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Greek and Latin. Expressions of Meaning

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Andreas T. Zanker

Chapter 3: Greek and Latin Expressions of Meaning (II)

Texte intégral

“... It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing” (Shakespeare, Macbeth 5.5.27-29).

  • 1 For the distinction, cf. “sed a significando, quod uolt eloqui, nusquam digrediatur” (“let him [th (...)

1There is a further set of verbs that describe what texts do – one that includes words like the English “to signify” and the French “signifier”. In Greek, the main example is “σηµαίνειν” (“to show”, “to signify”, “to command”), while in Latin we have the verb “significare”, from which the English verb arose. Here we encounter a slightly different type of expression from the ones we have seen up until now. While verbs like “σηµαίνειν” and “significare” are frequently used (a) as synonyms for “to mean” when describing what texts and things mean, they can have a clearly different force when applied to an animate subject in the context of an act of communication: they can have (b) the sense of “to show”, “to make a sign concerning one’s intentions”, “to indicate”, and so on.1 In this chapter, Is hall argue that this second function (b) was in fact prior; that is to say that far from being uoces propriae for the meaning of the text to the reader, they were first used of human beings in the act of “making a sign” and only subsequently appear in contexts where they are used of what things mean to us. While our knowledge of these early usages is hampered by the paucity of our evidence, the development of “σηµαίνειν” and “significare”, when taken together with the evidence from Chapter 2, supports the argument for metaphorical transference that Is hall fully put forward in Chapters 4and 5.

  • 2 Both usages go back at least to the fourteenth century in English; the word was imported into Engl (...)
  • 3 OED s.v. “signify” 1a and 1b.

2First, however, it will be useful to show quickly how the modern verbs that belong to the group can be used in these two different ways.2 On the one hand, we find examples such as the following:3

1. “The words do not signify anything”.

2. “Les mots ne signifient rien”.

“The words do not signify anything”.

  • 4 OED s.v. “signify” 2a and 2b.

3Here, “signify” and “signifier” can be substituted with the verbs “to mean” or “vouloir dire”. Besides being used of individual words, these verbs may also take an assemblage of words (that is, a text) as their subject and are therefore heavily used in modern literary criticism. When applied to a human subject, however, the verbs can be used in a different way, for example to state that the individual is making his or her intentions known to someone else; possible synonyms include “to indicate” and “to make known”:4

3. “He signifies his intentions”.

4. “Il signifie ses intentions”.

“He signifies his intentions”.

  • 5 The main German example is the verb “bedeuten” (“to signify”); one sees it most often today used o (...)

4These two sentences provide examples of the “signify” group that cannot serve as synonyms for “to mean”/“vouloir dire”: when we signify something, we are making public an intention or desire by indicating either vocally or by means of gesture, and this is not quite the same thing as “to mean”, since it goes beyond internal cogitation.5 This double-usage of the same word is not a quirk of the modern languages; in what follows, we shall survey “σηµαίνειν” and “significare” in succession, before moving on to some related terms.

I. “σηµαίνειν”

  • 6 DELG s.v. “σῆµα”; Frisk s.v. “σῆµα”; LfgE s.v. “σῆµα”, “σηµαίνω”; Beekes s.v. “σῆµα”; Telegdi (197 (...)
  • 7 My account of the development of “σηµαίνειν” is particularly indebted to Telegdi (1977) and (1982) (...)

5The verb “σηµαίνειν” is derived from the noun “σῆµα” (“sign”), a word of unclear origin with possible connections to earlier vocabulary for mental activity.6 The verb has been important in the history of literary studies, but its origins do not lie in the sphere of criticism or linguistics.7 Our earliest attestations of “σηµαίνειν” show the verb being used of human beings in the general sense of “to show by a sign”, “to indicate”, “to point out”. At the funeral games for Patroclus, for instance, Achilles gives instructions to the competitors in the chariot race by showing them the racetrack:

5. στὰν δὲ µεταστοιχί, σήµηνε δὲ τέρµατ᾽ Ἀχιλλεὺς τηλόθεν ἐνλείῳ πεδίῳ.

