Ancient greek: ὁ φύς

Michael Zwingli

Senior Member
English (U.S.A. - New England)
LSJ says that ὁ φύς = "the son", but I am having some trouble with that meaning as a result of the substantivization. It is clear how ὁ φύσας may = "the father", since it is from the first aorist active masculine μετοχή of φῠ́ω, meaning that when substantivized, the resulting substantive naturally becomes the agent of the verbal action in the active voice. The proposition that ὁ φύς = "the son", however, is difficult to conceive. Φύς is the second aorist active masculine μετοχή of φῠ́ω, so one would expect that the resulting substantive should naturally become the agent of the verbal action in the active voice. A "son", however, is not the agent noun associated with the action of begetting/producing, but rather a result noun, the receiver of the verbal action, associated therewith. Since the noun "son" does represent in relation to the action of "begetting" a result noun, I cannot understand how it can arise as a result of the substantivization of a μετοχή in the active voice; it seems to me that only an aorist mediopassive μετοχή might be substantivized to represent a result noun. This is why I cannot understand how ὁ φύς can mean "the son" rather than "the father" as with the first aorist substantivization. The only thing that I can think might result such a nominalization would be some essential difference in the way the first aorist and second aorist μετοχᾱ́ were interpreted in Ancient Greek. My question is, is there such a difference in interpretation/meaning between the first and second aorist μετοχᾱ́ as might account for this seeming anomaly? If not, then what might underlie the seemingly incongruous substantivization of 2nd aor act mas part φύς into a result noun? Thank you.
 
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  • Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    Φύς is passive.
    Yes, Perseas, it is passive in meaning even though it seems to be an active participle, the second aorist of φῠ́ω seeming to lack passive participles as I understand it. I have just discovered that the second aorist often assumed special, paticular, and often divergent meanings which differ from the meanings of the active and first aorist tenses, and that in the case of φῠ́ω that special meaning reflects more closely the meaning of the IE root *bʰuh₂-, which was somewhat more passive in nature than the meaning of φῠ́ω. As I understand the matter, it is from the particular, divergent meaning of the entire φῠ́ω second aorist that Φύς derives it's meaning, rather than from its being a mediopassive participle. I had not been aware of this characteristic the second aorist before now. Apparently, the meanings attached to the second aorist, for verbs that have one, must be investigated independently on a case-by-case basis, as I understand the matter. I hope that I'm correct in so thinking.
     
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    J.F. de TROYES

    Senior Member
    francais-France
    in the case of φῠ́ω special meaning reflects more closely the meaning of the IE root *bʰuh₂-, which was somewhat more passive in nature than the meaning of φῠ́ω.

    It seems to me that ἒφυν and φύς have a passive meaning, because ἒφυν is intransitive. The aorists 2 ending in -ην ( βάινω/ἒϐην ), -υν ( δύομαι /ἒδυν ), -ων ( βιόω /ἐϐίων ) are mostly intransitive. So ἒφυν means I grew, I sprang up, I was born ... and the nominalized participle ὁ φύς = the son ( at least, in Classical Greek ). By transitiving the verb other forms ( φύω, ἒφυσα and the other active forms ) change its meaning in expressing causation ( "to make to grow"... ).
    . Apparently, the meanings attached to the second aorist, for verbs that have one, must be investigated independently on a case-by-case basis, as I understand the matter. I hope that I'm correct in so thinking.
    Right.

    I think φύω can be compared with the verbs βάινω and ἳστημι with two aorists and the same relation between their meaning as ἒφυν/ἒφυσα :
    Βάινω : aor 2 intr. ἒϐην , I walked ; aor1 tr. ἔϐησα , "I made to walk.
    Ἳστημι : aor2 intr. ἔστην , I stood ; aor.1 tr. ἔστησα , "I made to stand" .

    Instead , aor.1 ἔφθασα and aor. 2 ἔφθην, from φθάνω, seem to be used indifferently with the same meaning.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    It seems to me that ἒφυν and φύς have a passive meaning, because ἒφυν is intransitive. The aorists 2 ending in -ην ( βάινω/ἒϐην ), -υν ( δύομαι /ἒδυν ), -ων ( βιόω /ἐϐίων ) are mostly intransitive.
    Yes...why, yes! I had not even taken transitivity into account, and it is the key to understanding this, the missing piece of my puzzle. Thank you very much! Like Johanson and Taieb did in discovering "Lucy" in the Ethiopian desert, you have supplied the missing link!
     
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    ioanell

    Senior Member
    Greek
    It seems to me that ἒφυν and φύς have a passive meaning, because ἒφυν is intransitive.
    I had not even taken transitivity into account, and it is the key to understanding this, the missing piece of my puzzle.
    I think we should reverse it all and say ἒφυν is intransitive, because it has a passive meaning; that’s why it is intransitive; being sth intransitive doesn’t make it passive on its own.

