ὅτι + optative

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Barry Hofstetter
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ὅτι + optative

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:35 pm

What is the logic for use of the optative in indirect statement following verbs in secondary sequence?
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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by bedwere » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:40 pm

For reference, while we wait for more insight:

Smyth grammar 2615
[*] 2615. After secondary tenses, an indicative without ἄν usually becomes optative, but may be retained unchanged. An indicative with ἄν and an optative with ἄν are retained.
a. Optative for Indicative.—““ἔγνωσαν ὅτι κενὸς ὁ φόβος εἴη” they recognized that their fear was groundless” X. A. 2.2.21 ( = ἐστί), ““ἔλεξαν ὅτι πέμψειε σφᾶς ὁ Ἰνδῶν βασιλεύς” they said that the king of the Indians had sent them” X. C. 2.4.7 ( = ἔπεμψεν ἡμᾶς), ““ἠγγέλθη ὅτι ἡττημένοι εἶεν οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι . . . καὶ Πείσανδρος τεθναίη” it was reported that the Lacedaemonians had been defeated and that Peisander was dead” X. H. 4.3.10 ( = ἡττημένοι εἰσι and τέθνηκε).

N.—The first example of the optative in indirect discourse is later than Homer (Hymn to Aphrodite 214). Aeschylus has four cases. See 2624 c.

b. Direct Form Retained.—““διῆλθε λόγος ὅτι διώκει αὐτοὺς Κῦρος” a report spread that Cyrus was pursuing them” X. A. 1.4.7, ““ἀποκρι_νάμενοι ὅτι πέμψουσι πρέσβεις, εὐθὺς ἀπήλλαξαν” they withdrew immediately on answering that they would send envoys” T. 1.90 ( = πέμψομεν). See also 2623, 2625.

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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by seneca2008 » Tue Jul 16, 2019 12:00 pm

This from the Cambridge Grammar might help. There is a lot more explanatory material but I won't paste it here because it takes too long to correct the Greek .
41.13
In those cases in which the reporter has a choice, there is a nuanced difference between retaining the mood of direct speech in historic sequence and using the oblique optative:
- The oblique optative signals that the reporter presents everything from his own temporal perspective: he puts himself between the original speaker and the addressee, emphasizing his role as mediator.
— The use of the mood of the corresponding direct speech presents the content of the speech emphatically from the perspective of the reported speaker. As such, the construction functions as a distancing device: it may suggest that the reporter believes the reported words to befalse or otherwise inappropriate, or that the reported words were of particular importance in the reported speech situation (crucial to the reported speaker and to the addressee) and less important in the current speech situation.

Such nuances are especially clear in instances in which both constructions are used in single reports:

(24) ἔτι δὲ ἀμφὶ δείλην ἔδοξαν πολεμίους ὁρᾶν ἱππέας ... ἐν ᾧ δὲ ὡπλίζοντο ἧκον λέγοντες οἱ προπεμφθέντες σκοποὶ ὅτι οὐχ ἱππεῖς εἰσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ὑποζύγια νέμοιντο.(Xen. An. 2.2.14-15)

While it was still late in the afternoon, they thought they saw enemy horsemen ... While they were arming themselves, the scouts who had been sent ahead said that they were not enemy horsemen, but yoke-animals grazing there. The part of the message of particular importance to the soldiers is that which corrects their expectations: contrary to what they believed, the animals they saw were not enemy horsemen (but yoke-animals).

(25) ὁ δ᾿ ἑρμηνεὺς εἶπε περσιστὶ ὅτι παρὰ βασιλέως πορεύονται πρὸς τὸν σατράπην. αἱ δὲ ἀπεκρίναντο ὅτι οὐκ ἐνταῦθα εἴη, ἀλλ᾿ ἀπέχει ὅσον παρασάγγην. (Xen. An. 4.5.10)

The interpreter said in Persian that they (the Greeks) were on their way from the king to the satrap. The women answered that he wasn’t there, but was about a parasang away. The interpreter tells a ‘white lie ’to some local women to find out the satrap’s whereabouts (the Greeks are not actually on their way to him, but trying to avoid him) - the reporter does not take responsibility for πορεύονται πρὸς τὸν σατράπην. The most salient part of the women’s answer is not their assertion about where he is not(the Greeks had suspected that he was not there; hence they took this route), but their assertion that he is only a parasang away.

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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by jeidsath » Tue Jul 16, 2019 12:34 pm

English does it a bit too it. "Distancing device", as CCG says, makes a lot of sense:

He says that he will go.
He said that he would go.

He asks if it is true.
He asked if it were true.
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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by Hylander » Wed Jul 17, 2019 3:33 pm

In English, the distinction in the Greek identified by CGCG can be approximated by shifting between direct and indirect speech:

"The scouts who had been sent ahead said, 'They're not horsemen.' Rather, they said, they were yoke-animals grazing there."

"The women answered that he wasn't there. 'No [ἀλλ᾿], he' s about a parasang away.'"

Joel, your English examples aren't quite the same as the Greek. Your English examples illustrate the normal sequence of tenses rules of English for indirect speech.

*He asked if it were true. -- This is not really correct. "Were" singular is irrealis. It's used in contrary to fact conditions, where the protasis is known to be untrue: "If Homer were alive today, he would be more than 2,500 years old." Where the truth of the protasis is unknown, the past indicative has to be used: "If Homer was a native of Euboea, it follows that he would have been a speaker of Western Ionic Greek." Asking whether a proposition is true or not, the speaker/writer professes no knowledge of the truth of the proposition, so "was" would have to be used: "He asked if it was true." "Were" here is a hypercorrection.
Last edited by Hylander on Wed Jul 17, 2019 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by seneca2008 » Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:44 pm

Hylander wrote:In English, the distinction in the Greek identified by CGCG can be approximated by shifting between direct and indirect speech:

"The scouts who had been sent ahead said, 'They're not horsemen.' Rather, they said, they were yoke-animals grazing there."