“They stood in a row, and Achilles showed them the turning post, far off in the smooth plain” (Homer, Iliad 23.358-359).

6Here, the verb is used transitively – other translations of “σήµηνε” might be “he indicated” or “pointed out”. This sense is echoed in the term’s intransitive usage in the Iliad as a verb of commanding, as in the following excerpt where Agamemnon obliquely insults Achilles at the very beginning of the epic:

6. ἐθέλει…
πᾶσι δὲ σηµαίνειν...

“He wishes... to command everyone” (Homer, Iliad 1.288-289).

  • 8 Cf. Kirk (1990), 258.

7Leaders direct people to do things by signaling to them, making their command public in the belief that it will be carried out by their subordinates; the idea is implicit in the Homeric “σηµάντωρ” (“leader”), literally “signaler”, which we see used of the Homeric generals (it could also be used of herdsmen and gods). Finally, “σηµαίνειν” in Homer can have the sense of “to provide with a sign or mark”. When the Greek heroes are drawing lots to see who will face the Trojan hero Hector, we find them “marking” their lots at the suggestion of Nestor so that they might be identified:8

7. Ὣς ἔφαθ᾽, οἳ δὲ κλῆρον ἐσηµήναντο ἕκαστος.

“Thus he [Nestor] spoke, and each of them marked a lot” (Homer, Iliad 7.175).

  • 9 A prose summary of Hesiod’s treatment of the Orion myth in Pseudo-Eratosthenes may preserve Hesiod (...)
  • 10 Hesiod also refers to how the crane “brings a sign” of the onset of the ploughing season (“σῆµαφέρ (...)

8Here, the marking involves placing a sign on a piece of material. The foregoing examples virtually exhaust the range of usages of the verb in Homer. Indeed, the Hesiodic corpus, the other primary repository of oral poetry, does not contain the verb at all,9 although we do find Zeus described as “the leader of all the gods” (“θεῶν σηµάντορι πάντων” Hesiod, fr. 195.56 Merkelbach-West).10 To sum up: “σηµαίνειν” is used in our earliest texts of animate subjects (human beings) in the basic senses of “to show”, “to command”, “to mark with a sign”, and “to give a sign” – it never, however, means “to mean”.

9This holds true even in the case of the few (possible) references to writing in the Homeric texts. In book 6 of the Iliad, for example, Glaucus recounts how Proetus provided the hero Bellerophon with “σήµατα λυγρά” (“baleful tokens/signs”) in order that the king of Lycia might kill Bellerophon when the folded tablet was delivered to him:

8. πέµπε δέ µιν Λυκίην δε, πόρεν δ᾽ ὅ γε σήµατα λυγρὰ
γράψας ἐν πίνακι πτυκτῷ θυµοφθόρα πολλά,
δεῖξαι δ᾽ ἠνώγειν ᾧ πενθερῷ ὄθρ᾽ ἀπόλοιτο.

“He sent him to Lycia, and gave him baleful signs, scratching in a folded tablet many lethal ones, and ordered [Bellerophon] to show these to his father-in-law, so that he might perish” (Homer, Iliad 6.168-170).

  • 11 A “σῆµα” in Homer can generally be a portent, sign, funeral mound, token, or mark. Cf. LfgE s.v. “ (...)
  • 12 On these passages, see Kirk (1990), 181-182 and 258; Steiner (1994), 10-60; Graziosi & Haubold (20 (...)
  • 13 Neither Pindar nor the other early poets used the verb in this way either; see Slater (1969), s.v. (...)