    Apparently, the meanings attached to the second aorist, for verbs that have one, must be investigated independently on a case-by-case basis, as I understand the matter. I hope that I'm correct in so thinking.
    Correct.

    Some of these second aorists belong not to the active but to the medium voice and this is the method they are quoted in the dictionaries, e.g. active φύω,…/ medium [and pass.]: φύομαι, …, active aorist β΄ with mediopassive sense ἔφυν (=έγεννήθην [γεννήθηκα]=I was born) > part. φὺς (=γεννηθείς [υἱὸς]=born [son]) . The same applies to (δύομαι>) ἔδυν (=βυθίστηκα=I sank), active aorist β΄ with a med. sense, and to (ἵσταμαι>) ἔστην (=στάθηκα=I stood / στήθηκα (από κάποιον άλλον)=I was made to stand), with a med. and pass. sense.

    Others belong to the active voice, like ἔβην (=βάδισα, πορεύθηκα, πήγα=I walked / I went). This is intransitive (as intransitive is the present βαίνω), although there are cases (poet.) when it is used kind of transitive, e.g. χρέος ἔβα με (=debts came on me) or ὀδύνα μ’ ὀδύνα βαίνει (=a pain, a pain is coming on me).

    Instead , aor.1 ἔφθασα and aor. 2 ἔφθην, from φθάνω, seem to be used indifferently with the same meaning.
    This is correct.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    I think we should reverse it all and say ἒφυν is intransitive, because it has a passive meaning; that’s why it is intransitive; being sth intransitive doesn’t make it passive on its own.
    This is a very curious circumstance to assess; the unique relationship between transitivity and voice in verbs is at the center of this. It is clear that ἒφυν is able to have a passive meaning in English translation but does this mean that it is passive as a verb tense...that it has essential passive meanings? I think not, since ἒφυν seems able to represent the transitive meanings of φῠ́ω in the passive voice, as well as the intransitive meanings of φῠ́ω in the active voice, in contrast to aorist 1 ἔφῡσᾰ, where both the transitive and intransitive meanings of φῠ́ω may be expressed in the active voice. I feel, as @J.F. de TROYES has indicated, that this is because ἔφῡσᾰ expresses causation while ἒφυν does not.

    What I am not certain of, is whether English translations using the passive voice are mere equivalencies of an essentially active-intransitive verb form. I note that ἒφυν has no mediopassive infinitive or participles, but only active. What is the significance of this? It leads me to believe that ἒφυν wil reflect both the transitive and intransitive senses of φῠ́ω, but that the participles thereof reflect meanings that are essentially active-intransitive in nature. (With your much greater understanding of the semantics of the Greek, perhaps you will verify the foregoing?) Might it even be said that ἒφυν is in essence an active-intransitive verb tense? I would like to know how Greek grammarians have always thought about this.

    As I comprehend the matter, the intransitive aorist 2 of φῠ́ω can be translated into English using either the active voice of intransitive verbs such as "to arise", "to become", "to grow"; or using the passive voice of transitive verbs such as "to be made", "to be produced", "to be caused to exist", and (in the human context) "to be begotten", "to be born". You seem to be saying that the second aorist of φῠ́ω essentially expresses the transitive meanings of the present tense, but in the passive voice, and that English translations using intransitive verbs in the active voice merely represent equivalencies. Would that be correct in your view? In other words, are the essentail meanings of ἒφυν the active-intransitive ones ("to arise", "to become", "to grow"), or rather the passive-transitive ones ("to be made", "to be produced", "to be begotten", "to be born"), or indeed, both of those?
     
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    ioanell

    Senior Member
    Greek
    This is a very curious circumstance to assess
    I think you shouldn’t have got puzzled so much.

    It is clear that ἒφυν is able to have a passive meaning in English translation but does this mean that it is passive as a verb tense...that it has essential passive meanings? I think not
    Regarding its morphology and conjugation it belongs to the active voice, regarding its mood/disposition it is passive. Ιt only has a passive meaning, since it means “ἐγεννήθην”.

    ἔφῡσᾰ expresses causation while ἒφυν does not.
    That’s right. The medium and the passive voice have to do with the morphology of the verb when it ends in -ομαι. To be more precise we must talk about the passive mood/disposition which in most cases coincides with the voice. So, the medium voice of φύω is φύομαι. When referring to flora, it means "I grow, I develop, I become", when referring to people, it has a passive mood/disposition (in this case also called passive voice) meaning "I am born, I descend from", and as such is intransitive. Consequently, we can’t talk about “transitive meanings of φῠ́ω in the passive voice”. In the same way, we can’t talk about “intransitive meanings of φῠ́ω in the active voice” as φύω (active voice / active mood) is always transitive (the sense of causation included).

