Tuesday, November 17, 2020

21st Century Classical Greek -- noun functions

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.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Fact-Checking the -- Tannakh -- what about those hemorrhoids?

 If you remember, on the Fact-Checking the Torah page, I posted this, identifying the Pelishtim with the Ahiyyawa, that is, the Pelishtim were pre-Hellenic Greeks known to the Egyptians, and known to the Hittites as Ahiyyawa. As such, they lived in the Peloponnese as part of the Palace Culture which used the undeciphered Linear A script, while the Pelishtim are known to have written in Linear B which represents an Indo-European language.

They're all Greeks to me

Now another part of the puzzle. Read Samuel I 5-6, the story of what happened to the Pelishtim after they captured the ark of the covenant.

Everybody will tell you that the five capitals of the Pelishtim were struck with hemorrhoids. Now that we know who the Pelishtim were, we know something nobody in the history of Bible studies knew, and that nobody now has connected up. Except me. Again.

The main god of the Pelishthim/Ahiyyawa was Apaliunas. He was also the patron of Troy, a city founded by the Gutian Teucer:


Teucer, according to a Greek poet of the 700s BCE, also founded a temple in the Troad to Apollo Smintheus, usually translated as "Mouse Apollo". The Greeks did not understand the word smintheus but said it was a Pelasgian word. How it got to mean "mouse" is tortuous; Teucer's people were told to build their temple where they were attacked by the "earth-born". There is a long-standing tradition in ancient Anatolian culture that makes its way into Talmud, that mice are born from earth and if you catch them at the right point in their "development", you will find them to be half mouse, half earth. The poet goes on to say that mice ate all the leather of the military equipment and that's where the temple was built.

But the ancients were also fond of bad philology and false friends. "Earth-born" also means "autochthonous", like the warriors born of the earth in which Qadmos planted the teeth of the dragon he slew. Qadmos (cognate to Semitic words for "eastern") founded Thebes in the Peloponnese, a city of the Palace Culture. IOW Teucer was going to be attacked by Anatolians already living in the Troad and he would have to conquer them to be able to build a temple. Which he did.

So how does the story in Samuel relate? Well, the Pelishtim who worshipped Apaliunas had settled in their famous Pentapolis, before attacking the famous Troy VIIb layer. They worshipped Dagon, which closely resembles the Hebrew word dagan, which relates to a word dagah meaning be fruitful, the way grain reproduces manyfold. So basically the Pelishtim were adopting the west Semitic Ugaritic language and adapting its cuneiform to their language, and they helped destroy Ugarit at about the same time as Troy.

Now, mice are also something that dagahs a lot, something else that has been known for millennia, and they will swarm into your grain bins and clean you out if you don't catch them first. So you need somebody to guard you against them, and apparently this was one of Apaliunas' roles. His statue at his temple on the Troad had a mouse underfoot.

But the way the Iliad brings Apollo Smitheus into it, is that when the Greeks refuse to give up the daughter of his priest, the priest invokes a plague on them. And a plague also falls on the Pelishtim who capture the ark. And Apollo was responsible for a plague that struck down Phrygian (Anatolian) Niobe's seven pairs of children when she slammed Apollo's mother for having only one pair. 

The Pelishtim were struck bafolim in Samuel I 5:1-12, and afolim is spelled starting with ayin, a letter that shows up at the start of a number of Hebrew names borrowed from foreign languages. Amorah, the sister-city of S'dom, is another example. So is efron, the man who eventually sells Makhpelah to Avraham.

The letter b' is a preposition meaning "by means of" in some cases. So the Pelishtim were struck by means of their patron god Apaliunas for trying to import a foreign Gd's artifact, the ark, into his temple. At the same time, that foreign Gd struck the Ugaritic/K'naani god Dagon whom the Pelishtim had also adopted.

But Apollo is also the healer god who taught Cheiron the centaur, who taught Asclepius the famous healer, and his son Podalirius who was physician to the Greeks  in the Trojan War. 

