Rijksbaron: Syntax and Semantics of the Verb in Classical Greek

On March 1, Mike Aubrey commented about Rijksbaron’s book, “And this is just one book that should be on the shelf of every student of Ancient Greek.” It wasn’t on mine. So I bought a copy.

What a nice overview of the Classical Greek verbal system! I will have more to say about it later, but for now I’d just like to comment that I really like Rijksbaron’s integration of syntax and semantics, his clear discussion of how the semantic content of individual verbs influences the way such issues as verbal aspect play out in given contexts. He is conversant with current theory in both semantics, discourse theory, and syntax. He also has a very solid grasp of more traditional Greek grammar.

I second Mike’s recommendation.

See the book at Barnes and Noble.

8 Thoughts to “Rijksbaron: Syntax and Semantics of the Verb in Classical Greek”

  1. [Originally posted on April 11. Revised on April 12.]

    I should point out one shortcoming of the book to make it clear that my enthusiastic endorsement does not mean that I agree with everything Rijksbaron has to say about the Greek verb. His discussion of voice (pages 134-163) treats the middle and passive as morphologically distinct in the aorist and future tenses.

    This is, of course, what has come to be the traditional view, but I think I have shown (along with Carl Conrad and others) Carl Conrad and others have shown that this is a very problematic view that does not accord well with actual Greek usage. The two sets of forms that are often called Middle and Passive are actually each used with both Middle and Passive meanings. The θη/η forms can be either Middle or Passive. The ομην/σαμην forms can also be either middle or passive. Some verbs use one set of endings. Other verbs use the other set. Only very few verbs use both. This more nuanced view is the one I have included in my online grammar.

  2. I’m glad you like it. You’re right about his discussion of the middle, but also note that he refuses to use the term deponent for middle verbs, which is definitely a step in the right direction.

  3. Good point. His refusal to classify verbs as “deponent” is an important step forward. His clear discussion of semantic roles helps him do this effectively.

  4. I think he was Rutgar Allan’s supervisor too, so Allan’s work on middle likely influenced him a good bit.

    1. Hmm… I still haven’t been able to afford a copy of Allan’s book (The Middle Voice in Ancient Greek: A Study of Polysemy). One day…

    2. Here’s the original dissertation version freely available online:


      Let the libraries drop the big money.

      1. That’s awesome! Thank you!

  5. […] – Thoughts from a Review Panel at #scj11Micheal W. Palmer @ Greek Language and LinguisticsRijksbaron: Syntax and Semantics of the Verb in Classical Greek@ homoioteleutonMatthew 5:44 – When Good h.t. Errors go Bad…James Pate @ James’ […]

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