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Mono-lingual helps for Polybius 1:1; guinea pigs needed!

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Mono-lingual helps for Polybius 1:1; guinea pigs needed!

Postby Markos » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:40 pm

Polybius 1:1: εἰ μὲν τοῖς πρὸ ἡμῶν ἀναγράφουσι τὰς πράξεις παραλελεῖφθαι συνέβαινε τὸν ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς τῆς ἱστορίας ἔπαινον, ἴσως ἀναγκαῖον ἦν τὸ προτρέπεσθαι πάντας πρὸς τὴν αἵρεσιν καὶ παραδοχὴν τῶν τοιούτων ὑπομνημάτων διὰ τὸ μηδεμίαν ἑτοιμοτέραν εἶναι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις διόρθωσιν τῆς τῶν προγεγενημένων πράξεων ἐπιστήμης.



This is another attempt to develop mono-lingual helps for breaking down the syntax of difficult Greek sentences.

If you can understand the above sentence, you don't need any help, mono-lingual or otherwise, and you can skip this post. If you cannot process the sentence at this point, I need you to be a guinea pig. As you read this post, don't look anything up in a lexicon and don't look at any English translation. I want to see if, after using these mono-lingual helps, you can understand a sentence you otherwise would not.

The basic structure of this sentence is a contrary-to-fact condition. We could begin with a simplified paraphrase of the core condition, leaving out all the extraneous stuff. (If you don't know what the word ἡ ἱστορία means, just transliterate it into English.)

εἰ οἱ γράφοντες πρὸ ἐμοῦ οὐκ ἔλεγον ὅτι ἡ ἱστορία καλόν ἐστιν, ἔδει ἂν με λέγειν ὅτι δεῖ ὑμᾶς ἀναγιγώσκειν τὴν ἱστορίαν.

But before we do even that, we could redo the syntax to show what a contrary-to-fact condition really is. (To that extent, perhaps, even the L1 meta-language "contrary to fact condition" could be eliminated and replaced with L2 Greek paraphrase.)

οἱ γράφοντες πρὸ ἐμοῦ εἶπον ὅτι ἡ ἱστορία καλόν ἐστιν. διὰ τοῦτο, οὐκ δεῖ με λέγειν ὅτι δεῖ ὑμᾶς ἀναγιγώσκειν τὴν ἱστορίαν.

This is basically what the sentence says. Maybe you should try to go back now and read the original again. Do you get a sense of the basic structure?

Now, I will "level up" the sentence to make it closer to the original, still leaving out all but the core syntactic elements. (παραλείπω means οὐ ποιῶ τι and προτρέπομαι means λέγω ὅτι δεῖ σε ποιῆσαί τι.) Again, don't look up these words in a lexicon. Rely for now on my mono-lingual glosses.

εἰ οἱ ἀναγράφοντες παρέλειπον τὸν ἔπαινον τῆς ἱστορίας, ἀναγκαῖον ἦν ἂν μὲ προτρέπεσθαι ὑμᾶς ἀναγιγώσκειν τὴν ἱστορίαν.

Go back and again and read the original. Do you see the core structure?

Now we have to deal with the main verb in the protasis. συνβαίνω plus the dative and an infinitive is an idiom. συνέβαινε ἐμοὶ λέγειν means ἐγὼ εἶπον. So, συνέβαινε τοῖς πρὸ ἡμῶν ἀναγράφουσι παραλελεῖφθαι τὸν ἔπαινον τῆς ἱστορίας means οἱ ἀναγράφοντες παρέλιπον τὸν ἔπαινον τῆς ἱστορίας. Except that παραλελεῖφθαι is a perfect infinitive, so that the συνβαίνω construction is really saying οἱ ἀναγράφοντες παραλελοίπασι τὸν ἔπαινον τῆς ἱστορίας.

