“Well, Actually, None IS”: Seneca the Elder on Grammatical Pedantry

Seneca the Elder, Suasoriae 2.13, 540 M

“The grammarian Procellus used to claim that [Severus’] line was a solecism because, although he indicated many were speaking, he used to say “this is my day” instead of “this is our day”. And in this he was carping at the best part of a great poem. For, it is feeble if you make it “our” instead of my—all of the verse’s elegance will disappear.

For its greatest decorum is in this line and it comes from the vernacular (for, “this is my day” is something like a proverb). If, in addition, you reconsider the sense, then the grammarian’s pedantry—which should be kept away from all of the better minds—has no place at all. For, they did not all speak together as a chorus might with a leader guiding them, but each one spoke individually, “this is my day.”

Illud Porcellus grammaticus arguebat in hoc versu quasi soloecismum quod, cum plures induxisset, diceret: “hic meus est dies,” non: “hic noster est,” et in sententia optima id accusabat quod erat optimum. Muta enim ut “noster” sit: peribit omnis versus elegantia, in quo hoc est decentissimum, quod ex communi sermone trahitur; nam quasi proverbii loco est: “hic dies meus est”; et, cum ad sensum rettuleris, ne grammaticorum quidem calumnia ab omnibus magnis ingeniis summovenda habebit locum; dixerunt enim non omnes simul tamquam in choro manum ducente grammatico, sed singuli ex iis: “hic meus est dies.”

this is my day, punk.

Insanity and the Rules of Grammar

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 179

“Just as when there is a certain local currency which is accepted in a city, the person who uses this is able to complete whatever his business obligations are in that city without too much bother, but the one who refuses to use it but creates for himself some new strange currency and tries to use that as currency instead is a feel, so too in life the person who does not want to use customary modes of discourse, like the currency, and tries to coin some particular kind of his own, is nearly insane.

And so, if the grammarians agree to give us some skill which they call analogy by which they compel us to speak with one another in accordance with some “Hellenism” then we must show that this skill has no support and that those who want to speak correctly must speak in a non-technical way, using a simple style in life and following the rules which are used by the majority of people.”

ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν πόλει νομίσματός τινος προχωροῦντος κατὰ τὸ ἐγχώριον ὁ μὲν τούτῳ στοιχῶν δύναται καὶ τὰς ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ πόλει διεξαγωγὰς ἀπαραποδίστως ποιεῖσθαι, ὁ δὲ τοῦτο μὲν μὴ παραδεχόμενος ἄλλο δέ τι καινὸν χαράσσων ἑαυτῷ καὶ τούτῳ νομιστεύεσθαι θέλων μάταιος καθέστηκεν, οὕτω κἀν τῷ βίῳ ὁ μὴ βουλόμενος τῇ συνήθως παραδεχθείσῃ, καθάπερ νομίσματι, ὁμιλίᾳ κατακολουθεῖν ἀλλ᾿ ἰδίαν αὑτῷ τέμνειν μανίας ἐγγὺς ἐστίν. διόπερ εἰ οἱ γραμματικοὶ ὑπισχνοῦνται τέχνην τινὰ τὴν καλουμένην ἀναλογίαν παραδώσειν, δι᾿ ἧς κατ᾿ ἐκεῖνον ἡμᾶς τὸν ἑλληνισμὸν ἀναγκάζουσι διαλέγεσθαι, ὑποδεικτέον ὅτι ἀσύστατός ἐστιν αὕτη ἡ τέχνη, δεῖ δὲ τοὺς ὀρθῶς βουλομένους διαλέγεσθαι τῇ ἀτέχνῳ καὶ ἀφελεῖ κατὰ τὸν βίον καὶ τῇ κατὰ τὴν κοινὴν τῶν πολλῶν συνήθειαν παρατηρήσει προσανέχειν.

Image result for medieval manuscript grammarian
British Library Royal 16 G V f.