10In this excerpt we read about “signs” (“σήµατα”),11 which may imply writing (although it is unlikely), but the verb “σηµαίνειν” is not used to talk about the meaning of the signs themselves. Nor is the verb employed in this sense at the only other point where writing potentially figures – the shaking of the lots from which excerpt 7is taken.12 We might put this down to the fact that (possible) references to writing only appear at these two points, if it were not that “σηµαίνειν” is not used of any inanimate object a tall in the Homeric poems. In spite of the fact that epic language is artificial and we should be careful about drawing conclusions about the standard usages of a word in daily discourse on the basis of it, the evidence supports the inference that the verb “σηµαίνειν” had yet to be used of inanimate things.13

  • 14 See Telegdi (1977), 381.
  • 15 Cf. “...οὔτε λέγει οὔτε κρύπτει ἀλλὰ σηµαίνει” (“[he] neither speaks nor hides, but gives a sign” (...)

11While these older usages persist, the range of “σηµαίνειν” increases greatly in the extant texts of late sixth and early fifth centuries.14 At times, the verb seems to have been distinguished from “λέγειν”: for example, Heraclitus describes Apollo, the god of the Delphic oracle, as neither speaking nor staying silent, but “making a sign”.15 In spite of this, we also see it used of vocalized communication; in the following excerpt, for example, Oceanus addresses the chained titan Prometheus (the authorship of this excerpt is disputed):

9. φέρε γὰρ
σήµαιν᾽ ὅτι χρή σοι συµπράσσειν.

“Come now, tell me what is required to aid you” (Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 296-297).

  • 16 Already in the Homeric poems Eurycleia can “tell/say a sign” to Penelope – the scar of Odysseus: “ (...)

12Given the fact that Prometheus cannot move (he is pinned to a rock), it would seem as if “σήµαιν’” is being used in the looser sense of “to inform”.16 Further usages also present themselves; most importantly for our purposes, “σηµαίνειν” came to be used of inanimate things. This type of application is attested for the first time in the works of Aeschylus, for example in the Persians of 472 and the Agamemnon of 458 BC:

10. θῖνες νεκρῶν δὲ καὶ τριτοσπόρῳ γονῇ
ἄφωνα σηµανοῦσιν ὄµµασιν βροτῶν
ὡς οὐχ ὑπέρφευ θνητὸν ὄντα χρὴ φρονεῖν.

“The piles of corpses will voicelessly proclaim, even to the third generation, to the eyes of mankind that it is necessary for one born mortal not to think arrogant thoughts” (Aeschylus, Persians 818-820).

11. ἑκὰς δὲ φρυκτοῦ φῶς ἐπ᾽ Εὐρίπου ῥοὰς
Μεσσαπίου φύλαξι σηµαίνει µολόν.

  • 17 Cf. “... ὡς οὔτ᾽ ἄναυδος οὔτε σοι δαίων φλόγα ὕλης ὀρείας σηµανεῖ καπνῷ πυρός...” (“[and the thirs (...)

“Far over Euripus’ stream came the light of the beacon and signaled to the guards of Messapion” (Aeschylus, Agamemnon 292-293).17

13In fact, each of Aeschylus’ applications seems, when fully contextualized, somewhat daring, occupying amid-point between natural language and overtly poetic metaphor. In the preceding excerpt (11), for example, we see the participle “µολόν” (“coming”) applied to the “φῶς”: the light of the beacon is ostensibly likened to a human messenger.

  • 18 Cf. “ἐλέγετο δὲ καὶ ἐδόκει ἐπὶ τοῖς µέλλουσι γενήσεσθαι σηµῆναι” (“this was said and was believed (...)

14In the late fifth century this particular usage becomes relatively common. It was used of physical symptoms by the authors of the Hippocratic Corpus, Thucydides employed it of natural phenomena (such as the earthquake on Delos),18 and Euripides has Helen tell Teucer the following:

12. πλοῦς, ὦ ξέν᾽, αὐτὸς σηµαινεῖ.

  • 19 Cf. Euripides, Andromache 265 ; Bacchae 976 ; Hippolytus 857.

“The voyage itself will declare it, stranger” (Euripides, Helen 151).19

15In the fourth century BC, Plato of course used it of the action of a “λόγος”:

13. ...ὡς ὁ λόγος σηµαίνει.

  • 20 Cf. for example Plato, Gorgias 527c; Theaetetus 160c. Plato appears to use “σηµαίνειν” and “δηλοῦν (...)