I assume that you can figure out what πρὸς τὴν αἵρεσιν καὶ παραδοχὴν τῶν τοιούτων ὑπομνημάτων. I have already paraphrased it as ἀναγιγώσκειν τὴν ἱστορίαν. A more precise paraphrase:

προτρέπομαι πάντας πρὸς τὴν αἵρεσιν καὶ παραδοχὴν τῶν τοιούτων ὑπομνημάτων means θέλω πάντας λάμβανειν καὶ δέχεσθαι τὰ ὑπομνήματα τῶν γεγονομένων πάλαι, τούτ' ἐστιν, ἀναγιγνώσκειν τὴν ἱστορίαν.

So, all we have left is the last clause of the sentence:

διὰ τὸ μηδεμίαν ἑτοιμοτέραν εἶναι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις διόρθωσιν τῆς τῶν προγεγενημένων πράξεων ἐπιστήμης.

We have an articular infinitive and a genitive of comparison. (I'm not sure if there is any point in trying to avoid this much L1 meta-language.) As we have said many times, neither of these constructions is all that difficult in itself, but when combined with all the other difficult syntax, one's brain crashes and we have a failure to process. Also, we have another factor here--something that David has pointed out in previous posts--that often makes Greek sentences hard to process: We have a slightly different meaning to ἕτοιμος than the standard gloss we tend to learn for it. Here is really means something like καλός, and therefore in the comparative μείζων. διόρθωσις τοῖς ἀνθρώποις means something like βοήθεια τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, ὠφέλιμον τοῖς ἀνθρώποις. So, simplifying the syntax and vocab, the last phrase means something like:

διότι οὐκ ἔστιν μηδεὶς μείζων βοήθεια τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἢ ἡ ἱστορία.

So, again, here is the original:

Polybius 1:1: εἰ μὲν τοῖς πρὸ ἡμῶν ἀναγράφουσι τὰς πράξεις παραλελεῖφθαι συνέβαινε τὸν ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς τῆς ἱστορίας ἔπαινον, ἴσως ἀναγκαῖον ἦν τὸ προτρέπεσθαι πάντας πρὸς τὴν αἵρεσιν καὶ παραδοχὴν τῶν τοιούτων ὑπομνημάτων διὰ τὸ μηδεμίαν ἑτοιμοτέραν εἶναι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις διόρθωσιν τῆς τῶν προγεγενημένων πράξεων ἐπιστήμης.



and here is my simplified paraphrase:

εἰ συνέβαινε τοῖς πρὸ ἡμῶν γράφουσι περὶ τῶν ἔρων τῶν ἀνθρώπων παραλελεῖφθαι τὸν ἔπαινον τῆς ἱστορίας, ταχὺ ἔδει ἂν μὲ λέγειν ὑμῖν ὅτι δεῖ ὑμᾶς λάμβανειν καὶ δέχεσθαι τὰ ὑπομνήματα τῶν γεγονομένων πάλαι, τούτ' ἐστιν, ἀναγιγνώσκειν τὴν ἱστορίαν.


If there is someone on this forum who was unable to read the passage without these helps, and can now read and understand it, without having looked anything up in a lexicon, and without having looked at a translation, then this method is vindicated. If there is not, it is not.

Now, in wrapping this up, I want to change gears and try another method that David came up, "structure mimicry" or the "syntactic skeleton." This method is sort of the opposite of the paraphrase. In a paraphrase, you preserve the meaning but often change the grammatical structure. In a syntactic skeleton, you preserve the grammatical structure but change the meaning. A Christian preacher, mimicking the syntax of Polybius, might say:

εἰ μὲν τοῖς πρὸ ἐμοῦ κρηρύσσουσι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἀμελήκεναι συνέβαινε τὸ τοῦ ἐυαγγελίου κήρυγμα, ἴσως ἀναγκαῖον ἦν ἂν τὸ παρακαλεῖν πάντας πρὸς τὴν αἵρεσιν καὶ παραδοχὴν τῆς ἐν Ἰησοῦ πίστεως διὰ τὸ οὐδὲν μεῖζον εἶναι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ὠφέλιμον τῆς ἐν τῷ κυρίῳ πίστεως

Or, here is an even more basic mimicry of the BASIC syntax of the sentence, the skeleton of the skeleton, if you will, with the meaning having to do with Plato and Socrates.

εἰ μὲν τῷ Πλάτονι παραλελεῖφθαι συνέβαινε τὸν ὑπὲρ τοῦ Σωκράτους ἔπαινον, ἴσως ἀναγκαῖον ἦν τὸ ἐπαινεῖν τὸν Σωκράτη διὰ τὸ οὐδένα ἀνθρώπον σοφῶτερον εἶναι.

Now, go back and reread the original again. Part of David's idea is that seeing the skeleton with different flesh on it causes you to grasp the structure in a way that is also an alternative to non-target language grammatical analysis. To really apply David's method, you should WRITE, not just READ, your own syntactic skeleton of the sentence.
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Re: Mono-lingual helps for Polybius 1:1; guinea pigs needed!

Postby jeidsath » Tue Mar 04, 2014 4:30 pm

εὐχαρίστω λογῳ σου.

I'm afraid that the explanations didn't make me feel like I grasped the text. That is my lack of basic Greek: I had to look up ἔδει and δεῖ in a lexicon in your first simplification. I read through all of your other Greek, and understand perhaps 80% of it, but it's not quite enough to make me too much more confident about the meaning of the original sentence than I was when I first read it.

That is fine. 80% is good! But as a potential learning mechanism, I was troubled that I didn't feel that the time spent on this method was as productive as my normal method (reading and using an interlinear to grab vocabulary).

If I could make some suggestions about how I think that this method could work for me (but perhaps not others).

The goal here should not be communicating meaning. You could make a cartoon and be done. The goal is to communicate 1) Vocabulary, 2) Structure, and 3) Meaning. I felt that 1 & 2 were the weak sisters here.

Were I to try this (to teach someone at my level), I might first try to communicate the structure of the sentence using vocabulary already understood. Ie., change the words, not the structure (at least not very much). This should be done aloud. The learner needs human inflection to hear/see what parts of the sentence are important, what phrases are complete units by themselves, etc. Body language helps too.

At that point, communicate the overall meaning somehow. And then use the structural understanding and the meaning understanding to allow the reader to slurp up the tedious part: vocabulary. (Parenthetical statements help for that too.)

Having said all this, I have the feeling that someone even a little more advanced than me would benefit tremendously from the approach exactly as you conducted it above! Also, as I mentioned before, this would be a (much) more effective exercise if spoken.
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Re: Mono-lingual helps for Polybius 1:1; guinea pigs needed!

Postby Cheiromancer » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:51 pm

I think I get it. :D

Some points of puzzlement: A contrary-to-fact condition (in the present) is usually presented with εἰ + imperfect in the protasis and then with imperfect + ἄν in the apodasis. However I don't see the ἄν in Polybius - I take it that its role is filled by ἴσως?

I had to read your description of συνβαίνω + dative + infinitive a few times to figure it out. Is it always the present infinitive? If so, it would be very convenient to use if one should forget a principal part - you could just go instead with βαίνω + dative + infinitive!

I am not familiar with the word ἕτοιμος. Nor did I know that the comparative of καλός was μείζων. διόρθωσις was also a mystery to me. I also had to guess at the meanings of ἀναγκαῖον, ἔπαινον, ὑπομνημάτων and γεγονομένων, based on the roots and similar words that I know. For instance, I read ἔπαινον as meaning εἶπον ὅτι καλόν ἐστἰ τι.

παραδοχὴν is still a puzzle - it seems to be a "false friend" since transliterating it doesn't give an equivalent that makes sense in this context. Luckily you gave a synonym I read δέχεσθαι as the infinitive for δέχομαι.