Insanity and the Rules of Grammar

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 179

“Just as when there is a certain local currency which is accepted in a city, the person who uses this is able to complete whatever his business obligations are in that city without too much bother, but the one who refuses to use it but creates for himself some new strange currency and tries to use that as currency instead is a feel, so too in life the person who does not want to use customary modes of discourse, like the currency, and tries to coin some particular kind of his own, is nearly insane.

And so, if the grammarians agree to give us some skill which they call analogy by which they compel us to speak with one another in accordance with some “Hellenism” then we must show that this skill has no support and that those who want to speak correctly must speak in a non-technical way, using a simple style in life and following the rules which are used by the majority of people.”

ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν πόλει νομίσματός τινος προχωροῦντος κατὰ τὸ ἐγχώριον ὁ μὲν τούτῳ στοιχῶν δύναται καὶ τὰς ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ πόλει διεξαγωγὰς ἀπαραποδίστως ποιεῖσθαι, ὁ δὲ τοῦτο μὲν μὴ παραδεχόμενος ἄλλο δέ τι καινὸν χαράσσων ἑαυτῷ καὶ τούτῳ νομιστεύεσθαι θέλων μάταιος καθέστηκεν, οὕτω κἀν τῷ βίῳ ὁ μὴ βουλόμενος τῇ συνήθως παραδεχθείσῃ, καθάπερ νομίσματι, ὁμιλίᾳ κατακολουθεῖν ἀλλ᾿ ἰδίαν αὑτῷ τέμνειν μανίας ἐγγὺς ἐστίν. διόπερ εἰ οἱ γραμματικοὶ ὑπισχνοῦνται τέχνην τινὰ τὴν καλουμένην ἀναλογίαν παραδώσειν, δι᾿ ἧς κατ᾿ ἐκεῖνον ἡμᾶς τὸν ἑλληνισμὸν ἀναγκάζουσι διαλέγεσθαι, ὑποδεικτέον ὅτι ἀσύστατός ἐστιν αὕτη ἡ τέχνη, δεῖ δὲ τοὺς ὀρθῶς βουλομένους διαλέγεσθαι τῇ ἀτέχνῳ καὶ ἀφελεῖ κατὰ τὸν βίον καὶ τῇ κατὰ τὴν κοινὴν τῶν πολλῶν συνήθειαν παρατηρήσει προσανέχειν.

Image result for medieval manuscript grammarian
British Library Royal 16 G V f.

“Well, Actually, None IS”: Seneca the Elder on Grammatical Pedantry

Seneca the Elder, Suasoriae 2.13, 540 M

“The grammarian Procellus used to claim that [Severus’] line was a solecism because, although he indicated many were speaking, he used to say “this is my day” instead of “this is our day”. And in this he was carping at the best part of a great poem. For, it is feeble if you make it “our” instead of my—all of the verse’s elegance will disappear.

For its greatest decorum is in this line and it comes from the vernacular (for, “this is my day” is something like a proverb). If, in addition, you reconsider the sense, then the grammarian’s pedantry—which should be kept away from all of the better minds—has no place at all. For, they did not all speak together as a chorus might with a leader guiding them, but each one spoke individually, “this is my day.”

Illud Porcellus grammaticus arguebat in hoc versu quasi soloecismum quod, cum plures induxisset, diceret: “hic meus est dies,” non: “hic noster est,” et in sententia optima id accusabat quod erat optimum. Muta enim ut “noster” sit: peribit omnis versus elegantia, in quo hoc est decentissimum, quod ex communi sermone trahitur; nam quasi proverbii loco est: “hic dies meus est”; et, cum ad sensum rettuleris, ne grammaticorum quidem calumnia ab omnibus magnis ingeniis summovenda habebit locum; dixerunt enim non omnes simul tamquam in choro manum ducente grammatico, sed singuli ex iis: “hic meus est dies.”

this is my day, punk.

Various Meanings of Syntax

“Syntax is the death of me”

σύνταξις γὰρ ἐμοὶ καὶ θάνατον παρέχει, Palladas

Diogenes Laertius, Zeno 44

“The second topic also mentioned above as proper to dialectic is that of language. In this are also included written language and the parts of speech as well as a consideration of solecisms, barbarisms, of poetic words and ambiguities, concerning euphony and music, and, according to some, sections on definitions, divisions, and diction.”