So the next part of the narrative is that after three (remember Olrik's Law of Three) of the cities in the Pentapolis are struck by Apaliunas in the same way, the Pelishtim decide to get rid of the ark in chapter 6. They put it on a cart and on the cart they also put five (a magic number for magic and mystery) golden statues of Apaliunas and five golden mice. They yoke to this cart two heifers who have never been used for work and set the heifers wandering to wherever the god directs.

This following of a cow to a god-designated place is also part of the Qadmos story. Apollo's oracle at Delphi tells him to follow a cow to exhaustion and build a city where she lies down. The city was Thebes. He wanted water but a dragon kept destroying his water-bearers. Qadmos killed this dragon, sowed its teeth, and saved himself from the warriors who sprang up except for five who became his guardians. 

Now, how did afolim get to be glossed as hemorrhoids by so many commentators? Babylonian Talmud Masekhet Megilla 25b says it, with an attribution to rabbanan, meaning that it was a widespread ancient opinion; it is repeated in Tosefta 3:20 for that page, as well as Rashi's Talmud commentary. Tosefta dates to the 100s CE and Rashi lived in the 1100s CE. Rashi connects it to the mice saying they created disease in the Pelishtim. 

The connection to mice no doubt comes from chapter 6, not from chapter 5. None of the Jewish commentators knew anything about Apaliunas or Apollo Smintheus. Neither did non-Jewish commentators know anything about the connection between the Pelishtim and the Achaean attackers of Troy. It only comes together when you know 21st century archaeology.

And that's why you can't rest on outdated archaeology if you want to understand Torah or its extensions into Nakh.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

21st Century Classical Greek -- syntax

This isn’t all the grammar in section 1 but I’ve thrown so much at you that I think it’s time for a breather. Let’s stop and think about why Thucydides structures his sentence the way he does.

English sentence structure is relatively straightforward. It has to be. There are almost no cases in English, aside from “whom” which too many people use incorrectly. The order of words in an English sentence, along with punctuation and context, determines meaning.

Languages with noun cases work differently. Since you know the case endings of the definite article, you know which words fall into which case and what the antecedent is, for most personal gerundives and adjectives. I’m going to use this fact to show you how Thucydides parsed out an expression.

I am going to discuss things in terms of what Thucydides does to communicate with his audience. That means I will often talk about oral communication because, remember, Thucydides probably read his work to friends or contributors. He had to do three things.

1.                    Make it comprehensible.

2.                    Make it memorable.

3.                    Get audience buy-in with a number of devices.


He uses three tools for comprehension.

1.                    Syntax particles to chunk things, and three different types of noun expressions.

2.                    Street-level grammar, including infrequent things like anti-passives.

3.                    Simple compared to poetry; nothing obscure or flowery.


For memorability, there is a separate set of tools.

1.                    References to previous material, sometimes with topic order sentences.

2.                    Parallelism and rounded periods.

3.                  Repetitions after sidebars. I’ll point these out when we get to them but Torah does the same thing and it is demonstrably suited to oral presentation.


For audience buy-in, Thucydides does three things.

1.                  Clearly marks the actions he finds important with conjugated verbs to avoid confusing them with too many things to focus on.

2.                    Uses grammar as well as specific words, to avoid seeming arrogant in stating his opinions.

3.                  Sticks to things they have personal knowledge of, unlike Herodotus who starts out by appealing to Persian history.


The old grammars don’t do much to help you understand what authors were trying to communicate, because they ignore context in favor of morphology. Goodwin didn’t even discuss the syntax particles. If you want a reference on sentence structure, use Herbert Smyth, the basis of Eleanor Dickey’s 2016 book which attempts to teach composition in Ancient Greek. We’ll ignore her. Smyth is in the old grammatical tradition, but we know how to translate that to our system.


This version of Smyth is not locked. His section on syntax is on his page 255, section 900.