Now it seems to me that your method is predicated on someone more or less completing a year of introductory Greek; enough to be exposed to conditionals, the different tenses and infinitives, and so on. (Maybe they could be hazy about the optative and the subjunctive?) I am curious what core vocabulary is required for the paraphrase method to work. Given an ability to guess at certain words (like I did), maybe one of only a few hundred words (maybe 500 or so?). Is there a master list you work with?
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Re: Mono-lingual helps for Polybius 1:1; guinea pigs needed!

Postby daivid » Wed Mar 05, 2014 1:07 am

Markos wrote:Now we have to deal with the main verb in the protasis. συνβαίνω plus the dative and an infinitive is an idiom. συνέβαινε ἐμοὶ λέγειν means ἐγὼ εἶπον. So, συνέβαινε τοῖς πρὸ ἡμῶν ἀναγράφουσι παραλελεῖφθαι τὸν ἔπαινον τῆς ἱστορίας means οἱ ἀναγράφοντες παρέλιπον τὸν ἔπαινον τῆς ἱστορίας. Except that παραλελεῖφθαι is a perfect infinitive, so that the συνβαίνω construction is really saying οἱ ἀναγράφοντες παραλελοίπασι τὸν ἔπαινον τῆς ἱστορίας.
.

This is at the moment is the point where I keep getting stuck. It's not so much a failure to process as keeping all the balls in the air problem. I think keeping strictly to the not looking anything up rule makes it harder. Your mono-lingual glosses are very clear but somehow my mind doesn't latch onto them very well. Learning the meaning this way may be useful in the long run.

I am going to keep at it.
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Re: Mono-lingual helps for Polybius 1:1; guinea pigs needed!

Postby daivid » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:10 am

Markos wrote:Now we have to deal with the main verb in the protasis. συνβαίνω plus the dative and an infinitive is an idiom. συνέβαινε ἐμοὶ λέγειν means ἐγὼ εἶπον. So, συνέβαινε τοῖς πρὸ ἡμῶν ἀναγράφουσι παραλελεῖφθαι τὸν ἔπαινον τῆς ἱστορίας means οἱ ἀναγράφοντες τὸν ἔπαινον τῆς ἱστορίας. Except that παραλελεῖφθαι is a perfect infinitive, so that the συνβαίνω construction is really saying οἱ ἀναγράφοντες παραλελοίπασι τὸν ἔπαινον τῆς ἱστορίας.


This is the third day of trying. I now do not think I will ever get any further. Basically what you are asking is for me quite complex. ie this phrase en-blok means this phrase en-blok but really it means this phrase en-blok. It makes it very difficult to keep tabs on what the individual words are contributing to the meaning. ἀναγράφουσι is a word I sort of know and in a simple sentence would give me no problem. When it is in the middle of a phrase that is really difficult its slips off and brings everything crashing down. Is παραλελεῖφθαι the same word as παρέλιπον? Normally I'd look it up but now that uncertainty is crippling.


Markos wrote:I assume that you can figure out what πρὸς τὴν αἵρεσιν καὶ παραδοχὴν τῶν τοιούτων ὑπομνημάτων. I have already paraphrased it as ἀναγιγώσκειν τὴν ἱστορίαν. A more precise paraphrase:

No, even though there are words there that look familiar so in a phrase where every thing else was clear I would figure them out, bunched together like this they overwhelm. The paraphrase just seems too remote to help. παραδοχὴν looks like an English word but I have never seen it before and it is not in Helma Dik's 1200 most frequent words so it adds a lot more uncertainty for me then you might expect.

This is though an excellent experiment so I am more than happy to continue to be one of your guinea pigs.
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Re: Mono-lingual helps for Polybius 1:1; guinea pigs needed!

Postby jeidsath » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:06 am

The first time I read through you post, I was not in a location where I could read aloud. Now after reading through it several times aloud, I decided to write down what I understand of it in English (which I never normally do). But this will give you an idea of my level of understanding (misunderstanding).