“...as our argument indicates” (Plato, Gorgias 511b).20

16In each of these examples, we have an inanimate thing “showing” or “signifying” something; evidently, this usage contrasts with the instances from the Homeric poems. Later examples of “σηµαίνειν” demonstrate how the verb could be transferred by metonymy from the human individual giving a signal (the trumpeter, in the following example) to the instrument by which the signal is made (the trumpet):

14. ἐπειδὰν ἡ σάλπιγξ σηµήνῃ τῷ στρατοπέδῳ.

“Whenever the trumpet should signal to the infantry” (Ps.-Aristotle, On the Universe 399b2).

17The subject of the verb here is in animate, but it gives a signal; as Telegdi notes, we see a verb that had been applied to the Homeric generals in the sense of giving commands applied to the inanimate object by means of which the command is communicated. Although this particular instance of metonymy took place after the initial transference of the verb from animate to inanimate subjects, it is nevertheless suggestive of the role of the trope.

  • 21 For the usage by the grammarians, see Ddtgg s.v. “σηµαίνω”.

18This leads us to the most important development for our purposes. In the fifth and fourth centuries BC the verb could also be used of what strings of words such as texts mean;21 for example, Herodotus in the fifth book of his history could use the word of the tattoos on the head of the slave that Histiaeus sent to Aristagoras:

15. τὰ δὲ στίγµατα ἐσήµαινε, ὡς καὶ πρότερόν µοι εἴρηται, ἀπόστασιν.

“The tattoos signified (as I have already mentioned) revolt” (Herodotus, Histories 5.35.3).

  • 22 See footnote 13 above.
  • 23 On this, see Manetti (1993), 62; Urmson (1990), 148-149.

19This type of usage (where the verb is used of writing) does not, however, appear earlier than the fifth century – be it in the lyric, elegiac, or iambic poets.22 We also see the verb being used in a grammatical sense of words in Plato (we have already encountered the following excerpt):23

16. ὁ γὰρ “ἄναξ” καὶ ὁ “ἕκτωρ” σχεδόν τι ταὐτὸν σηµαίνει.

  • 24 For a later Greek example: “Μητρόδωρος... τὸ ‘πλεῖον’ δύο σηµαίνειν φησὶ παρ᾽ Ὁµήρῳ” (“Metrodorus. (...)

“For ‘lord’ (‘ἄναξ’) and ‘holder’ (‘ἕκτωρ’) mean nearly the same thing...” (Plato, Cratylus 393a).24

  • 25 For the term in the Cratylus, see Ademollo (2011), 157-172.
  • 26 See, for example, Rhetoric 1410b10: “τὰ δὲ ὀνόµατα σηµαίνει τι” (“...words mean something”); cf. N (...)

20Here, it is the word itself that “signifies”, although the verb “σηµαίνειν” can in this context also be translated as “to mean”;25 this grammatical usage is also commonly found in Aristotle.26

  • 27 On the verb “σηµαίνειν” in Aristotle, see Noriega-Olmos (2013), 42-75.

21Further terminology related to “σηµαίνειν” appears in the fourth and third centuries; with Plato and Aristotle, we can note additional variations and nuances to the established vocabulary:27

17. ῥῆµα δέ ἐστι τὸ προσσηµαῖνον χρόνον, οὗ µέρος οὐδὲν σηµαίνει χωρίς.

  • 28 Cf. “...προσσηµαίνει γὰρ χρόνον” (“...for they signify in addition a time reference” Aristotle, On (...)

“A verb is that which additionally signifies a time reference; no part of a verb signifies something by itself” (Aristotle, On Interpretation 16b6-7).28

18. ὑποσηµαίνειν δ᾽ ἔοικε καὶ τοὔνοµα ὡς ὂν πρὸ ἑτέρων αἱρετόν.

  • 29 LSJ s.v. “ὑποσηµαίνω”: “throw out hints of, intimate”. Other variants exist: “ἐνσηµαίνειν” appears (...)

