To quote the Brittney Spears song, "oops I did it again." I'm writing this handbook, see, and I'm going over conditionals with a fine-toothed comb because Goodwin has some categorical statements in there and I have every reason not to trust him. This is going to be a long post because I'm repeating material I've used in other places, but I'll give links to the other places that say it more in depth.
So on page 301, section 1410, Goodwin says the future optative (our imperfective conceptual epistemic) cannot be used in the protasis or apodosis of a conditional except in indirect discourse. He makes that exception because of a screwy claim about being able to tell the grammar of an initial remark from how it is represented by the person who passes it along. So if X says something to Y, Y can report it using a future optative in a conditional (if it follows all the other screwy rules, see page 315 section 1481 ff), but no other conditional can use it.
So here is my citation: Xenophon Cyropaedia I 5.3.
οὕτω δὴ διαπέμπει
πρός τε τοὺς ὑπ᾽ αὐτὸν πάντας καὶ πρὸς Κροῖσον τὸν Λυδῶν βασιλέα καὶ πρὸς τὸν
Καππαδοκῶν καὶ πρὸς Φρύγας ἀμφοτέρους καὶ πρὸς Παφλαγόνας καὶ Ἰνδοὺς καὶ πρὸς Κᾶρας
καὶ Κίλικας, τὰ μὲν καὶ διαβάλλων τοὺς Μήδους καὶ Πέρσας, λέγων ὡς μεγάλα τ᾽ εἴη
ταῦτα ἔθνη καὶ ἰσχυρὰ καὶ συνεστηκότα εἰς ταὐτό, καὶ ἐπιγαμίας ἀλλήλοις
πεποιημένοι εἶεν, καὶ κινδυνεύσοιεν, εἰ μή τις αὐτοὺς φθάσας ἀσθενώσοι,
ἐπὶ ἓν ἕκαστον τῶν ἐθνῶν ἰόντες καταστρέψασθαι. οἱ μὲν δὴ καὶ τοῖς
λόγοις τούτοις πειθόμενοι συμμαχίαν αὐτῷ ἐποιοῦντο, οἱ δὲ καὶ δώροις καὶ
χρήμασιν ἀναπειθόμενοι: πολλὰ γὰρ καὶ τοιαῦτα ἦν αὐτῷ.
Accordingly, he sent around to all those under his sway and
to Croesus, the king of Lydia, to the king of Cappadocia; to both Phrygias, to
Paphlagonia, India, Caria, and Cilicia; and to a certain extent also he
misrepresented the Medes and Persians, for he said that they were great,
powerful nations, that they had intermarried with each other, and were united
in common interests, and that if not someone attacking them weakened
them, making war upon each one of the nations singly, [they were
sure] to subjugate them. Some, then, entered into an alliance with him
because they actually believed what he said; others, because they were bribed
with gifts and money, for he had great wealth.
The first question to ask is, whether this is reported
speech and in what sense. Did Xenophon make it up, as Thucydides did, from what
other people told him? Did he rework something somebody said earlier in the
material? Or did he make it up out of whole cloth? If you believe the latter,
then this is not reported speech, it is fiction. It uses the future optative, and nobody can say it doesn't. It takes a lot of chutspah for somebody 2000 years later who is not a native speaker to tell Xenophon he can't do this.
Case 2, Xenophon declares at the start that he is writing, not fiction, but history. And he has two kinds of reported (indirect) speech. In Book I chapter 2, he has things
that the translator puts in quotes, the way Thucydides' translator puts things in quotes.
Like Thucydides’ material, Xenophon’s might be made up based on his knowledge
The section I cited, however, has no quotes in the translation
and doesn’t read that way in the Greek. This is down and dirty reported speech,
X saying that Y said whatever it was, and that’s what Goodwin is talking about.
So Goodwin probably would agree that his two claims apply to
this section, but now we run into another problem. The reported speech
originated with the King of Assyria; his coming war with Koresh suggests
that this is Belshazzar, also known from the book of Daniel. This is not reported from direct speech. Xenophon had not yet been born and could not have heard Belshazzar say this. So that fails the test of whether it's reported speech, and see above about chutspah.
To save their position, Greek scholars could say that however many hands Xenophon heard it through, that's ok. Even if we allow that, there's still a problem. Belshazzar did
not speak Greek and so there's no future optative for him to use and for Xenophon to copy at whatever hand.
Belshazzar spoke Neo-Babylonian, a 21st century
name for what some experts also call Akkadian nowadays because it was written
in cuneiform. It used to be known as Aramaic because Mesopotamia had been
conquered by the Aramaeans, who imported their syllabary script. This script is
also known as the “square” script; it is the only legal script for Torah
scrolls to be used in synagogues, and it is the script of most mass-printed Jewish
literature including modern Israeli work. There’s a quote in Talmud and I’ll
fish it out if you want, that says there’s an Aramaic that has “no tongue”. I’m
pretty sure that means the use of cuneiform to record Aramaic. The Jews never
did learn to read it.
