My good old 8th grade English teacher has long since gone to her reward. She made us diagram sentences. If you’ve never experienced that, you might be able to find some web resources about it. At any rate I cringe sometimes when I hear bad grammar, but just so you know, some of the kids in my 8th grade class never got it. It’s not an issue of when you went to school, it’s other stuff.
At any rate, the basic sentence, as you know, is subject – verb – predicate, or in dissertations, subject – verb – object (SVO). This is what we have in our first clause in Thucydides.
But a sentence does not have to start with a subject. The subject is the antecedent for the number and gender of a conjugated verb or a verb derivative. The subject Thucydides is the antecedent for both ksunegrapse and arksamenos.
Thucydides sometimes starts a clause with a topic. Sometimes the topic relates to the previous section and has the sense of “as for the above-mentioned X,” and Mr. T goes on to give information about it. This is a marker of his oral mental orientation. It gives the audience a reason to pay attention to the following material, which is likely to be new information about a previously discussed topic.
Finally, there is the concept of agent. It’s crucial to a later post on a piece of grammar that none of the old books discuss, but which is known to exist in a number of languages. In some of those languages, it is the only way to have an intransitive expression. Remember, I said that passive morphology required a structure that was intransitive. I also said that the grammatical subject was the logical object. I will show in a later post that a passive structure is capable of naming an agent. That may seem like a new concept to you, but at that time I will show that such a thing is not unknown in English.
In transitive structures subject and agent are often the same thing (I’m hedging my bets) but intransitive structures have a subject for the conjugated verb which is different from the agent.
Besides subject and topic-order clauses, there’s the equational sentence. In an aspectual language, this is noun – copula – predicate. In progressive aspect, the copula can drop out. This happens in Biblical Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian. I’ll point it out if it happens in Greek.
The designator for a clause is “SVO”, but the object is not necessarily in “accusative case”. That sounds just wrong, but it’s important in Greek. The meaning of a verb depends on the context, and the context includes any substantive or descriptive expressions, regardless of case. When you use the lexicon, you will see subentries that begin with “c. dat.” This means that if the object is in the dative, the verb has a different meaning compared to when there is no object, or when the object is in a different case.
The old grammars try to ignore this by talking about “verbs of X” where X is such things as fearing, asking, etc. and assigning to them a specific case of nouns. Where these verb categories lead, is the student learning only one meaning of a verb and using it everywhere that verb appears, regardless of the object case. The results can be painfully wrong.
This is why I gave you that second mantra besides “context is king”; “know the verb.” You won’t understand what Thucydides is talking about unless you always take the object case into account.
By telling you that verb categories like “fearing” are invalid and lead to incorrect understanding of a text, I have eliminated as many as a dozen pages of Goodwin.