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Impersonal Expressions

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Impersonal Expressions

Postby pster » Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:04 pm

From Plato Gorgias 483d:

δηλοῖ δὲ ταῦτα πολλαχοῦ ὅτι οὕτως ἔχει, καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἄλλοις ζῴοις καὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐν ὅλαις ταῖς πόλεσι καὶ τοῖς γένεσιν, ὅτι οὕτω τὸ δίκαιον κέκριται, τὸν κρείττω τοῦ ἥττονος ἄρχειν καὶ πλέον ἔχειν.

Is ταῦτα the subject of this sentence? If so, then does the whole ὅτι clause stand in apposition to ταῦτα?

I am prompted to ask this question by the LSJ definition of δηλόω that distinguishes intransitive impersonal uses from intransitive non-impersonal uses. If the answers to both of my questions are yeses, then LSJ are off the hook. But more generally, in at least three or four languages, impersonal expressions are really starting to bug me, especially when word order is flexible. So consider:

It is clear that they are in love.

That they are in love is clear.

In some languages (seems like all of them to me anymore) you can change the word order, and furthermore there may be no "it" required. So you might get:

Is clear that they are in love.

By the time we get to this last kind of example, I am not sure whether it is an impersonal use, or just a regular intransitive use with subject last word order.

Anybody have any insight? Basically, I guess my question comes down to this: If there is no artificial subject "it," then why think of any expression as impersonal instead of as just having reversed word order?

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Impersonal Expressions

Postby NateD26 » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:21 am

pster wrote:From Plato Gorgias 483d:

δηλοῖ δὲ ταῦτα πολλαχοῦ ὅτι οὕτως ἔχει, καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἄλλοις ζῴοις καὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐν ὅλαις ταῖς πόλεσι καὶ τοῖς γένεσιν, ὅτι οὕτω τὸ δίκαιον κέκριται, τὸν κρείττω τοῦ ἥττονος ἄρχειν καὶ πλέον ἔχειν.

Is ταῦτα the subject of this sentence? If so, then does the whole ὅτι clause stand in apposition to ταῦτα?

From the word order, it seems that ταῦτα is the subject of δηλοῖ which have a transitive sense,
and a dependent statement as ὅτι οὕτως ἔχει. Theodore D. Woolsey agrees:
These things show that such is the case in many instances.

W.H. Thompson, however, suggests reading it as impersonal:
It is evident that such is the case...

From what I understand of LSJ, they preferred the first reading.
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