So, since Belshazzar didn't speak Greek, what does it mean if
Goodwin accepts this section as reported speech when on page 315, section 1481,
he says that reported speech retains (or not) the mood and tense of the direct
quote. Xenophon cannot keep the mood and tense of the direct quote because Belshazzar did not speak Greek and Xenophon did not speak Akkadian.
So somewhere along the
transmission line, somebody translated Belshazzar’s Akkadian into Greek. And
translations are notoriously faulty. For Goodwin to imagine that the
translation was exact requires a) that he know nothing about the
problems of translation, a dangerously naïve attitude disqualifying him as a
linguist and b) that he knows Akkadian and how to translate it exactly into
Greek. The acknowledged expert on Akkadian, Gelb, wrote his landmark grammar in
1961, by which time Goodwin had been long dead. Gelb records a subjunctive but
not an optative. It may be periphrastic instead of morphological.
Akkadian was deciphered a few decades before Goodwin
published his grammar, but that doesn’t mean he read about it. It’s another sign of
naivete to assume that just because something was published, everybody literate
immediately read it, let alone was influenced by it. For classics scholars, the
presumption is even weaker; they worked in a pipeline and didn’t go outside
their field. I don’t believe even Smyth recognized the problem with thinking
that Xenophon is reporting speech he heard in Akkadian. Or with Xenophon
reading cuneiform. Or even Aramaic square script. Most likely both Belshazzar
and Koresh hired people from Greek Ionia to translate between them and Greek ambassadors.
I can cover all the facts with a simple schema: my normal
explanation of nuances.
Normally our imperfective conceptual is a dead cert and you
would think it wouldn’t even have an epistemic, which means the speaker isn’t
sure what he’s saying is true. But look at the context. Xenophon
literally says that the King of Assyria was lying. Xenophon doesn’t
believe him. Xenophon doesn’t want readers believing him. All by itself that’s
reason to use the epistemic, like Thucydides used it for Korinthian speeches
that he didn’t want readers to believe. We don’t care how many translations the
material went through before it got to Xenophon because we're not going to go behind what he wrote.
It's like a contract. If there’s a contract dispute, and
there’s a writing, the court never goes behind the writing to figure out what
the parties meant by the contract. So too, we are not going to go behind Xenophon
to figure out what other people meant when they transmitted this material. There’s a really good reason for that, besides the translation issue.
The more people who had their hands on this material, the
more it changed. Each of them put his own spin on things, however slightly.
The press does this all the time; every outlet has its philosophical background,
and the stories reported by OANN or Fox that are also reported on MSNBC or
Axios, are all different. If the material transmitted orally to Xenophon, it
was subject to all the features of oral narrative, like gossip is. And that
means that what Xenophon heard from the narrator was very different from what
originally happened. Let alone what was originally said. Even in the 21st
century, with all our experience of historical and modern propaganda, far too
many people believe that what they read or hear has to be accurate. It would be
no surprise if mentally cloistered classics scholar Goodwin was similarly naïve.
Two more bits.
If the rule allowing future optative in reported speech was
made up to cover this exact section, that is called special pleading. It
violates the Test of Occam’s Razor by proposing a complicated schema to cover up
Two, given the definition of optative as referring to potentiality
and wishes, you have to ask yourself how this passages expresses Belshazzar’s
wishes. He can’t wish these nations to take over. If you claim he’s saying the takeover
is a potentiality, well, epistemic says the same thing: something is possible
but not probable. The difference is that “future” in Belshazzar’s situation is
only future from his point of view, not from Xenophon’s. We don’t get into
these timing arguments with an aspectual system, the same as we don’t
get into arguments about whether Xenophon got a good translation of what
Belshazzar said. We say “Belshazzar is trying to convince people that he’s
talking about a dead cert, but Xenophon verbally and through grammar says he’s
The 2019 grammar retains both of Goodwin’s problems. This
section is not among their citations, which they kindly list in an appendix.
They did not go looking for examples that might contradict them, so as to give
explanations and remain credible. They cherry picked their data. There is a
page with a table showing what's called succession of tenses which is what
Goodwin talks about in section 1481. None of it is copied from surviving texts
by native speakers. It's all little snippets made up by the people who wrote
the book. That's a strawman argument and that's a fallacy.
Xenophon did not have to know that Belshazzar spoke Aramaic to write this section. He used the grammar he used because it got his point across: Belshazzar lied for his own purposes and Xenophon wants to give him the lie, which he does in grammar as well as wording. You can't discredit a native speaker when you are operating from ignorance and bad logic.
There's one section of Goodwin that I'm not going to cover in the handbook and in there, I say what it is. I have no confidence that it's correct because the rest of the book is so bad. I'm going to fill in some examples and probably add an appendix, exhaustingly analyzing the examples I used. That will show me if things hang together, or I have special pleading somewhere. Which would mean I have to tear everything down and go back to the drawing board. Oh well. Keeps me off the streets during the day.