However, even Smyth does not understand some 21st century concepts of syntax, and because of these gaps I will have to explain some terms to you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

21st Century Classical Greek -- gignomai

To start out this week properly, go to Thucydides on Perseus, click on progegenimenon in this first subsection. Copy the top left word in Word Tool. Paste it into Wiktionary. Use Backspace to get rid of the English. Now go to the start of the word and delete the first three letters, pro-. Now hit enter.

You get the entry for the root gignomai.  Memorize the conjugation; you will need it, because this word, sometimes with a prefix, shows up a lot in Greek.

There are two important notes about gignomai. The first is that there is no sigma marker of the imperfective in the eventive, only in the conceptual.

Second, there is no executive voice for gignomai. Wiktionary pretends that there is, in the perfective aspect, but if you copy gegona, which is the only blue entry for that aspect, you can use your search engine to see if there’s anything on Perseus using it. There isn’t. This form isn’t attested in Classical Greek, it’s in the koine of Christian scripture. So we’re going to forget about labeling anything as executive voice for this verb.

The important thing about gignomai is that it’s the best possible paradigm for a deep split in Greek verbs. No verb with -mai in the dictionary entry (except one, and tell me you didn’t see that coming) has an executive voice in Classical Greek.

Instead, all of them have that intransitive passive voice, and a separate voice. This other voice is conjugated the same as the middle or middle-passive in non-mai verbs.

This is my other reason for calling the third voice “base voice”. It is common across all verbs, with the same conjugations and the same nuance.

So progegenimenon is a perfective conceptual personal gerundive in base voice, substantivized with a definite article, in genitive, as a plural referring to prior wars. When Goodwin and others claim that it is a “genitive absolute”, the timing actually comes from the pro- prefix, not the morphology of the root. As I said, Thucydides uses a perfective conceptual here to get the nuance of 1) something over and done with, 2) with emphasis on the existence of those wars, not the events involved.

And now just one tweak more, and you have it.

Only -mai verbs and the imperfective aspect of non-mai verbs have passive morphology. Progressive and perfective aspects of non-mai verbs have only executive voice and base voice. The reason that the old grammars call the latter “middle-passive” is something we’ll see in a later lesson.

This means you can only talk straight intransitive structures in -mai verbs and the imperfective of non-mai verbs. Otherwise you use base voice, unless you are talking about a deliberate action, which you can only do in non-mai verbs.

In the progressive and perfective aspects of non-mai verbs, you can only express deliberate actions or something that can be transitive but not deliberate. You can’t be intransitive in these aspects in a conjugated verb.

And since -mai verbs don’t have executive voice, they don’t express an action deliberately taken to achieve the normal results of that action. This has an important impact that I will discuss in a later post.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

21st Century Classcal Greek -- voice continued

So I’m working on objective definitions of voice such as executive (deliberate action) and passive (defined for now by a structure with specific uses), and I just showed that middle and middle-passive conjugation endings are nearly indistinguishable within each flavor column of our aspectual table.

Aspect             Eventive                                  Conceptual

Imperfective    μην/ο/το/μεθα/σθε/ντο            μαι/ει/ται/μεθα/σθε/νται

Progressive      μην/ου/το/μεθα/σθε/ντο          μαι/ει/ται/μεθα/σθε/νται

Perfective        μην/σο/το/μεθα/σθε/ντο          μαι/σαι/ται/μεθα/σθε/νται

Impersonal gerundives have the following endings:

1)         -ein is the progressive conceptual i.g in executive voice; -sthai otherwise. There is no progressive eventive i.g..

2)         -sai is the imperfective eventive in executive voice; -sthai otherwise.

3)         ­-ein is the imperfective conceptual for executive voice; -sthai otherwise.

4)         -nai is the ending for the perfective conceptual executive voice, and – you guessed it -- -sthai otherwise. There is no perfective eventive i.g.

Personal gerundives break out as follows:

1)         -antes, -ontes, and -untes are the endings in executive voice.

2)         -entes is the ending in passive voice.

3)         Otherwise personal gerundives take -men- between the root and the personal ending.

