[B-Greek] Mike Aubrey on Middle Voice

Michael Aubrey mga318 at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 15 01:28:01 EST 2010

A few things here:

1) Mike *never* states "the mesotes category, as its name implies, combines..." 
When Shibatani says that I would argue that he's wanting Dionysius Thrax to say 
more than he actually does. And that is quite important The question of what 
Dionysius Thrax does or does not say clearly about mesotes is up  for debate. I 
would argue that he says very little clearly. 

2) What is  clear is what he says about ENERGEIA and PATHOS: these two forms 
correspond to an inflectional paradigm. MESOTES has no correspondence to what 
modern grammars term as "middle" despite the fact that middle  is a 
translational equivalent of mesotes. It is definitely not a  grammatical 

3) My reference to Matt 8:32, Mark 5:13, Luke 8:33, Acts 7:57; 19:29 was less 
then clear. All I had intended to point out was that the verb ὡρμήθη/WRMHQH 
(which is ὁρμάω ORMAW) appears in the NT. Nothing more. I have gone back and 
corrected that. The Josephus quote stands on its own. It isdefinitely, 
definitely not  passive. The form in Josephus Life 138 is θη/QH, but θη/QH does 
not = passive. The word "passive" is a grammatical term that has an etymology 
that goes back to PATHOS, but nothing more. The Latin linguistic tradition 
ruined the connection between them. It no longer exists. The grammatical term 
PATHOS and the grammatical term passive are not equivalent. PATHOS is equivalent 
to the semantic-grammatical term "subject affectedness."

I would also argue that traditional Modern Greek grammar is extremely unhelpful 
on this point and that the term "passive" is used in Modern Greek grammars 
extremely loosely in a manner that it shouldn't be. Passive is the demotion of 
the agent to an oblique and the promotion of the theme/patient to the Subject 
position. The fact that Modern Greek grammars have sections entitled, "The 
reflexive use of the passive" should be shooting off fireworks in your head that 
what it termed "passive" in traditional modern Greek grammar needs a larger 
grammatical category than "passive" (see for example, 211-217 of Greek: A 
Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Langauge by Holton, Mackridge and 
Philippaki-Warburton). Conversely, middle systems across languages are regularly 
used to express passive constructions. And its striking how many of these 
"reflexive passive" fit into Rutgar Allan's middle categories. 

I would argue (and so would Linda Manney, Middle Voice in Modern Greek: Meaning 
and Function of an Inflectional Category who did for Modern Greek what Rutgar 
Allan did for Ancient Greek) that both Ancient and Modern Greek have 
Active-Middle systems not Active-Passive systems. I would also argue (with 
Shibatani) that Dionysius Thrax in using the terms ENERGEIA and PATHOS was 
describing an Active-Middle system.

Unfortunately, this is just as contentious debate in Modern Greek grammars as it 
is in Ancient Greek grammars and will likely continue without resolution for 
some time.


From: nikolaos kadamou <ntgreekreader at gmail.com>
To: cwconrad2 <cwconrad2 at mac.com>; Michael Aubrey <mga318 at yahoo.com>
Cc: B-Greek <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tue, December 14, 2010 8:17:05 PM
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Mike Aubrey on Middle Voice

I would like to add some additional concerns.

I am not that comfortable when pathos in grammatical terms is given as

Mike states that “the mesotes category, as its name implies, combines
the features of the two major voice categories; i.e. the active
inflection with the pathos meaning or the middle inflection with the
energeia meaning. Thus, the form identified as the middle inflection
does not correlate directly with Dionysius’ mesotes voice. Rather the
middle inflection represents the pathos voice, and this is what is
normally recognized as the middle voice by modern grammarians.”

Dionysos states very clearly that μεσότης δὲ ἡ ποτὲ μὲν ἐνέργειαν ποτὲ
PARISTASA) which does not combine.  A combination is an intersections
in set theory terms having some elements of the energy and some of the
pathos, but as Dionysos states it is either energy or pathos.  Also
the term correlate is a very specific statistical concept taking
numerical values between zero and one.  I do not think Dionysos
thought in terms of statistical analysis.

Finally, Mike makes his statement using Flavius Josephus, The Life of
Josephus, Book 1, Whiston Chapter 1, Whiston Section 28, verse 138
ὁ μὲν ταῦτα ἔλεγεν, ἐγὼ δὲ τῷ θεῷ τὰ κατ' ἐμαυτὸν ἐπιτρέψας εἰς τὸ
πλῆθος ὡρμήθην προελθεῖν.

And Mike states that “ὡρμήθην also appears in Matt 8:32, Mark 5:13,
Luke 8:33, Acts 7:57; 19:29”  Actually in these passages we have forms
of the verb ὁρμάω/ὁρμέω and in specific terms ὥρμησεν in the first
three and ὥρμησαν in the last two, all of them in an active form.  I
do not doubt the form in verse 138 is passive, but it sounds kind of
awkward to me.

So someone who thinks in Greek and does not try to translate in
English in order to comprehend – like me – πάθος means that τὶς
παθαίνει τὶ -something happens to someone but not because of an energy
of the subject, but rather as an active energy of a third part.

On Tue, Dec 14, 2010 at 8:48 AM, cwconrad2 <cwconrad2 at mac.com> wrote:
> Another blog-entry worth the attention of B-Greekers. I refer you to it with
> applause:
> http://evepheso.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/dionysius-thrax-translating-%CE%AC/
> = http://tinyurl.com/2eathyz
> It concerns, at least initially, the meaning of Dionysius Thrax's relatively
> brief comment
> on the DIAQESEIS (διαθέσεις): ENERGEIA (ἐνέργεια) , PAQOS (πάθος) ,
> MESOTHS (μεσότης), and the illustrations of each of these by citing
> particular verb-forms.
> I do really wonder whether "voice" isn't itself one of those grammatical
> terms that we inherited
> and can't get rid of because it's set in sepulchral stone. It appears to be
> a purely arbitrary term,
> derived, I guess from Latin; it certainly doesn't reflect the Greek term
> DIAQESEIS (διαθέσεις)
> which would be better Englished as "disposition" or "arrangement." But that,
> I guess, is a moot
> point.
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (ret)
> ---
> B-Greek home page: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek
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> B-Greek at lists.ibiblio.org
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