When we discuss the “scope” of any grammar it is possible to discuss two quite different things. One is the range of issues it should address (See Scope IV). The other is the range of literature it seeks to cover, what I called “Documentary Scope” in my original post on this issue (Scope I, II, and III).
The problem of defining the documentary scope of a Hellenistic Greek Grammar in the past century was fairly straight forward. It included either the Christian New Testament, or the New Testament plus the Septuagint. Little outside that body of literature was of immediate interest. The computer revolution, however, has made this limitation seem unreasonable, since we now have relatively easy access to a much broader range of literature.
What I have written in my first three posts on Scope was written as a way of thinking through the implications of this challenge. I suggested that an authoritative grammar of Hellenistic Greek should address at least (outside the biblical texts) a broad representation from other early Jewish and Christian literature and much of the available papyrii from outside the Jewish and Christian traditions.
Now I would like to consider the “problem” of dialect. This issue is acutely problematic with some authors who were able to manage more than one dialect reasonably fluently. Take Flavius Arrianus, for example. He wrote the Discourses of Epictetus (ΤΩΝ ΕΠΙΚΤΗΤΟΥ ΔΙΑΤΡΙΒΩΝ) and the Manual of Epictetus (ΕΠΙΚΤΗΤΟΥ ΕΓΧΕΙΡΙΔΙΟΝ) in fluent Hellenistic Koiné, but his History of Alexander (ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ ΑΝΑΒΑΣΕΩΣ) is a clear attempt to imitate the Attic of Xenophon and in his Indica (ΙΝΔΙΚΗ) he strives for the Ionic of Herodotus. In neither of these last two does he represent the actual speech of his time, but he certainly did represent the language of fine literature.
In my original post on Scope I suggested that we should include Arrian’s History of Alexander, but I would now reject that judgment. If our aim is to reflect the Hellenistic Koiné, the language seen in the biblical texts, then we should limit the Documentary Scope of the grammar to works that reflect that level of literature.
In this case, what we need goes well beyond a list of Hellenistic authors, but a considered discussion of each of their works and its relationship to the Koiné.
A few weeks ago, Mike Aubrey announced on ΕΝ ΕΦΕΣΩ the release of Steve Runge’s new book, Discourse Grammar of New Testament Greek. To see the announcement, visit his blog at ΕΝ ΕΦΕΣΩ.
This is a ground-breaking work, in that it approaches grammar from a linguistic perspective not previously employed in a full grammar of Biblical Greek. Notice the subtitle: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis.
While I’m on the topic of Randall Buth’s recent contributions with regard to teaching Greek, I should point out his discussion of Hellenistic pronunciation that relates it directly to the task of teaching and learning Hellenistic Greek: Ἡ Κοινὴ Προφορά (Koine Pronunciation): Notes on the Pronunciation System of Phonemic Koine Greek (PDF).
He does a very nice job of summarizing the state of reconstruction of Greek pronunciation for the Hellenistic period and laying out key assumptions about the criteria a reconstructed pronunciation should meet.
Do any of you know how to get a copy of his Living Koine Greek For Everyone?
I’ve added appropriate categories to the Topical Index for my grammar to cover the issues introduced in Lesson 20: The Middle Voice.
I spent the day today in a training seminar on teaching English to speakers of other languages. I’ll be back to working on Greek tomorrow.
I spent Monday working on the next lesson for the online grammar, dealing with the middle voice. I hope to finish it in the next few days.
I’ve uploaded a slightly revised version of Lesson 19: Semantic Roles and Voice: the Aorist Passive.
The changes are designed to make it clear that what has traditionally been called the Aorist Passive is a set of forms that, while they often suggest a passive interpretation, are not exclusively (or even primarily) passive.
The middle voice will be introduced later, and at that point I will have more to say about Greek voice, and I’ll introduce the notion of transitivity. My goals for this lesson are simply to introduce the notion of the semantic roles AGENT and PATIENT—establishing their independence from specific morphological Case forms—and to introduce the forms traditionally called aorist passive.
I would love to hear from readers about how well you think I have accomplished these goals and about how clearly (or unclearly) I have handled the issue of insuring that students do not equate these forms exclusively with passive voice interpretations.
Lesson 19: Semantic Roles and Voice: the Aorist Passive
Well… It’s been a long time since I’ve made any substantive changes to my online grammar. In part this has been because responsibilities at work have taken too much of my time. Another reason, though is that I’ve been struggling with what to do with the issue of voice.
My original intention was simply to convert to a form suitable for the web the old grammar that I wrote in the early ’90s. I intended to do very little editing. Shortly after I posted the lesson on passive voice, though, I realized that this is not a workable option. My views on voice have changed too much to simply post what I wrote back then. So… I have delayed further progress on the grammar till I can see how revising this part will affect the remainder of the lessons.
In the mean time, I hope to post here a few thoughts on particular verbs, especially ones that have middle voice lexical forms (present tense/aspect), but active voice forms for other principal parts. Take ἔρχομαι, for example. While it’s meaning fits nicely with the semantic value of the middle voice, and it consistently has middle voice forms in the present, its aorist forms are typically active voice (ἦλθον, etc.). If we dispense with the notion of “deponent” (as I think we should), how do we account for this variation of voice forms between tenses/aspects without going into too much detail for an introductory grammar?
I agree with Carl Conrad that the term “Middle Voice” creates the false impression that the real contrast in Greek is between active and passive and that the “middle” voice is something of a misfit in an otherwise clear system. I have been thinking about what term could be used to replace “middle” that would avoid this implication and better fit the actual usage of what we have all been calling the “middle” voice.
Here’s my problem: The Greek middle voice is clearly NOT equivalent to the English reflexive construction, but it IS very much like the reflexive of some other IndoEuropean languages. I happen to be a fluent speaker of Spanish, so examples from that language are very easy for me to produce, but the same is true for French and Italian according to what I have read on those languages.
Here are a few Spanish reflexive constructions with English equivalents. Notice that there is a good deal of difference between the two languages in their use of reflexives. All of the Spanish sentences have reflexive constructions. Many of the English equivalents do not.
I cut myself.
Me corté el dedo.
I cut my finger.
Me compré un nuevo reloj.
I bought myself a new watch.
¿Te diste cuenta que Alfredo ya llegó?
Did you realize that Alfredo has arrived?
Se despertó el bebe.
The baby woke up.
Of course I could write hundreds of these examples easily, but I think this is enough to make the point. Reflexive constructions vary widely between languages. The Greek “middle” voice is very much like the reflexive of Romance languages, but quite unlike the English reflexive. If I were writing a Greek grammar in Spanish, there’s no question of what I would call the “middle” voice: la voz reflexiva. But calling it the “Reflexive Voice” in English could cause serious confusion since many “middle” voice Greek verbs require active voice English translations, not reflexive ones.
So, what should we call the “middle” voice to avoid the confusion caused by the term “middle” and also avoid the confusion that could be created by calling this voice “reflexive” in English?
If you are interested in the topic of Voice and the problematic issue of deponency, you should read Carl Conrad’s “Active, Middle, and Passive: Understanding Ancient Greek Voice.” It’s available as a PDF download from http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad.
For further discussion of the same issues, see his “New Observations on Voice in the Ancient Greek Verb.” This 21 page discussion provides wonderful detail and clear reasoning. He raises compelling questions about the semantic import of the morphological distinction between what have traditionally been called the aorist middle and passive forms.
You can find the paper at http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad.
It’s wonderful to have both his and Pennington’s views on the topic available online for free!
Pennington’s article on deponency from Trinity Journal is available online at the following address: