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Some Particulate Matter, or, Why I Love the Dutch

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Some Particulate Matter, or, Why I Love the Dutch

Postby annis » Tue Dec 09, 2003 1:00 am

Albert Rijksbaron seems to have taught serveral good Dutch classicists. Somehow a bunch of them are into applying discourse and pragmatic linguistic theory to classical Greek, and the results are pretty interesting. Helma Dik, now at the University of Chicago, wrote a book which I think presents the first coherent account of Greek word order ever.

A few weeks ago I picked up New Approaches to Greek Particles, conference papers edited by Rijksbaron. I thought I'd give a summary of some of the more interesting papers to give people some new tools to think about Greek with.

Everyone quotes Denniston, either to confirm what he said, or to complain that his book remains the standard. He approaches the particles at the sentence level, and what grammarians everywhere are doing this days is zooming out a bit, and looking at the sort of stuff that goes into an entire conversation (a full discourse, then).

In discourse theory (at least one of them) one can recognize three levels of discourse:
  • representational - semantic relationships between the state of affairs in the world represented by the statement ([face=spionic]ei), i(/na, e)pei/[/face])
  • presentational - functional relations between discourse units ([face=spionic]ou)=n, de/[/face])
  • interactional (also "modal" or "attitudinal") - relation of a discourse unit to its non-verbal environment ([face=spionic]a)/ra, dh/, mh/n[/face])

These distinctions become useful when you decide you're sick of hearing a Greek particle called "emphatic." It turns out emphasis can occur at different discourse levels, which helps you understand why some particles occur in pairs, but others do not.

So, the big excitement for me is about two particles usually translated as affirmative emphatics, "truly, indeed":
  • [face=spionic]h)=[/face] operates at the representational level; Rijksbaron speculates that [face=spionic]h)=[/face] is the positive counterpart to [face=spionic]ou)[/face] - indeed, they are never paired
  • [face=spionic]mh/n[/face] operates at the interactional level - the speaker is committing to the truth of the statement personally, sometimes pre-empting a surprised response. You do find the pair [face=spionic]ou) mh/n[/face].


This also explains how [face=spionic]h)= mh/n[/face] is working: the speaker asserts the truth, and then goes the extra step to vouch for it personally.

In questions, [face=spionic]h)= ga/r[/face] asks for confirmation out of hope, surprise, consternatin, etc.

[face=spionic]dh/[/face] is an interactional particle by which the speaker says "look, how interesting." Obviously this is too strong a translation, but helps to understand what an author is trying to say when using it. [face=spionic]kai\ dh/[/face] introduces an interesting, but not surprising additional bit of information; [face=spionic]kai\ mh/n[/face] is often used to add unexpected information that the speaker feels needs to be propped up a bit.

In another paper, the [face=spionic]kai/ ... de/[/face] pair is shown to match Denniston's original reading: "and on the other hand" where [face=spionic]kai/[/face] is connecting and [face=spionic]de/[/face] is adverbial.

The particles can operate at a full discourse level. In fact, one might introduce a digression lasting an entire book. Confusing particle use in Herodotus can sometimes become a bit clearer when you think paragraphs behind, not just a sentence behind.

A [face=spionic]me/ntoi[/face] B - both A and B are true, but B denies an expectation raised by A. [face=spionic]kai/toi[/face] inverts this relationship:

He is rich [face=spionic]me/ntoi[/face] he is unhappy.
He is unhappy [face=spionic]kai/toi[/face] he is rich.

There are a few other articles. All the ones dealing specifically with Epic are in French, and that's slow going for me, so I'm not ready to summarize them.

One very interesting article looked at a lot of non-literary Greek on stone local monuments. It appears that the florid particle use we're used to in literary Greek does not probably reflect equal lushness in the common spoken language. Also, the old assumption that particles are especially common in the dialog parts of Attic drama turns out to be demonstrably false.
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Postby Emma_85 » Wed Dec 10, 2003 5:09 pm

Cool, thanks for the information William! Any information on these strange particles is usefull... sometimes I'm a litte frustrated and just imagine them being like 'uh', 'em' or 'like' in English.
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Postby Ptolemaios » Thu Dec 11, 2003 4:00 pm

Rijksbaron's Syntax and semantics of the verb in classical Greek (in the recent 3rd ed.) is probably the best introduction to this subject.

The Dutch classicists have a strong preference for functional approaches to classical linguistics (as in the Functional Grammar by Simon Dik for example). I'm not sure whether other (classical) linguists use this approach too.

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Postby Paul » Thu Dec 11, 2003 9:07 pm

Hi William,

An interesting post; one that raises difficult issues. I've chewed on it for several days now.
I am once again reminded how much I do not know. [face=SPIonic]oi)=da o(/ti ou)/k oi)=da[/face]..

That said, let me respond where I am able, however cautiously.

I do not easily understand the meaning of the technical terms 'representational', 'presentational', 'interactional'. The
'interactional' seems most accessible. I infer from your post that such discourse is somehow 'subjective', involving
the speaker's interest, will, expectation, intent. Thus I am tempted to construe the 'representational' as 'objective'
discourse that is disinterested; mere reporting.

Whether or not my understanding is correct, I am excited to learn that one should think of particles as belonging
to different functional perspectives (whether 'discourse levels' or some other perspective). This notion really does begin to illuminate the bewildering string of 'emphatic' particles we often stumble over. Without such a perspective we are forced to translate these sequences with the emphasis often employed by American pre-teens: "I really, really, truly, mean this...".

But, humor aside, how we should we apply the perspective of 'interactional discourse level' to the actual translation
of, say, [face=SPIonic]mh/n[/face]? I should here mention it is generally held that [face=SPIonic]mh/n[/face] = [face=SPIonic]ma/n[/face] = [face=SPIonic]me/n[/face];
specifically in all but Attic-Ionic this particle appears as
[face=SPIonic]ma/n[/face]; in Ionic as [face=SPIonic]me/n[/face], and in Attic as [face=SPIonic]mh/n[/face]
(see Denniston's introductory paragraphs on these particles).

We attribute to [face=SPIonic]me/n[/face] an original demonstrative force that points out something specific. This
deictic-emphatic use exists in Homer even when the particle occurs without the contrasting [face=SPIonic]de/[/face] that
became prevalent in Attic.

If we unite to this demonstrative force the seeming subjective/interested force of the 'interactional', does [face=SPIonic]mh/n[/face] mean
something like 'I am concerned with this', 'I mean in this respect', 'I intend this'? If so, is their a less cumbersome translation (here cf. Smyth 2771).

It might be interesting if we analyzed a few [face=SPIonic]ou) me/n, h)= mh/n[/face] passages of Homer from this 'discourse level' perspective.

Concerning the 'contradictory' component of [face=SPIonic]me/ntoi[/face] and [face=SPIonic]kai/toi[/face]: Palmer remarks that [face=SPIonic]toi[/face] calls the hearer's attention to a fact he may have forgotten. I am content to generalize this 'forgotten' to simply 'not present'; whence readily follows your 'expectation denied'. That is, given 'A' one would not expect 'B' to be present.

Thank you, William, for a very thought-provoking post. But I beg you not to post too many like this - I can already feel my brain melting. :)

Cordially,

Paul
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Postby annis » Fri Dec 12, 2003 12:04 am

Ptolemaios wrote:Rijksbaron's Syntax and semantics of the verb in classical Greek (in the recent 3rd ed.) is probably the best introduction to this subject.


I agree. I have the second edition sitting next to me, though it belongs to the library. I'll have to hunt down a copy of the 3rd edition soon.
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Postby annis » Fri Dec 12, 2003 1:23 am

Paul wrote:I do not easily understand the meaning of the technical terms 'representational', 'presentational', 'interactional'.