Εἶναι δὲ τῆς διαλεκτικῆς ἴδιον τόπον καὶ τὸν προειρημένον περὶ αὐτῆς τῆς φωνῆς, ἐν ᾧ δείκνυται ἡ ἐγγράμματος φωνὴ καὶ τίνα τὰ τοῦ λόγου μέρη, καὶ περὶ σολοικισμοῦ καὶ βαρβαρισμοῦ καὶ ποιημάτων καὶ ἀμφιβολιῶν καὶ περὶ ἐμμελοῦς φωνῆς καὶ περὶ μουσικῆς καὶ περὶ ὅρων κατά τινας καὶ διαιρέσεων καὶ λέξεων.

 

Jerome, Letter 128 To Pacatula

“How can I encourage the girl who hit her laughing mother with a child’s hand to submit to her parents? Thus let our Pacatula take this letter to read it later. Meanwhile, let her learn the basic elements of language and put syllables together.”

Ut parenti subiciatur, horter, quae manu tenera ridentem verberat matrem? Itaque Pacatula nostra hoc epistulium post lectura suscipiat; interim modo litterularum elementa cognoscat, iungat syllabas.

 

Suda Sigma, 1623

“Syntax:  This is the combining of two things. It is also taking and doing necessary things. “He was not ashamed to be depriving men on expedition from all their pay [syntaxeis]”. Malkhos also writes “the soldiers went into depression because they were often deprived of their pay [syntaxeis] and cut off from their common food.” Malkhos writes again elsewhere “he honored Pamprepios famously and granted him a salary [syntaxeis]. Procopios writes “they were also criticizing because the public owed them their pay [syntaxeis] for a great amount of time.”

Σύνταξις: δευτέρων πραγμάτων ἕνωσις. καὶ τὸ λαμβάνειν καὶ ποιεῖν τὰ δέοντα. τοὺς στρατευομένους ἀποστερῶν τὰς συντάξεις ἁπάσας οὐκ ᾐσχύνετο. καὶ Μάλχος: τῶν συντάξεων στερηθέντες πολλάκις οἱ στρατιῶται καὶ παρακοπτόμενοι τῆς τροφῆς τῆς συνήθους ἐς ἀπόνοιαν ἦλθον. καὶ αὖθις Μάλχος: ὁ δὲ τὸν Παμπρέπιον λαμπρῶς τε ἐτίμησε καὶ σύνταξιν ἔδωκε. Προκόπιος: ἅμα δὲ καὶ μεμφόμενοι, ὅτι δὴ σφίσι χρόνου τὰς συντάξεις πολλοῦ τὸ δημόσιον ὦφλε.

Sigma, 1624

“Syntaxis: A summary, a history. Polybius has written “we made these things clear in previous compositions.”

Σύνταξις: ἡ συγγραφή, ἡ ἱστορία. Πολύβιος: ταῦτα ἐν ταῖς πρὸ τοῦ συντάξεσι δεδηλώκαμεν.

Sigma, 1625

Syntaxis: A proper way of saying a financial agreement. Demosthenes writes in his Phillipics: “there should be a single and identical agreement [syntaxis] for taking and doing what is needed. For he used to call each of the tax types “syntaxes”, since the Greeks took the name ‘tribute’ rather badly. So Kallistratos called it this instead. So, Hyperides says “We who once thought it right to levy, give a payment [syntax] to no one in the present”

Σύνταξις: ἀντὶ τοῦ συντεταγμένη οἴκησις. Δημοσθένης Φιλιππικοῖς: καὶ μίαν σύνταξιν εἶναι τὴν αὐτὴν τοῦ τε λαμβάνειν καὶ τοῦ ποιεῖν τὰ δέοντα. ἔλεγε δὲ ἑκάστους φόρους συντάξεις, ἐπειδὴ χαλεπῶς ἔφερον οἱ Ἕλληνες τὸ τῶν φόρων ὄνομα, Καλλιστράτου οὕτως καλέσαντος. καὶ Ὑπερίδης δέ φησι: σύνταξιν ἐν τῷ παρόντι οὐδενὶ διδόντες, ἡμεῖς δέ ποτε ἠξιώσαμεν λαβεῖν.