Now let me show that -men- cannot mark reflexive morphology. In our first subsection we have:

Θουκυδίδης Ἀθηναῖος ξυνέγραψε τὸν πόλεμον τῶν Πελοποννησίων καὶ Ἀθηναίων, ὡς ἐπολέμησαν πρὸς ἀλλήλους, ἀρξάμενος εὐθὺς καθισταμένου καὶ ἐλπίσας μέγαν τε ἔσεσθαι καὶ ἀξιολογώτατον τῶν προγεγενημένων, τεκμαιρόμενος ὅτι ἀκμάζοντές τε ᾖσαν ἐς αὐτὸν ἀμφότεροι παρασκευῇ τῇ πάσῃ καὶ τὸ ἄλλο Ἑλληνικὸν ὁρῶν ξυνιστάμενον πρὸς ἑκατέρους, τὸ μὲν εὐθύς, τὸ δὲ καὶ διανοούμενον.

None of these personal gerundives is reflexive. Each of them points at an action that was neither deliberate nor intransitive.

So look at arksamenos. Because it’s imperfective, it gets a label of “middle voice” in the Perseus Word Tool, and the old grammars tell you that middle voice is reflexive. What is reflexive about Thucydides starting to write? Nothing. What nuance was he trying to give his audience when he used this form?

Well, he deliberately did the actual writing intending to produce a written work (ksunegrapse), but he did not begin for the purpose of making a beginning, it’s just that there would be no writing at all if he hadn’t made a beginning, and so he did not use executive voice. By using a personal gerundive, he references the start or describes himself as starting; maybe he made some notes or wrote in a journal “They’re fighting again in Achaia province”, assuming that it was just another border war. He deliberately turned it into a serious history when he could tell it had gone beyond that.

Next week I’ll discuss the other reason why it’s base voice.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

DIY -- dutch oven bread

So my baking element shorted out one Friday when I was roasting a chicken. I finished it on the stove so that was no loss.

But there's no sense in buying a new range yet because I gotta gut my kitchen anyway.

So I did the next best thing: I got a dutch oven and dug up recipes for using it on a stovetop as a substitute for baking.

The recipe I used was posted by some people who live on a boat. Boats do not have a lot of space, and the place where you would normally put an oven, you actually want for storage. But since you have a gas or electric cooktop, you can make bread and cake in a dutch oven.

Size is the first problem. The dutch oven I got is 6 quart and just barely held a half batch of my French bread recipe. I am seriously considering getting a deeper one for "baking" and using the one I have for chili and things.

The second thing is you can't expect the bread to get brown. Using a dutch oven basically cooks with steam. This is normal and natural for sourdough breads, but your other breads will not brown on top.

The third issue is whether the lid of your dutch oven has blisters on it to drip fluids back into your recipe, especially to baste "roasts". If so, when you "bake" in it, you need to put a layer of parchment paper or foil between the lid and the pot so the liquid doesn't drip into your cake or bread.

Fourth, you have to insulate the bottom of what you're making from the bottom of the pot. Most people tell you, get a tuna can and put it open side up under what you're baking. The fact is, you have to layer things. First the pot. Then the can or a sturdy pottery dish. Then a "pan" of three layers of aluminum foil or, if your "oven" is big enough, a small pizza pan. Then a layer of oatmeal to absorb moisture on the bottom of the dough. Then the dough. If you're going with a tuna can, use the 6 ounce size, not the big one you use for a family size batch of tuna casserole.

And you shouldn't put the pot directly on the burner. You need a thick pizza pan or cookie sheet directly on the burner, to protect the bottom of the dutch oven.

The real advantage of a dutch oven is if SHTF. If you ever saw Lonesome Dove, you may remember the scene where the cowboy goes out and hauls a bunch of sandwich loaves out of a pot on an open fire. That was dutch oven bread. (Of course, it was probably sourdough due to the history of packaged domestic yeast, but they didn't show you the starter tub or the time it takes to build your dough.) 