I find the first two terms especially infelicitous, since they sound so similar and look even closer.

The'interactional' seems most accessible. I infer from your post that such discourse is somehow 'subjective', involving the speaker's interest, will, expectation, intent. Thus I am tempted to construe the 'representational' as 'objective' discourse that is disinterested; mere reporting.


In one sense, but I would avoid 'objective.' Tolkien describing what happens when Frodo puts on the ring is representational of a fantasy world.

I should here mention it is generally held that [face=SPIonic]mh/n[/face] = [face=SPIonic]ma/n[/face] = [face=SPIonic]me/n[/face];


Well this certainly gums up things a bit, but I would mention two things. First, I'm sure grammaticalization takes place for particles, too, so that I don't see any conflict between [face=SPIonic]me/n[/face] and [face=SPIonic]mh/n[/face] - the meanings can shift. Also, some particles can operate at different discourse levels, so it doesn't surprise me that related particles might operate at different levels, since we've already seen how "really" can be put in different levels.

It might be interesting if we analyzed a few [face=SPIonic]ou) me/n, h)= mh/n[/face] passages of Homer from this 'discourse level' perspective.


Perseus "words in context tool" to the rescue!

The combination [face=SPIonic]ou) ma/n[/face] occurs 10 times in the Allen Iliad on Perseus. West athetizes one, and turns another into [face=SPIonic]ou) me/n[/face], leaving 8. Every one of these occurs in dialog. No [face=SPIonic]mh/n[/face] in either edition in this use. (Iliad: 4.512, 5.895, 12.318, 13.414, 14.454, 15.508, 17.41, 23.441).

The combination [face=SPIonic]h)= ma/n[/face] occurs four times in the Iliad, and once more as [face=SPIonic]h)= dh\ ma/n[/face] (17.538). Four of these are in dialog, but in one instance Homer is explaining the involvement of Zeus and Poseidon to us:
[face=spionic]
h)= ma\n a)mfote/roisin o(mo\n ge/noj h)d' i)/a pa/trh,
a)lla\ Zeu\j pro/teroj gego/nei kai\ plei/ona h)/?dh.
[/face]


Using the same tool, I noticed this interesting pattern: [face=SPIonic]mh/n[/face] occurs with [face=SPIonic]o)/mnumi[/face] ("swear (an oath)") 59 times, quite often in the orators:

[face=SPIonic]kai\ pa/ntaj u(mi=n o)/mnumi tou\j qeou\j h)= mh\n e)rei=n ta)lhqh=[/face] Demosthenes 5.17

But I think I'm going to have to pay attention to this for a while before I really grok it.

Thank you, William, for a very thought-provoking post. But I beg you not to post too many like this - I can already feel my brain melting. :)


I promise you I know the feeling.
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Postby Bert » Fri Dec 12, 2003 3:03 am

annis wrote:
Paul wrote:
Thank you, William, for a very thought-provoking post. But I beg you not to post too many like this - I can already feel my brain melting. :)


I promise you I know the feeling.


In a strange sort of way, knowing that even the more experienced Greek students have brain melt-downs, is both encouraging and discouraging.
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Postby Ptolemaios » Fri Dec 12, 2003 9:37 am

Paul wrote:I do not easily understand the meaning of the technical terms 'representational', 'presentational', 'interactional'. The
'interactional' seems most accessible. I infer from your post that such discourse is somehow 'subjective', involving
the speaker's interest, will, expectation, intent. Thus I am tempted to construe the 'representational' as 'objective'
discourse that is disinterested; mere reporting.


The three terms 'representational', 'presentational' and 'interactional' refer to levels of discourse, not to different modes of discourse. In any stretch of Greek text the three different levels will be present.

I'm not sure, but Caroline Kroon's work on Latin particles may also be helpful.

