Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

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jeidsath
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Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by jeidsath » Thu Jul 19, 2018 4:15 am

ἄρκτος , ἡ, A.bear, esp. Ursus arctos, brown bear, Od.11.611, h.Merc. 223, h.Ven.159, Hdt.4.191, etc.: the instances of the masc. are dub. (Arist.Col.798a26 is inconclusive), the fem. being used even when both sexes are included, Id.HA539b33.
What explains this curious fact that even male bears are always referred to in the feminine? Does it have something to do with Artemis? There is no other word that works quite like this in regards to gender, is there?
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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by jeidsath » Thu Jul 19, 2018 4:38 am

Or perhaps it’s common with some animals. ἀλώπηξ is never masculine either, is it?
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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by bedwere » Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:24 am

Maybe the male was seen more rarely, while a female with a cub was a more common sight and thus the feminine gender stuck?

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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:30 am

I believe vulpes is always feminine in Latin, as well. The question, I think, is ultimately unanswerable, and is related to the issue of grammatical gender in general. Part of the problem, I think, is that we think of grammatical gender as gender, when it's really not that at all. What do we make of רוח (ruach) feminine, πνεῦμα, neuter and spiritus, masculine? But it didn't bother Jerome as a translator, and I never remember the ancients being worried about it at all.
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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by dikaiopolis » Thu Jul 19, 2018 12:30 pm

I ran across this issue in a scholion to Dionysius Thrax not long ago. I'll add it here in case you're interested in how the ancient grammarians tried to cope. From the section περὶ ὀνόματος:

Γένη μὲν οὖν εἰϲι τρία· ἀρϲενικόν, θηλυκόν, οὐδέτερον. ἔνιοι δὲ προϲτιθέαϲι τούτοιϲ ἄλλα δύο, κοινόν τε καὶ ἐπίκοινον, κοινὸν μὲν οἷον ἵπποϲ κύων, ἐπίκοινον δὲ οἷον χελιδών ἀετόϲ.

A note by Heliodorus in the Scholia Londinensia elaborates on κοινά & ἐπίκοινα, explaining why the Τεχνικός rightfully doesn't include them among the three γένη. For κοινά he mentions the bear and camel as exceptions (incorrectly in the latter case):

<Heliodori.> —Ὅτι δὲ οὐκ εἰσὶ ταῦτα γένη δῆλον· εἰ γὰρ ἐκάστῳ γένει δέδοταί τις οἰκεῖος χαρακτήρ, ὥσπερ ὁ εἰς ας ἀρσενικῶν μόνων,καὶ ὁ εἰς η θηλυκῶν, καὶ ὁ εἰς ον οὐδετέρων, <ταῦτα δὲ οὔτε χαρακτῆρα> οὔτε [δὲ] σημαινόμενον οὔτε ἄρθρον ἔχουσιν ἴδιον—καὶ γὰρ ἡ φωνὴ αὐτῶν ἢ ἀρσενική ἐστιν ἢ θηλυκή—χρὴ οὖν αὐτὰ ὄνομα κοινὸν καλεῖν καὶ ὄνομα ἐπίκοινον, οὐ γένος. Κοινὰ δὲ ὅσα τῶν ζῴων ἐκ τῆς φύσεως γνωρίζουσιν ἡμῖν τὸ γένος, τουτέστιν ἐκ τῶν αἰδοίων, οἷον ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡ ἄνθρωπος· δύο δ’ ἐν τούτοις ἀπεσιωπήθησαν ἀρσενικὰ προσλαμβάνειν ἄρθρα, ἡ ἄρκτος καὶ ἡ κάμηλος, σπανίως τάχα δὲ ἅπαξ λεχθέντα ἀρσενικῶς. Ἐπίκοινα δὲ τὰ τοὐναντίον μὴ ἐκφαίνοντα τὸ γένος, ἀλλ’ ἢ ἀρσενικῶς μόνως ἢ θηλυκῶς λεγόμενα, ὡς ἂν ἡ χρῆσις εὑρεθῇ ἔχουσα· ταῦτα δὲ διὰ τῆς φύσεως οὐ δηλοῖ τὸ γένος, οἷον ἀρσενικῶς εὕρηται ὁ ἀετός, <καὶ> οὕτω δεῖ μόνως λέγειν, ἡ χελιδών θηλυκῶς· πλὴν καὶ ἐν τούτοις εὑρέθησαν δύο ἀντιπάσχοντα· τὸ γὰρ χήν θηλυκῶς εὕρηται παρὰ τῷ ποιητῇ, <ο 174> ὡς ὅδε χῆν’ ἥρπαξ’ ἀτιταλλομένην· εὑρέθη δὲ καὶ ὁ περιστερός ἅπαξ.