Hesychius

rhapsdôdia: A binding of words, or a stitching-together of words. Or, a part of a poem.”

ῥαψῳδία· ἡ σύνταξις τῶν λόγων, ἢ λόγων συῤῥαφή. ἢ μέρος ποιήματος

Zonaras

“Syntax: a uniting of two matters. Also to take and make what is necessary”

Σύνταξις. δευτέρων πραγμάτων ἕνωσις. καὶ τὸ λαμβάνειν καὶ ποιεῖν τὰ δέοντα.

Image result for medieval manuscript syntax
From this site.

Debtors After Death: An Attic Speech on Inheritance

Isaeus, On the Estate of Kleonymos 1-4

This oration is not really anything special. It is a speech over contested inheritance. It has some classic features of Attic oratory both thematically and structurally. What is strength about this one is figuring out the grammar of section 4. There is a finite verb at the beginning of 3, and then two in what seem to be subordinate clauses in the same section. Starting in section 4, however, we have two nominative clauses (perhaps nominal statements with an implied form of to be) followed by a string of genitive absolutes. I have just turned the genitive absolutes into independent sentences. Any better suggestions?

“I have experienced a great change from the death of Kleonymos, Friends. For, when he was alive, he left his estate to us; but, by dying, he has put it at risk for us. Then, we were educated so prudently by him that we never entered a courtroom, not even for the purpose of observing; but now, we come for the purpose of competing for our own subsistence—for not only do they cast doubt on Kleonymos’ possessions, but they include his patrimony too, claiming that we owe them money on his behalf.

Both their relatives and their close friends believe that we have the right to an equal share with them of the agreed upon possessions which Kleonymos left to us. But these men have come to such a point of shamelessness that they seek to strip us of our paternal rights, not because they are ignorant of what is just, Men, but because they have recognized our great bereavement.

Look at the things which each side relies on when they come before you. These men find their strength in these kinds of documents which [Kleonymos] had written not because he was angry at us but in rage at some other relative. But he resolved these before he died and sent Poseidippos to the registry to do so. We were his closest relatives, staying most regularly in contact of all—the laws have granted this to as the closest relations, and Kleonymos willed this, due do the friendship he experienced, and, in addition, his father Polyarkhos—our grandfather—declared that his possessions should be ours if Kleonymos died without children.”

     Πολλὴ μὲν ἡ μεταβολή μοι γέγονεν, ὦ ἄνδρες, τελευ-τήσαντος Κλεωνύμου· ἐκεῖνος γὰρ ζῶν μὲν ἡμῖν κατέλειπε τὴν οὐσίαν, ἀποθανὼν δὲ κινδυνεύειν περὶ αὐτῆς πεποίηκε. Καὶ τότε μὲν οὕτως ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ σωφρόνως ἐπαιδευόμεθα, ὥστ’ οὐδὲ ἀκροασόμενοι οὐδέποτε ἤλθομεν ἐπὶ δικαστήριον, νῦν δὲ ἀγωνιούμενοι περὶ πάντων ἥκομεν τῶν ὑπαρχόντων· οὐ γὰρ τῶν Κλεωνύμου μόνον ἀμφισβητοῦσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν πατρῴων, ὀφείλειν ἐπὶ τούτοις <ἡμᾶς> ἐκείνῳ φάσκοντες ἀργύριον.

καὶ οἱ μὲν οἰκεῖοι καὶ οἱ προσήκοντες [ἐπὶ τούτοις] οἱ τούτων ἀξιοῦσιν ἡμᾶς καὶ τῶν ὁμολογουμένων, ὧν Κλεώνυμος κατέλιπεν, αὐτοῖς τούτων ἰσομοιρῆσαι· οὗτοι δὲ εἰς τοῦτο ἥκουσιν ἀναισχυντίας, ὥστε καὶ τὰ πατρῷα προσαφελέσθαι ζητοῦσιν ἡμᾶς, οὐκ ἀγνοοῦντες, ὦ ἄνδρες, τὸ δίκαιον, ἀλλὰ πολλὴν ἡμῶν ἐρημίαν καταγνόντες.

Σκέψασθε γὰρ οἷς ἑκάτεροι πιστεύοντες ὡς ὑμᾶς εἰσεληλύθαμεν· οὗτοι μὲν διαθήκαις ἰσχυριζόμενοι τοιαύταις, ἃς ἐκεῖνος διέθετο μὲν οὐχ ἡμῖν ἐγκαλῶν ἀλλ᾿ ὀργισθεὶς τῶν οἰκείων τινὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων, ἔλυσε δὲ πρὸ τοῦ θανάτου, πέμψας Ποσείδιππον ἐπὶ τὴν ἀρχήν· ἡμεῖς δὲ γένει μὲν ἐγγυτάτω προσήκοντες, χρώμενοι δὲ ἐκείνῳ πάντων οἰκειότατα, δεδωκότων δ᾿ ἡμῖν καὶ τῶν νόμων κατὰ τὴν ἀγχιστείαν καὶ αὐτοῦ τοῦ Κλεωνύμου διὰ τὴν φιλίαν τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν αὐτῷ, ἔτι δὲ Πολυάρχου, τοῦ πατρὸς <τοῦ> Κλεωνύμου, πάππου δ᾿ ἡμετέρου, προστάξαντος, εἴ τι πάθοι Κλεώνυμος ἄπαις, ἡμῖν δοῦναι τὰ αὑτοῦ.

To make sense of this section, I take the nominatives in the first two lines below as statements (as I stated above) and the genitives as absolute clauses adding information. The balance of the content is off from the grammar, because I think that the main point of this passage is ἡμῖν δοῦναι τὰ αὑτοῦ. In addition, in the absolute clauses, there is some interesting variation. The laws decree or grant (δεδωκότων, perhaps anticipating δοῦναι), but I think we have to take both Kleonymos and his father as subjects for προστάξαντος (signaled by the correlation of καὶ ἔτι δὲ…). And, of course, all of this is made a little more confusing by having a conditional clause (protasis of a future less vivid? εἴ τι πάθοι Κλεώνυμος ἄπαις) with an apodosis in indirect statement.

ἡμεῖς δὲ γένει μὲν ἐγγυτάτω προσήκοντες,
χρώμενοι δὲ ἐκείνῳ πάντων οἰκειότατα,
δεδωκότων δ᾿ ἡμῖν καὶ τῶν νόμων κατὰ τὴν ἀγχιστείαν
καὶ αὐτοῦ τοῦ Κλεωνύμου
διὰ τὴν φιλίαν τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν αὐτῷ,
ἔτι δὲ Πολυάρχου, τοῦ πατρὸς <τοῦ> Κλεωνύμου, πάππου δ᾿ ἡμετέρου, προστάξαντος,
εἴ τι πάθοι Κλεώνυμος ἄπαις,
ἡμῖν δοῦναι τὰ αὑτοῦ.

Image result for Ancient Greek fragment of will

Ktesippos Beats his Father (and Conditional Madness)

Plato, Euthydemos 298e-299

Dionysodorus said, “Indeed, if you answer me immediately, you will agree with these things. Tell me, do you have a dog?

Ktesippos said “yes, a real scoundrel”

“And does he have puppies?”

“Yes, several just like him.”

“Therefore, your dog is a father.”

“Yup. I even saw him mounting the mother myself.”

“What about this: Isn’t the dog yours?”

“Absolutely.”

“So, since he is a father who is yours then the dog is your father and you are a puppies’ brother?”

And then, Dionysodorus quickly interjected before Ktesippos could speak at all: “And tell me one more thing: do you beat your dog?

Ktesippos laughed then said, “Yes, by the gods, because I can’t beat you!”

“Therefore, you beat your own father”, he said.

