The Middle as a Basic Voice System

Those of you who have followed this blog for any period of time know that one of my keen interests (along with word order, phrase structure, verbal semantics, & pronouns) is the Greek voice system. I found a pdf version of an article online this evening that I had wanted to read for some time. The book is virtually impossible to find. The only place you can buy it is HERE (if you’re willing/able to navigate the Spanish).

Anyway, the article in question is entitled: “Middle as a Basic Voice System,” available at the author’s webpage: HERE.

How is this article relevant to those of us studying Greek? Well, Rutgar Allan in his The Middle Voice in Ancient Greek: A Study of Polysemy (Amsterdam Studies in Classical Philology) argued that unlike other languages, the Greek Middle voice is not derived from a reflexive. This article by Maldonado makes the same case at a broader level working in Spanish and other Romance languages. Treating the Middle as a basic form rather than derived has huge implications for what our grammatical descriptions of Greek look like and how we go about teaching the middle voice.

4 thoughts on “The Middle as a Basic Voice System

    1. Yes, that was my thought exactly, its a very different approach than how I remember learning Spanish. Sadly, these days I’m definitely not a speaker and I’m barely a Spanish reader…

  1. Were you aware/have you read these works:

    Hillendahl, Gregory Manning: “Systemic model of the middle voice of the Greek of the New Testament”

    George J. Clines’ thesis “Middle voice in the New Testament” – you can find this one on his faculty page for Gordon Conwell. Here’s the abstract – The middle voice in Greek has no exact parallel in the English
    language. Scholars disagree about both its essential significance and
    its various usages as dictated per context. The notion of voice inter-
    change, i.e., usage of a middle voice with an active meaning apart
    from the issue of deponency, is the primary controversy. Translational
    and interpretive problems apart from voice interchange are treated as
    secondary. Historical argumentation, clarification of the notion of
    voice in general, and a removal of misconceptions regarding the names
    of the voices are the foundation upon which ensuing argumentation rests.
    The historical development of the middle voice as well as usage
    invalidate the concept that the middle voice is middle in meaning between
    the active and passive voices. The middle voice is older than the pas-
    sive and has fluctuated in meaning with significant passage of time.
    Regarding meaning of the middle voice, the suggestions of transitiveness
    and general reflexivity are deemed as inadequate or misleading. Although
    the concepts of special advantage and subject participation in the
    results may at times be involved, these ideas are not inherent to the
    middle itself. In fact, an examination of the true middles in the NT
    fails to reveal a prescriptive definition applicable to every occurrence.
    Instead, a basic notion of the middle voice as an intensification in
    some manner or degree of the relationship between the subject and the
    action expressed by the verb serves as a valid general guideline. The
    absence or presence, degree, and manner of this intensification is deter-
    mined by the historical development of the verb, the verbal idea itself,
    and the particular context.

    Haven’t had a chance to really look at either of these, but figured you would be interested if you didn’t know about them.

    1. Yeah, I’ve heard of the former and read the latter, though it was some time ago. There are some good things in Cline, but I disagree with his conclusion about the basic meaning as “intensification.” And while the argument that we should be using Classical distinctions for describing the NT period, this idea assumes that the standard Classical descriptions are correct–Rutgar Allan in his book showed that is not the case and his presentations of usages is relatively parallel to those of Cline.

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