED for subject-affectedness. But transitivity is a  
> factor in the differentiation between "middle" and "active" forms of  
> quite a few verbs: there is a sizable category of middle-voice verbs  
> of Spontaneous process, Mental process, Body motion, and Collective  
> motion that are intransitive but that have active-voice causative  
> forms that are transitive (e.g. hISTAMAI/hISTHMI, AGEIROMAI/AGEIRW,  
> FOBEOMAI/FOBEW). Egbert Bakker's article cited above nicely sketches  
> out the interrelationship between voice, transitivity, and causality.

How do you define subject-affectedness?

> It would, I think, be better to speak of "agentive" and "non- 
> agentive" verbs and to note whether the action/process indicated by  
> the verb is voluntary or involuntary (spontaneous). I would  
> personally say that EBAPTISQHSAN ought not to be understood as a  
> "passive verb" in the sense that the subject is solely the patient;  
> rather I agree with Kimmo that willing participation in the process  
> is clearly involved here. The difference between the form EBAPTISANTO  
> and EBAPTISQHSAN lies in the fact that the former indicates the  
> subjects performs the action of baptism upon persons other than  
> themselves, whereas the latter indicates that the subjects have  
> themselves undergone the action of baptism, presumably voluntarily  
> (for if not, what validity would the baptism have?).

If EBAPTISQHSAN is semantically passive, the willing participation is only 
assumed based on context. It is not stated. If it is semantically middle, the 
participation is more foregrounded in the expression. Either will do in at 
least most contexts, so there is some room for argument. However, the fact 
that usually the verb is morphologically passive may be an indicator that the 
Greeks did not care to make the distinction here (the middle was not a common 
option, so it is much more marked; perhaps the passive did double duty). The 
middle is found in Mark 7:4, where it is quite clearly middle semantics (and 
the object is not another person). I do not know where else the middle is 
found (but I have not really searched much). You must have thought of 
different examples.

> > "TI EPOIHSAS? -  
> > HGERQH." should
> > not be strange, as it would be if HGERQH was semantically passive.  

My typo. HGERQHN, of course.

> Bakker (cited above) rightly notes the importance of  
> Aktionsart and transitivity in relationship to the semantic force of  
> the morphoparadigm representing the action/process in particular  
> instances.

How does he see the relationship between Aktionsart (a term we should dispose 
of, IMHO) and voice? -QH-paradigm more perfective (or bounded or aoristic) 
than the middle paradigm or something else?

> Thank you, Kimmo, for a stimulating report. Keep at it!

I'll keep thinking about it at least until my lecture. Afterwards I'll 
probably find other things to think about :-)


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