“The term [‘prohaireton’] seems to suggest something chosen before other things” (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1112a16-17).29

  • 30 LSJ s.v. “σηµαντικός”.
  • 31 Cf. “τὸ τῆς διαλεκτικῆς ὄνοµα οὐκ ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ σηµαινόµενον πάντες οἱ φιλόσοφοι φέρουσιν” (“not all (...)
  • 32 On these terms, see Sluiter (1997), 152. Μeaning (“τὸ σηµαινόµενον”) was apparently already contra (...)
  • 33 For the Stoics, the key source is Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 8.11-13; see Manetti (1 (...)

22Peripatetic philosophers employed the adjective “σηµαντικός” in the sense of “meaningful”.30 The substantivized passive participle “τὸ σηµαινόµενον” could mean “the sense” or “meaning” of words in philosophical discussions,31 and was sometimes contrasted with “τὸ σηµαῖνον” (“that which signifies”), which referred to the sound of the word as opposed to its meaning.32 While they were certainly used by Aristotle, these substantives took on special roles in Stoic semantics – for Chrysippus, they represented the two subjects appropriate to dialectic (see Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 7.62).33

  • 34 On this, see Manetti (1993), 53-54.

23The increase of the term’s range from the base found in the Homeric epics should be clear. The Homeric narrator could refer to marks or signs (“σήµατα”) but the verb “σηµαίνειν” had apparently yet to be applied to the signs themselves in the sense of “to mean”. A few centuries later, “σηµαίνειν” had developed connotations well beyond those found in Homer, and we regularly see it being used of words and texts from Herodotus onwards. In Plato, the expression could be used of all kinds of things.34 The fact that later epic poets could use “σηµαίνειν” of inanimate grammatical subjects is attested by the following excerpt from Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica:

19. ...ἴχνια δ᾽ ἡµῖν
σηµανέειν τιν᾽ ἔολπα µυχὸν καθύπερθε θαλάσσης.

“...I think his tracks will show us some island recess of the sea” (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.1378-1379).

  • 35 Cf. Vergil, Aeneid 6.318: “‘dic’ ait, ‘o uirgo, quid uolt concursus ad amnem?’” (“‘tell me’, he sa (...)

24Although the usages are missing from Homer, verbs of meaning and signification could be attached to objects in epic poetry of the Hellenistic and Roman ages, although this is admittedly infrequent.35 Our corpus of oral poetry is relatively limited in terms of scope and register, and we should be cautious about claiming that applications of “σηµαίνειν” to inanimate subjects only began to occur in the fifth century, yet the evidence points, at least, to the priority of the application of “σηµαίνειν” to human beings. It will be useful to bear this in mind as we turn to another important verb when it comes to the western tradition of literary criticism.

II. “significare

  • 36 On “signum”, see DELL s.v.; cf. Benveniste (1948), 122-124, who derives it from the same root as “(...)
  • 37 Augustine glosses “significare” as both “signum dare” and “signum facere” (“to give/make a sign”): (...)

25The Latin verb “significare”, which is etymologically unrelated to “σηµαίνειν”, is formed from the elements “signum” (“sign”) and “-fico”;36 it is usually glossed as “signum facere”, “to make a sign”,37 and Brachet suggests that it originated as a syntagm that coalesced into a single word. At its earliest attested stage (Plautine comedy), it could be used both intransitively (20) and (possibly) transitively (21) with a human being as its subject, although the intransitive usage grows less frequent in the course of the first century BC:

20. neue inter uos significetis, ego ero paries.

“And so that you may not signal to each other, I shall be a wall [between you]” (Plautus, Truculentus 788).

21. sed uxor scelesta me omnibus seruat modis,
ne quid significem quippiam mulierculis.

  • 38 It should be noted that this example is not unproblematic as an example of the transitive usage; t (...)