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Postby Paul » Fri Dec 12, 2003 2:41 pm

Ptolemaios wrote:The three terms 'representational', 'presentational' and 'interactional' refer to levels of discourse, not to different modes of discourse. In any stretch of Greek text the three different levels will be present.


Thanks Ptolemaios.

My real problem here is that, lacking access to conference papers, I can only guess at the meaning of these terms. And I would not impose on William by asking him to post more than he has.

More generally, when confronting the technical terms of a 'school of thought', I think it is incumbent upon all of us to really try to understand the meaning of such terms. E.g., do these three terms represent concepts never before heard of - or can they be related to something more familiar?

In your own post, is the difference between levels and modes obvious to all - or does it require explanation? This difference is not obvious to me. But, then again, I lack any background in 'discourse theory'.

I would be grateful for any light you can shed on the meanings of the several terms touched on in this thread.

Cordially,

Paul
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Postby Ptolemaios » Fri Dec 12, 2003 4:14 pm

You're right, I should have explained the technical terms more carefully, The thing is, as I'm a Dutch classicist with a strong interest in linguistics, I've seen these publications and theories so often that I tend to forget that the functional-lingo isn't prima facie understandable for everyone.
Even though most literature on these topics is in English, I'll have to struggle with the English to make clear what the exact meaning of these technical terms is.
And then another captatio benevolentiae: at the moment I'm working on a comletely different subject in Greek linguistics, so what follows comes from a rather shady part of my memory.

The three levels correspond with three things I might want to do: (1) I might tell you something; (2) I may want to make clear how this statement fits in with the rest of the discourse; (3) I may want to make clear what I feel or think about the statement.
(1) is the representational level, (2) the presentational and (3) the interactional.

'As a conclusion' would be an English example of a marker on the presentational level: it tells you that I've reached the end of my argumentation.
'Mind you' (which has turned into a running gag among the students of classics at Leiden University) would tell you that the speaker thinks you should pay some extra attention to what follows.

All these different levels could occur in one and the same text, whether it's a dialogue or monologue, a narrative or a argumentation.

As I'm a student at Leiden University and Rijksbaron is a professor at the University of Amsterdam (between which there's a healthy competition), I should mention a few people who work(ed) at Leiden University. First of all, the late prof. C.M.J. Sicking. Unfortunately he hasn't published as much as one might wish. In English, one should try to find the supplements to Mnemosyne written by Sicking. Also, prof. Egbert Bakker (at the moment at the University of Texas at Austin): his Mnemosyne-supplement "Grammar as interpretation" and some articles in the "Journal of Pragmatics" and in "Studies in Language" (on the Greek particle [face=SPIonic]de/[/face]).

Even I sometimes think I'll suffer a brain meltdown, and I've tried to understand these theories quite some times before.
Hope this is a little more helpful than my previous post. Any more questions will be very welcome!

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Postby Paul » Fri Dec 12, 2003 8:34 pm

Hi Ptolemaios,

ptolemaios wrote:The three levels correspond with three things I might want to do: (1) I might tell you something; (2) I may want to make clear how this statement fits in with the rest of the discourse; (3) I may want to make clear what I feel or think about the statement.
(1) is the representational level, (2) the presentational and (3) the interactional.


Lovely, thank you. That really helps. Maybe I wasn't so far off base in construing the representational as something like the 'objective' and the interactional as something like the 'volitional'. Maybe they stand to each other as indicative stands to subjunctive...

ptolemaios wrote:In English, one should try to find the supplements to Mnemosyne...


Thank you also for these references. I am newly aware of these supplements, having recently availed myself of Moorhouse's "Syntax of Sophocles". I will look for the ones you recommend.

Cordially,

Paul
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Postby Ptolemaios » Sun Dec 14, 2003 11:38 am

If you have access to an academic library, then there are two more articles by Sicking I should have mentioned. They're published in the journal Glotta; I think it's vol. 69 (1991), but I'm not sure. In these he discusses the difference between the aorist en present tense stem forms.
I'll stop posting references now ...

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