“It would be whole lot more just if I would beat your father, since he thought it right to have sons like this!”

Αὐτίκα δέ γε, ἦ δ᾿ ὃς ὁ Διονυσόδωρος, ἄν μοι ἀποκρίνῃ, ὦ Κτήσιππε, ὁμολογήσεις ταῦτα. εἰπὲ γάρ μοι, ἔστι σοι κύων;

Καὶ μάλα πονηρός, ἔφη ὁ Κτήσιππος.

Ἔστιν οὖν αὐτῷ κυνίδια;

Καὶ μάλ᾿, ἔφη, ἕτερα τοιαῦτα.

Οὐκοῦν πατήρ ἐστιν αὐτῶν ὁ κύων;

Ἔγωγέ τοι εἶδον, ἔφη, αὐτὸν ὀχεύοντα τὴν κύνα.

 Τί οὖν; οὐ σός ἐστιν ὁ κύων;

Πάνυ γ᾿, ἔφη.

Οὐκοῦν πατὴρ ὢν σός ἐστιν, ὥστε σὸς πατὴρ γίγνεται ὁ κύων καὶ σὺ κυναρίων ἀδελφός;

Καὶ αὖθις ταχὺ ὑπολαβὼν ὁ Διονυσόδωρος, ἵνα μὴ πρότερόν τι εἴποι ὁ Κτήσιππος, Καὶ ἔτι γέ μοι μικρόν, ἔφη, ἀπόκριναι· τύπτεις τὸν κύνα

τοῦτον; καὶ ὁ Κτήσιππος γελάσας, Νὴ τοὺς θεούς, ἔφη· οὐ γὰρ δύναμαι σέ. Οὐκοῦν τὸν σαυτοῦ πατέρα, ἔφη, τύπτεις. Πολὺ μέντοι, ἔφη, δικαιότερον τὸν ὑμέτερον πατέρα τύπτοιμι, ὅ τι μαθὼν σοφοὺς υἱεῖς οὕτως ἔφυσεν.

Image result for Ancient Greek dog

About seven years ago, soon after the birth  of our first child, I put most of Ancient Greek grammar on powerpoint slides in order to (1) tighten up and improve my Greek courses (I made narrated presentations that I shared with students); (2) create a portfolio of Greek teaching materials that I would use for the foreseeable future; and (3) studiously avoid not writing a book by doing very important work. The sleeplessness of the first few months of my daughter’s life coupled with a special type of cabin-fever (it was 100+ degrees for over 60 days straight) might have warped my judgment a bit. Inspired by Plato’s Euthydemos I wrote the following examples for Greek conditional statements:

Present Simple Conditionals

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν διδάσκει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἐθέλει

If Socrates is teaching your brother, then you brother is wanting/willing to kill the dog

Present General Conditionals

ἐὰν Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν διδάσκῃ, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἐθέλει

If Socrates teaches your brother, then your brother wants to kill the dog.

Present Contrafactual

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἐδιδάσκε, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἠθέλε

If Socrates were teaching your brother, then your brother would want to kill the do

Past Simple 

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν δεδίδαχεν, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἠθέληκεν

If Socrates did teach your brother, then your brother wanted to kill the dog

Past General

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν διδάσκοι, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἠθέλε

If Socrates taught your brother, then your brother wanted to kill the dog

Past Contrafactual

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἐδίδαξεν, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἠθέλἠσεν

If Socrates had taught your brother, then your brother would have wanted to kill the dog

Future Most Vivid (Future Simple)

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν δίδαξει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἐθελήσει

If Socrates teaches your brother, then your brother will want to kill the dog

Future More Vivid (Future General)

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν διδάσκῃ, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἐθελήσει

If Socrates teaches your brother, then your brother will want to kill the dog

Future Less Vivid (Future Less Real)

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν διδάσκοι, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἐθέλοι

If Socrates should teach your brother, then your brother would want to kill the dog

I am teaching my introductory class conditional statements today. I am still using these highly suspect sentences.