[You can find Hilgard's ed. of the scholia to Dion. Thrax here https://archive.org/details/scholiaindionys00hilggoog, which is on the TLG]

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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Thu Jul 19, 2018 1:45 pm

For anybody interested in the state of the art thinking as of 1897:

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Natu ... _Languages
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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by Aetos » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:53 pm

In modern Greek grammars, the point is actually emphasized that gender with respect to nouns is grammatical. With many animals, the neuter gender is used and then modified with the appropriate adjective (αρσενικός, θηλυκός), although there many animals that are named only with the feminine gender and again, to distinguish between male and female, an adjective is again used. Is it possible that the ancients did the same thing? Thus, might one see ἡ ἀρσενικὴ ἄρκτος ?

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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Thu Jul 19, 2018 4:08 pm

Aetos wrote:θηλυκός
Έκανες λάθος, βρε φίλε μου. Δηλαδὴ τὸ θῆλυς
Aetos wrote:ἡ ἀρσενικὴ ἄρκτος
καταλλήλως, τὸ ἄρσην or ρρ.
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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by Aetos » Thu Jul 19, 2018 5:01 pm

ἑκηβόλος wrote:Aetos wrote:θηλυκός
φίλε μου ἑκηβόλε,
σ'ευχαριστώ! Λές και ἐπαθα δυσλεξία; αλλά τώρα είδα πως άλλαξες το μήνυμα. θά'λεγα αν πέφτω έξω όμως πέφτει και ο Μπαμπινιώτης μαζί!

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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by jeidsath » Thu Jul 19, 2018 10:09 pm

dikaiopolis wrote:τουτέστιν ἐκ τῶν αἰδοίων, οἷον ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡ ἄνθρωπος
I didn't know that grammar books got this racy.
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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by dikaiopolis » Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:20 pm

Or, far more often, misogynistic.

Many of these ancient grammatical notes on bears, camels, etc. probably derive in one way or another from Aristotelian traditions. In the Historia animalium, you find the idea that female bears and leopards/panthers are stronger than the males:

Ἀθυμότερα δὲ τὰ θήλεα πάντα τῶν ἀρρένων πλὴν ἄρκτου καὶ παρδάλεως· τούτων δ’ ἡ θήλεια δοκεῖ εἶναι ἀνδρειοτέρα. Ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἄλλοις γένεσι τὰ θήλεα μαλακώτερα καὶ κακουργότερα καὶ ἧττον ἁπλᾶ καὶ προπετέστερα καὶ περὶ τῶν τέκνων τροφὴν φροντιστικώτερα, τὰ δ’ ἄρρενα ἐναντίως θυμωδέστερα καὶ ἀγριώτερα καὶ ἁπλούστερα καὶ ἧττον ἐπίβουλα. Τούτων δ’ ἴχνη μὲν τῶν ἠθῶν ἐστιν ἐν πᾶσιν ὡς εἰπεῖν, μᾶλλον δὲ φανερώτερα ἐν τοῖς ἔχουσι μᾶλλον ἦθος καὶ μάλιστα ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ· (HA 608a33ff.)

