genitive absolute

Are you reading Homeric Greek? Whether you are a total beginner or an advanced Homerist, here you can meet kindred spirits. Besides Homer, use this board for all things early Greek poetry.
Post Reply
psilord
Textkit Member
Posts: 184
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2004 9:38 pm
Location: Madison, WI

genitive absolute

Post by psilord » Mon Jan 16, 2006 9:48 pm

What exactly is the genetive absolute?

I've read my Pharr book and the relevant parts in Smyth, but I still can't really figure it out. Could someone show me some (using words from lesson 21 or earlier from the Pharr book) examples of this construction and why it would be used?

I appreciate it. Thank you.

[edit: spelled genitive wrong in title. I bet it made you all angry. :)]
Last edited by psilord on Wed Jan 18, 2006 2:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

chad
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 757
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2003 2:55 am

Post by chad » Mon Jan 16, 2006 11:37 pm

hi pete, just think of it as another way to express a cause or circumstance.

e.g. line 11 of Book 1 gives a cause for what happens in line 10. Apollo did something because Agamemnon did something. You could summarise it as:

Ἀπόλλων ὦ?σε νοῦσον, οὕνεκα Ἀγαμέμνων ἠτίμασεν ἀ?ητῆ?α.

Note the cause is expressed by a particle οὕνεκα + a nominative subject Ἀγαμέμνων.

Instead of saying it that way, you can leave out the particle οὕνεκα and just put the subject in the genitive, and the verb in the genitive and participle form, eg

Ἀπόλλων ὦ?σε νοῦσον, Ἀγαμέμνονος ἀτιμάσαντος ἀ?ητῆ?α.

Note that the subject of the genitive absolute needs to be different to the subject of the main clause. That's the point, it's an absolute, ie independent, clause. eg in line 9, you have another circumstance attached to this event, ie Apollo having been angered:

ὃ γὰ? βασιλῆϊ χολωθείς

But since Apollo is the subject of "having been angered" and of the main clause as well, you can't use gen absolute here: that's why ὃ ... χολωθείς is nominative, not genitive. ie you could say:

Ἀπόλλων, χολωθείς, ὦ?σε νοῦσον, Ἀγαμέμνονος ἀτιμάσαντος ἀ?ητῆ?α.

This now attaches 2 circumstances to the central idea that Ἀπόλλων ὦ?σε νοῦσον. Apollo is the subject of the 1st circumstance (being angered) and so is in the nom; Agamemnon the subject of the 2nd circumstance (dishonouring) and so is in the gen.

Goodwin 1897 s847 says that genitive absolutes were first used to express time, i.e. when the action in the main clause took place; later, it was used to express other circumstances, e.g. causes or conditions of the action in the main clause (as in my e.g. above). Chantraine 1963 however says that it's unclear whether the gen absolute had its origin in its temporal or causal usages, and he notes that it can be used in Homer in many ways: to express time, a condition, a cause, in a concessive use, &c (Vol 2 pages 323-324).

Bert
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1890
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 2:28 am
Location: Arthur Ontario Canada

Post by Bert » Tue Jan 17, 2006 2:01 am

Maybe it'll help if you compare it to an English absolute construction.
-If the weather permits then I will go on a picnic.- is a conditional sentence. The first part of the sentence has a grammatical connection to the second part.
-Weather permitting, I will go on a picnic.-
The first part is an absolute construction. It is seperate from, and has no grammatical relationship to the second part.

psilord
Textkit Member
Posts: 184
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2004 9:38 pm
Location: Madison, WI

Post by psilord » Wed Jan 18, 2006 12:01 am



User avatar
GlottalGreekGeek
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 903
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 3:37 am
Location: Mountain View

Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Wed Jan 18, 2006 12:22 am

All of your translations are okay (though #3 is a little awkward). The the specific meaning of the absolute must ultimately be determined by context.

By the way, the first occurence of the genitive absolute in the Iliad is around line 100 of the first book, where Achilles says something along the lines of "Nobody is going to hurt you while I live and look on the earth" - the bold indicating the genitive absolute phrase.

chad
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 757
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2003 2:55 am

Post by chad » Wed Jan 18, 2006 12:48 am

hi pete, don't worry too much about the exact eng translation: eng can express by punctuation alone what greek expresses through grammar and syntax.

the main thing is to understand the absolute, ie independent nature of the phrase. this is easier to see in another common type of absolute construction in greek, the infinitive absolute, eg aristotle categories 1b:

ἔστι δὲ ο?σία μὲν ὡς τ?πωι εἰπεῖν οἷον ἄνθ?ωπος, ἵππος...

ie substance is (to speak generally) eg man, horse...

the absolute nature can just be expressed by parentheses in english here. in the iliad, understanding the absolute nature is the important thing, that Apollo did A (Agamemnon having B-ed). how it is best translated into english is a question for people studying english not greek :)

nb 1st gen abs in iliad is line 47: α?τοῦ κινηθέντος.

psilord
Textkit Member
Posts: 184
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2004 9:38 pm
Location: Madison, WI

Post by psilord » Wed Jan 18, 2006 1:11 am

I think my main problem is that while I think I can readily identify a genitive absolute in context, I'm simply not sure what it _means_ grammatically and for what it is used.

So far I have think it is used for some kind of condition:

--if I get hungry, I prepare food--

or some kind of temporal statement:

--while Achillies raged, men died by the score--

I guess I'll need to see it much more in context.

chad
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 757
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2003 2:55 am

Post by chad » Wed Jan 18, 2006 1:22 am

hi pete, your 1st eg wouldn't be gen abs, because the subject is the same as the main clause. the condition there would be a nom ppl, or a protasis marked by an "if" particle.

don't worry you'll get the hang of it with more reading, both homer and other genres :)

Kasper
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 799
Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2003 3:01 am
Location: Melbourne

Post by Kasper » Wed Jan 18, 2006 1:28 am

A genitive absolute is only used when the subject of the genitive absolute has no grammatical relation to the rest of the sentence. So in your first example you cannot use a genitive absolute because the subject in both parts of the sentence are the same. (in greek you just could use a participle, eg. I, being hungry, will prepare food)

Just keep in mind that the subject of the genitive absolute must be different from anything else in the sentence, ie. subject, object or indirect object. Completely grammatically unrelated. Your second sentence is a very good example of this: Achilles has no grammatical relation to the dying men.
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”

psilord
Textkit Member
Posts: 184
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2004 9:38 pm
Location: Madison, WI

Post by psilord » Wed Jan 18, 2006 2:18 am

Kasper wrote:A genitive absolute is only used when the subject of the genitive absolute has no grammatical relation to the rest of the sentence. So in your first example you cannot use a genitive absolute because the subject in both parts of the sentence are the same. (in greek you just could use a participle, eg. I, being hungry, will prepare food)

Just keep in mind that the subject of the genitive absolute must be different from anything else in the sentence, ie. subject, object or indirect object. Completely grammatically unrelated. Your second sentence is a very good example of this: Achilles has no grammatical relation to the dying men.
Would my second example be of "Attendant Circumstance"?

Kasper
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 799
Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2003 3:01 am
Location: Melbourne

Post by Kasper » Wed Jan 18, 2006 2:40 am

I think that is a very good way of putting it.
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”

psilord
Textkit Member
Posts: 184
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2004 9:38 pm
Location: Madison, WI

Post by psilord » Wed Jan 18, 2006 4:21 am

Ok, I think I might have enough of an understanding of it to continue my studies.... I might ask more questions later though.

Thank you all for your help. I very much appreciate it.

Post Reply