*** SPOILERS ***



If indeed the writers before our time had not instructed and made proclamation the record of the events [occurring] among themselves, perhaps I would need to instruct everyone in the reasons and arguments in their memoirs because they very much (record?) how the (beloved, historical?) men came to instruct us in the faith.
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Re: Mono-lingual helps for Polybius 1:1; guinea pigs needed!

Postby RandyGibbons » Sat Mar 08, 2014 5:31 pm

Cheiromancer,

Off the topic of Markos' experiment, I admit I hadn't noticed the "missing" ἄν in Polybios' contrary-to-fact apodosis until seeing Markos' paraphrase ταχὺ ἔδει ἄν. I went back and verified that it is absent in the Polybios text, but dropped the thought until reading your post. In questions like this, there's no choice but to go to a reference grammar. Section 2313 of Smyth's Greek Grammar (Gordon Messing's 1956 copyright edition) addresses "Unreal Conditions - Apodosis without ἄν." There Smyth observes the ἄν may be dropped when the apodosis is imperfect indicative denoting "unfulfilled obligation, possibility, or propriety. Such are the impersonal expressions ἔδει, χρῆν, ἐξῆν, εἰκὸς ἦν, καλὸν ἦν, etc., with the infinitive ...".

Thanks for motivating me to look this up so that it no longer nags at me.

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Re: Mono-lingual helps for Polybius 1:1; guinea pigs needed!

Postby Qimmik » Fri Mar 14, 2014 2:00 am

I'm not sure that the paraphrase quite captures this: διὰ τὸ μηδεμίαν ἑτοιμοτέραν εἶναι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις διόρθωσιν τῆς τῶν προγεγενημένων πράξεων ἐπιστήμης.

Translated very crudely: "because (διὰ with articular infinitive) for human beings (τοῖς ἀνθρώποις) there is (τὸ εἶναι--articular infinitive) no more handy (μηδεμίαν ἑτοιμοτέραν) guide for conducting affairs correctly (διόρθωσιν) than the knowledge/understanding (τῆς ἐπιστήμης--genitive of comparison) of past deeds (τῶν προγεγενημένων πράξεων).

I'm not sure where ταχὺ comes from--I've never seen this as a synonym for ἴσως = "perhaps". Maybe ἑτοιμοτέραν could be translated "more practical."

Polybius is emphasizing the study of history as a practical guide for effective public policy. It's not just that history is useful, but rather that it's useful as a guide to correct conduct. διόρθωσις literally means a "straightening" or "setting straight", and, less literally, a "correction." The idea is that studying history will set people straight in conducting their affairs--and, I think it's fair to say that Polybius, with his unique and original insights into how political institutions shape history (specifically, how Roman political institutions contributed to Rome's success), is thinking of public affairs.

This is a complex idea and maybe difficult to paraphrase in a way that would be accessible to learners at a relatively early stage, but it's not just the main point of this sentence--the first sentence of his book--it's a claim that Polybius makes on more than one occasion as a justification for studying and writing history, and it's an idea that needs to be conveyed in a paraphrase. Perhaps what someone has referred to as a "mother tongue mirroring" (which, if I understand the concept, is what I tried to do above) would be better adapted for conveying ideas of this level of complexity than a paraphrase.
Last edited by Qimmik on Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mono-lingual helps for Polybius 1:1; guinea pigs needed!

Postby Qimmik » Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:55 am

The importance to Polybius of the idea that the study of history is a guide for correct conduct can be seen by looking at some of the passages that come up when you search for διόρθωσις in Polybius on the Perseus site:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/searchresults?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0233&inContent=true&target=greek&all_words=dio%2Frqwsis&all_words_expand=on&phrase=&any_words=&exclude_words=&search=Search

See, e.g., 1.35.7-8, 3.118.12, 7.11.2.
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