I got a Staub cast iron dutch oven. There are other brands. I recommend that you don't go cheap. Remember, I also told you to buy some good stainless steel utensils like Revereware, despite the expense, instead of these non-stick things that never last long or turn out to produce poisons. Same with a dutch oven. Spend the extra bucks to get something good.

Oh, by the way. Do yourself a favor and follow the instructions in the pamphlet. Always let your dutch oven go cold before washing it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

21st Century Classical Greek -- voice

So I’ve promised to explain everything about gerundives once I explain everything about voice, and here it is.

“Voice” (technical term diathesis) is the label attached to one of several vectors in understanding Greek verbs. There’s 

“mood” (21st century term “modality”);

aspect (old label “tense”);

and definiteness, the feature that drives use of gerundives instead of conjugated verbs.

The old grammars claim there are four voices: active; passive; middle; and middle-passive.

They are ill-defined; Charles Conrad says so. I mean, if “active” means relating to an action, show me a verb that isn’t related to an action. Even gerundives display action, although from a less definite, more “descriptive”, perspective than a conjugated verb.

In fact, “active” verbs all connote actions deliberately undertaken for the sake of some end result. In imperfective eventive, there is no implication that the result came about or persisted, but very few people voluntarily do something without some concept, however hazy, of having something come of it. That’s “active” voice. I have labeled this “executive voice” to make a distinction from the old way of defining things.

Passive verbs require a structure with a grammatical subject that is the logical object of the verb. Passives provide a strictly intransitive structure, which I will demonstrate later is one of three types of transitivity in Greek. As intransitives, they tend to be descriptive.

The passive uses the “subject” as an object of a single verb; the anti-passive uses the object of one verb as the subject of a different verb. That’s why I’m retaining the word “passive” as a label, although its strict meaning relates to the sufferer (“patient”) of an action.

The other two voices are mis-defined. The grammars tell you that middle voice is reflexive. But that’s not true; context is king, and without specific wording in the context, verbs in middle voice are not reflexive. I’ll give you examples in later posts of reflexive structures that use executive voice.

Conrad defines middle-passive as an action that happens spontaneously or under external influence, even force. In other words, everything that isn’t executive or passive.

Middle voice is also used where we don’t have a strictly intransitive structure, but we also don’t have deliberate action.

Why did the old grammars thinkg “middle voice” was different from the other voice? Because every verb conjugated in middle voice has the sigma marker of the imperfective. Again, the old grammars interpreted morphology as meaning.

Why did the “everything else” morphology in progressive or perfective get labeled “middle-passive”?

Well, for one thing the “everything else” morphology uses almost the same conjugational endings regardless of aspect. Where they split is on flavors (which will be important later when I change a conjugational paradigm).

Aspect             Eventive                                  Conceptual

Imperfective    μην/ο/το/μεθα/σθε/ντο            μαι/ει/ται/μεθα/σθε/νται

Progressive      μην/ου/το/μεθα/σθε/ντο          μαι/ει/ται/μεθα/σθε/νται

Perfective        μην/σο/το/μεθα/σθε/ντο          μαι/σαι/ται/μεθα/σθε/νται

The gerundives go further. Impersonal gerundives have the following endings:

1)         -ein is the progressive conceptual i.g in executive voice; -sthai otherwise. There is no progressive eventive i.g.. morphology.

2)         -sai is the imperfective eventive in executive voice; -sthai otherwise.

3)         ­-ein is the imperfective conceptual for executive voice; -sthai otherwise.

4)         -nai is the ending for the perfective conceptual executive voice. Guess what the other voice ending is?

Personal gerundives break out by voice as follows:

1)         -antes, -ontes, and -untes are the endings in executive voice.

2)         -entes is the ending in passive voice.

3)         Otherwise personal gerundives take -men- between the root and the personal ending.

Because they are the “everything else” voice, I label middle and middle-passive base voice throughout these posts. I’m going to do one more post on voice before I show another reason why bundling them together is not a problem.