"The women answered he wasn't there. 'No [ἀλλ᾿], he' s about a parasang away.'"
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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by Aetos » Wed Jul 17, 2019 5:28 pm

Ditto!

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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by mwh » Wed Jul 17, 2019 8:14 pm

Double ditto.

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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by Constantinus Philo » Thu Jul 18, 2019 3:57 am

The most salient part of the women’s answer is not their assertion about where he is not(the Greeks had suspected that he was not there; hence they took this route), but their assertion that he is only a parasang away. I donot understand this: in the previous example the salient part was in the opt, but now it is in the indicative, why?
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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by Hylander » Thu Jul 18, 2019 1:36 pm

In the first example, the salient item from the Greeks' perspective -- their key concern -- is the fact that the animals that had been spotted were not horsemen (οὐχ ἱππεῖς εἰσιν), and that is in the present indicative. The fact that the animals were yoke-animals is incidental and secondary, and that is in the optative (ὑποζύγια νέμοιντο).

In the second example, the salient fact, as the CGCG explains, is not that the satrap was not present (οὐκ ἐνταῦθα εἴη) -- which the Greeks suspected -- but rather the fact that he was about a parasang away (ἀπέχει ὅσον παρασάγγην) -- the important piece of information from the Greeks' perspective -- which again is present indicative.

πορεύονται is present indicative not for reasons of salience, but because it's not true: it's a lie told by the interpreter. It's indicative because it reflects what the interpreter actually said, which would have been present indicative had he been speaking Greek (something like πορευομεθα but he's actually speaking Persian), not what the supposedly true narration of the events that the narrator (Xenophon) is unfolding.

The present indicative verb extracts and removes the statement from Xenophon's supposedly true narrative, which is in past tenses (imperfect, aorist, and the occasional pluperfect),with optative subordinate clauses., and puts it in the mouth of the deceitful interpreter.

This is what CGCG means by "distancing": the indicative verb is "distanced" from Xenophon's narrative as it unfolds. Xenophon isn't taking responsibility for the truth of πορεύονται (though of course he isn't blaming the interpreter for telling a clever falsehood).

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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by Constantinus Philo » Thu Jul 18, 2019 5:18 pm

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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by Hylander » Thu Jul 18, 2019 5:24 pm

— The use of the mood of the corresponding direct speech presents the content of the speech emphatically from the perspective of the reported speaker. As such, the construction functions as a distancing device: it may suggest that the reporter believes the reported words to be false or otherwise inappropriate, or that the reported words were of particular importance in the reported speech situation (crucial to the reported speaker and to the addressee) and less important in the current speech situation.
I'm wondering whether the notion that the "use of the mood of the corresponding direct speech" functions as a "distancing device" is a valid generalization, with just two or three examples taken from the same work. Isn't the use of the mood of direct speech, adjusted for person (e.g., first person > third person), simply a way of enlivening a historical narrative, making it more vivid?

Salience is certainly one factor that might account for the use of the indicative: the important point is presented more vividly, as in the examples. But is πορεύονται really intended to distance the assertion from the narrator, or is the indicative intended simply to make the narrative livelier by injecting the reader into the events of the narrative -- somewhat like my earlier post, where I suggested that the use of the indicative could be approximated in English by shifting to direct speech? The indicative does draw attention to the falsity of the assertion, but is it simply a matter of entertaining the reader?

Again, with just a handful of examples from the same work, it's difficult to tell. Is this just a feature of Xenophon's narrative style?

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Re: ὅτι + optative

Post by seneca2008 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:47 pm

Hylander wrote:Again, with just a handful of examples from the same work, it's difficult to tell. Is this just a feature of Xenophon's narrative style?
Perhaps it would be helpful to see the notes to 41.13 :
Note 1: The optative is the more common construction throughout classical prose (discounting indicatives which cannot easily be replaced by the optative; —41.14), although there are differences between individual authors. However, the future and perfect optative are both rare forms and the indicative of these tenses is more often retained than that of the present and aorist. Furthermore, the oblique optative rapidly disappeared from common use after ca.300BCE.
Note 2: The future optative is used almost exclusively as oblique optative in indirect speech contexts (although it also occurs in effort clauses, >44.2).
Goodwin Syntax of the moods and tenses of the Greek verb says (p. 261) 670. "After past tenses the indicative and optative are in equally good use; the optative being used when the writer incorporates the quotation entirely into his own sentence, and the indicative when he quotes it in the original words as far as his construction allows. The indicative here, like the subjunctive in final clauses after past tenses(318), is merely a more vivid form of the expression than the optative, with no difference in meaning. We even both moods in the same sentence.

Xen. An. ii. 1, 3

οὗτοι ἔλεγον ὅτι Κῦρος μὲν τέθνηκεν, Ἀριαῖος δὲ πεφευγὼς ἐν τῷ σταθμῷ εἴη μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων βαρβάρων.... (this text seems a bit different to the one quoted by Goodwin)

Here τέθνηκεν contains the most important part of the message."

There is no commentary on the other texts quoted which are:

Xen.Cyr. iv.4, 4
Dem. xxvii.49
Xen. An. iii. 5, 13

Given the notes quoted above I think perhaps you are right that we should exercise caution in formulating any kind of general rule.

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