    I note that ἒφυν has no mediopassive infinitive or participles, but only active.
    As long as ἔφυν is active in form, it goes without saying that its infinitive φῦναι and its participle φὺς are also in active form.

    Might it even be said that ἒφυν is in essence an active-intransitive verb tense? I would like to know how Greek grammarians have always thought about this.
    But, I think we have already talked about this.

    Note that this β’ aorist ἔφυν and present perfect πέφυκα (in the sense of “I am by nature”), both belonging to the passive voice φύομαι, are used as linking verbs, connecting the subject with a predicate noun or adjective, e.g. [ἐγὼ] …ἔφυν ἀμήχανος (Soph. Ant. 79) or [οἱ βασανιζόμενοι] …πεφύκασι κακονούστατοι (Lys. On the Olive Stump, 7 35).

    Moreover, you can have a look

    1. at the very interesting note in the R. Beekes' Dictionary: The whole verbal system is built on the primary intransitive aorist φῦναι, ἔφυν. As an innovation, the factitive sigmatic aorist φῦσαι, ἔφυσα arose after ἔστην : ἔστησα, ἔβην : ἔβησα, ἔδυν : ἔδυσα, etc. Then, the presentic and future forms φύομαι, φύω, φύσομαι, φύσω followed.

    2. LSJ, A Greek-English Lexicon: Pass. φύομαι , with intr. tenses of Act., aor. 2, pf. and plpf.

    P.S.: I believe I have nothing more to offer to this thread.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    I believe I have nothing more to offer to this thread.
    Thank you for your help, Ioanell. Your contributions have been a great help. I feel that I am getting close to being able to enunciate how ἔφυν accrues the meanings that it does (half of my problem arises from a deficit in understanding English and Indo-European grammar in general...should have paid more attention to that in school).
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It seems to me that ἒφυν and φύς have a passive meaning, because ἒφυν is intransitive.
    Looking at the cognates in other languages, I'd look at it differently: The intransitive meaning is active ("active" is probably a misnomer for intransitive verbs but for the purpose of conjugation patterns, they can be called so) and the original meaning, while the transitive verb is a causative derivation. Incidentally, the same happened to the English verb grow:
    The plant grows (base verb)
    The gardener grows the plant (causative derivation).

    Based on this the son < the offspring < the one who grew [in his mother's womb] seems a logical development to me.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    The intransitive meaning is active ("active" is probably a misnomer for intransitive verbs but for the purpose of conjugation patterns, they can be called so) and the original meaning, while the transitive verb is a causative derivation.
    I suspect that the aorist 2 in this case preserves...no, not "preserves" as much as "resurrects"...the meanings associated with the presumed IE root *bʰuh₂-, which were essentially intransitive ("to appear/arise", "to become", etc.), after φῠ́ω developed a rather more transitive set of meanings. What might instigate such a development is beyond my power to imagine.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    What might instigate such a development is beyond my power to imagine.
    Well, I find it so strange. English has quite a few spontaneous causative derivations, like run - run something, grow - grow something. And then there are inherited verb pairs from Proto-Germanic, which had a regular causative derivation pattern, which has decayed in the meantime, and modern speakers don't realise any more they originally were distinct verbs, like hang-hung-hung and hang-hanged-hanged, where the latter form, originally a causative derivation, has assumed a special meaning (to kill by hanging) while the former, originally intransitive, form is now used with transitive (causative) and intransitive meanings.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    Well, I find it so strange. English has quite a few spontaneous causative derivations...
    Yes, of course. I guess what is perplexing me now, is why a first (ἔφῡσᾰ) and a second (ἒφυν) aorist would be effected for an allotment of transitive and intransitive meanings of φῠ́ω, respectively. Other than in the substantivization of participles, it would not seem to matter if all the meanings of φῠ́ω, were lumped into one aorist tense...or, would it? I am obviously missing something.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Yes, of course. I guess what is perplexing me now, is why a first (ἔφῡσᾰ) and a second (ἒφυν) aorist would be effected for an allotment of transitive and intransitive meanings of φῠ́ω, respectively. Other than in the substantivization of participles, it would not seem to matter if all the meanings of φῠ́ω, were lumped into one aorist tense...or, would it? I am obviously missing something.
    If a verb has both forms, the first aorist usually applies to transitive and the second to intransitive meanings.

    It might be something similar to what we find in with Germanic languages, where causative forms follow weak conjugation patterns, while the base forms are strong, like the aforementioned verb pair hang-hung-hung* and hang-hanged-hanged** (ignoring the modern shift in meaning), a reflex of two different verbs that later merged in the present stem. Usually, strong verbs are more ancient (inherited for PIE) than weak verbs (usually derived verbs) and that is why causative verbs are weak.
    ____________________
    * from the Old English intransitive verb hon
    ** from Old English transitive verb hangian
     
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