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unexpected use of infinitive in herodotos

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unexpected use of infinitive in herodotos

Postby daivid » Sun Jan 19, 2014 4:27 pm

This is from Herodotos. 2.121B.2
ὡς δὲ γνῶναι αὐτὸν ἐν οἵῳ κακῷ ἦν, ἰθέως καλέειν τὸν ἀδελφεὸν καὶ δηλοῦν αὐτῷ τὰ παρεόντα, καὶ κελεύειν τὴν ταχίστην ἐσδύντα ἀποταμεῖν αὐτοῦ τὴν κεφαλήν, ὅκως μὴ αὐτὸς ὀφθεὶς καὶ γνωρισθεὶς ὃς εἴη προσαπολέσῃ κἀκεῖνον.


The infinitive γνῶναι doesn't look like any use of the infinitive that I have so far encountered. Given the context I would expect a genitive aorist participle rather than an aorist infinitive. What am I missing?
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Re: unexpected use of infinitive in herodotos

Postby Victor » Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:42 pm

To quote Waddell, in his edition of Book 2, "H. not infrequently uses thus the infin. construction by assimilation in subordinate clauses in orat. obl."
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Re: unexpected use of infinitive in herodotos

Postby daivid » Sun Jan 19, 2014 7:08 pm

Victor wrote:To quote Waddell, in his edition of Book 2, "H. not infrequently uses thus the infin. construction by assimilation in subordinate clauses in orat. obl."

Thanks for replying so quickly. Unfortunately I don't understand what Waddell means. And what is Herodotos trying to convey by using the infinitive construction. I'm afraid I don't even know what orat. obl means.
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Re: unexpected use of infinitive in herodotos

Postby Qimmik » Sun Jan 19, 2014 11:40 pm

"Oratio obliqua" is indirect discourse or "reported speech." The whole passage is in indirect discourse, dependent on ἔλεγον back in 2.121.1, which, in turn, continues (after a digression on Helen) ταῦτα μὲν Αἰγυπτίων οἱ ἱρέες ἔλεγον in 2.120.1. In other words, 2.121B.2 is in indirect discourse-- accusative subject+ infinitive--because it's what the Egyptian priests were telling Herodotus.

This is quite common in Greek. Once you set up indirect discourse by a speech word such as ἔλεγον, you can continue the string of acc. subject + infinitive to continue the reported speech indefinitely.

One of the most extravagant uses of this procedure occurs in Plato's Symposium, which is narrated almost entirely in indirect speech--someone tells someone else what a third person told him happened long ago at a symposium--except for the actual quoted speeches of the participants in the symposium, which are reported as direct speech.
Last edited by Qimmik on Mon Jan 20, 2014 1:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: unexpected use of infinitive in herodotos

Postby Victor » Mon Jan 20, 2014 12:11 am

My apologies, daivid, if I mistook what you were having difficulty with; I'm not sure I understand even yet whether I'm addressing your problem.
To supplement what Qimmik rightly says, the thing that is chiefly remarkable in the syntax of this passage is H.'s use of the infinitive in a dependent clause in indirect discourse when we might have expected the indicative or optative. Have a look at Goodwin's Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, section 755, and Smyth, section 2631.
If your query remains unresolved, do please say so.
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Re: unexpected use of infinitive in herodotos

Postby Qimmik » Mon Jan 20, 2014 1:27 am

Victor's comment hit the nail on the head. On rereading the question, I see that what is troubling Daivid is not that the indirect discourse continues, but that we have an accusative subject + infinitive in a clause that is subordinate to a clause in indirect discourse. This is quite common in Greek. Here is the section from Smyth referred to by Victor:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0007%3Asmythp%3D2631
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Re: unexpected use of infinitive in herodotos

Postby daivid » Mon Jan 20, 2014 11:23 am

Qimmik wrote:"Oratio obliqua" is indirect discourse or "reported speech." The whole passage is in indirect discourse, dependent on ἔλεγον back in 2.121.1, which, in turn, continues (after a digression on Helen) ταῦτα μὲν Αἰγυπτίων οἱ ἱρέες ἔλεγον in 2.120.1. In other words, 2.121B.2 is in indirect discourse-- accusative subject+ infinitive--because it's what the Egyptian priests were telling Herodotus.

This is quite common in Greek. Once you set up indirect discourse by a speech word such as ἔλεγον, you can continue the string of acc. subject + infinitive to continue the reported speech indefinitely.

One of the most extravagant uses of this procedure occurs in Plato's Symposium, which is narrated almost entirely in indirect speech--someone tells someone else what a third person told him happened long ago at a symposium--except for the actual quoted speeches of the participants in the symposium, which are reported as direct speech.


While I have encountered indirect speech using the infinitive it had never occurred to me that this could extend beyond the limits of the sentence. Indeed according to one definition of a sentence as being "complete in itself" almost the whole of the Symposium is one monster sentence.

Thanks to both of you for helping me make sense of that bit of Herodotos and for ensuring that I never again get phased when I encounter "orat. obl ".
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Re: unexpected use of infinitive in herodotos

Postby Qimmik » Mon Jan 20, 2014 4:05 pm

It might be worthwhile having a glance at this Wikipedia article on linguistic evidentiality:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidentiality

The long string of accusative subjects + infinitives tells the reader that Herodotus is reporting what the Egyptian priests told him, not what he knows first-hand. In English, we would have to keep repeating "they said" or some variation.

It would be best not to let yourself get trapped in one-size-fits-all definitions of "sentence." You could think of the individual statements in the string of acc. + inf. as individual sentences grammatically marked for indirect speech.

And, as the authorities cited by Victor note, even subordinate clauses can be put in the acc. + inf. construction along the way.
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Re: unexpected use of infinitive in herodotos

Postby daivid » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:37 pm

Qimmik wrote:It might be worthwhile having a glance at this Wikipedia article on linguistic evidentiality:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidentiality

Interesting. Thanks.
Qimmik wrote:The long string of accusative subjects + infinitives tells the reader that Herodotus is reporting what the Egyptian priests told him, not what he knows first-hand. In English, we would have to keep repeating "they said" or some variation.

It would be best not to let yourself get trapped in one-size-fits-all definitions of "sentence." You could think of the individual statements in the string of acc. + inf. as individual sentences grammatically marked for indirect speech.
That what is a sentence is rather fuzzy does not come to me as a total shock. The reason why I was reading that sentence was because it Helma Dik uses it in her chapter which is nominally on particles but in reality on how to determine when sentences begin. She clearly isn't willing to take the Byzantine editors word for it.
Nonetheless, for and intermediate learner like me, the idea that Greek can be clearly broken up it discreet digestible bits called sentences is not something lightly give up.
Qimmik wrote:And, as the authorities cited by Victor note, even subordinate clauses can be put in the acc. + inf. construction along the way.

I'll look out for them.
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