That could possibly be related to grammatical discussions of bears as feminine. In any case, the passage from Aristotle is connected to an interesting exegetical scholion on Φ.573-78 (Agenor, eager to attack Achilles, is like a fearless pardalis:

ἠΰτε πάρδαλις εἶσι βαθείης ἐκ ξυλόχοιο
ἀνδρὸς θηρητῆρος ἐναντίον, οὐδέ τι θυμῷ
ταρβεῖ οὐδὲ φοβεῖται, ἐπεί κεν ὑλαγμὸν ἀκούσῃ·
εἴ περ γὰρ φθάμενός μιν ἢ οὐτάσῃ ἠὲ βάλῃσιν,
ἀλλά τε καὶ περὶ δουρὶ πεπαρμένη οὐκ ἀπολήγει
ἀλκῆς, πρίν γ᾽ ἠὲ ξυμβλήμεναι ἠὲ δαμῆναι·)

ἠΰτε πόρδαλις<—ἠὲ δαμῆναι>: θυμικὸν καὶ πολεμικὸν τὸ ζῷον μέχρι θανάτου. τοσοῦτον δὲ τῶν ἄλλων προὔχει, ὅσον ἐκεῖνα τῶν ἡμέρων. ἐν δὲ παρδάλεσι καὶ ἄρκτοις τὰ θήλεα ἰσχυρότερα. b(BCE3E4)T οὕτω δὲ ἐπιτέτευκται, ὅτι μηδὲ αὐτὸς Ὅμηρος ἄλλην μάχην παρδάλεως ἐτόλμησεν εἰπεῖν. T

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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Fri Jul 20, 2018 1:29 am

Κανείς αντιμετωπίζει ένα τέτοιο επιστήμονα. Δε μου λες ρε, τι σημαίνει το the ancients που έγραψες στο μήνυμα σου. αν ήτανε αυτοί που έζησαν πριν από τη Ρωμαϊκή Aυτοκρατορία δηλαδή στη Κλασσική εποχή, επί του συνόλου θα κολόβησαν τη κατάληξη και έγραψαν το ἄρσην ή το θῆλυς. έτσι δεν είναι?
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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by Aetos » Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:05 am

Με συγχωρείς, ἑκηβόλε! Στο ἄρσην και στο θῆλυς έχεις απόλυτο δίκαιο και δεν το αμφισβητώ καθόλου. Απλώς έριξα μια ματιά στο LSJ και στο λεξικό του Σταματάκου και βρήκα το "αρσενικός" και το "θηλυκός". Στη βιασύνη μου, δεν διάβασα τα ολόκληρα άρθρα. Την αναφορά στον Μπαμπινιώτη έκανα λόγο της ορθογραφίας του "θηλυκός" στα νεοελληνικά.

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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by Aetos » Fri Jul 20, 2018 3:27 pm

Hi Aete,
That's 20 more years of Greek than me. I started with an interest in Greek, and rather than staying synchronically classical and doing Latin, I moved diachronically into Modern Greek. That foray forward in the language only lasted for about 12 years though. For early exploration of computers, much to my parents' exasperation and to my posterior's displeasure I modified the hardware of our family's first computer (a brand new VIC 20) when I was 13 or so. I was annoyed that anybody would market a product that lost all my work if the cable was loose, or somebody tripped over it, or that had such poor sound.
Φίλε μου ἑκηβόλε, πάλι πρέπει να ζητήσω συγγνώμη. Μόλις τώρα βρήκα αυτό το μήνυμα. Εμείς οι δυο ταξιδεύομε την ίδια οδό, εσύ από την αρχή προς το τέλος, δηλ. από τ' αρχαία προς τα νεοελληνικά, και εγώ από το τέλος προς την αρχή.

I don't know much about the Commodore, but I'm betting that it was difficult and very time consuming to back stuff up. On the PC-Junior you had to swap disks in order to copy one file and you could only copy one file at a time. There was no hard drive. I did have fun with it, though. At the time I was trying to learn how to play the bouzouki (I never got very good at it...) but I had a lot of sheet music for the instrument, so using the PLAY instruction in BASIC, I was able to program the computer to play a given song, so that I could see if what I was playing was even close to the way the song was supposed to be played. My audio collection was rather limited at the time (most of it consisted of cassette recordings of a 30 minute radio show featuring ρεμπέτικα), so some of the songs I was trying to play I had never heard.

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Re: Why is ἄρκτος always feminine?

Post by Kurama » Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:20 pm

This also happens in Spanish. It can lead to some very funny sounding phrases. For instance to say 'the male goat' you need to say 'la cabra macho'. That is, with the feminine article but with a masculine adjective.

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