“But that criminal wife of mine monitors me in all sorts of ways, in case I should signal anything in any way to those little women” (Plautus, Rudens 895-896).38

  • 39 The intransitive usage is found at: Plautus, Truculentus 788; Q. Claudius Quadrigarius, Annales fr (...)
  • 40 Compare the later Vergilian example: “significatque manu et magno simul incipit ore” (“he makes a (...)
  • 41 As mentioned, De Melo prints the correction “qui” for “quid”, which would make all of the early ex (...)
  • 42 OLD s.v. “aedifico” 1; TLL s.v. “aedifico”.

26In the intransitive usage found in excerpt 20, the verb is applied to denote the intentional act of signaling and, like “σηµαίνειν”, is attested exclusively of animate subjects.39 Here, the basic force is “to make a sign [to someone]”; there is no direct object specified, and this is coherent with the idea that the “sign-” element originally represented an accusative (“signum”). The type of communication described here is non-verbal and involves giving a sign that the recipient can interpret – for example, with the hand.40 In number 21, however, we see a direct object (“quid”) for the verb “significare”;41 if we consider verbs of similar formation, it is likely that this is the more recent usage – the analogous verb “aedificare”, for example, is also attested in both transitive and intransitive usages, but is ultimately derived from “aedes” + “-fico” (“to erect a building, engage in building operations”).42

27Later on (in the first century BC), further examples of the transitive usage appear in our texts, such as the following passage from the beginning of the second book of Cicero’s De Finibus:

22. hic cum uterque me intueretur seseque adaudiendum significarent paratos...

“At this point, when they each looked at me, and signified their readiness to hear me...” (Cicero, De Finibus 2.1).

  • 43 Cf. OLD s.v.“significo” 4:“To indicate (by means of speech or writing), make known, intimate”. On (...)

28The accusative object here, “seseque... paratos”, follows on from “significarent”: the verb’s direct object is in effect the substance of the message. When “significare” was applied to vocalized communication, it could take on the meaning of “to make allusion to”, “indicate”, “designate”, and “signify”:43

23. prope lugubri uerbo calamitatem prouinciae Siciliae significat.

  • 44 Cf. “quos ait Caecilius ‘comicos stultos senes’, hos significat credulos, obliuiosos, dissolutos(...)

“He indicates the disaster of the province of Sicily by means of apractically funereal word” (Cicero, In Verrem 2.3.126).44

29Once again, we have an accusative object for the verb “significare”; the force of the original accusative, “signum”, has melted away. We might compare the usage of “significare” here with that of “σηµαίνειν” in excerpt 5, where Achilles pointed out the turning point for the chariot race during the funeral games for Patroclus; while there Achilles indicated a physical object, in excerpt 23 we have an author indicating something abstract by means of a word.

30The previous examples all have human beings as the subject of the verb. There is another way in which “significare” was used, however, which parallels what we saw in the case of “σηµαίνειν”: from the first century BC onwards, the usage of “significare” to describe what things and objects mean to us becomes widely attested:

24. uer enim tamquam adulescentiam significat ostenditque fructus futuros.

  • 45 Cf. “tuumque significant initum” (“[the airborne birds] announce [you and] your arrival” Lucretius (...)

“For springtime indicates youth and reveals the fruits to come” (Cicero, De Senectute 70).45

  • 46 Brachet (1999), 36, argues that the word was probably not used in this fashion in the earliest str (...)
  • 47 Brachet (1999), 35.

31One should note in excerpt 24 that the combination of “significare” and “ostendere” is pleonastic: both words mean essentially the same thing, and we shall consider the latter presently. This usage of “significare” is widely attested in Cicero, Varro, and Lucretius, particularly in the interpretation of natural phenomena, divination,46 and other signs. While the earliest extant instances of the verb in the early second century BC had been used of animate subjects in the sense of “to make a sign/signs”, from first century BC on wards we see the verb being used of inanimate subjects in the sense of “to be a sign of”: “uer adulescentiam significat” = “uer signum est adulescentiae”.47 The preceding sentence (24) may therefore be rephrased as:

24b. “For springtime is a sign of...”.

  • 48 Brachet suggests that “significare” may have been influenced by the usage of “σηµαίνειν” of signs (...)

32The differences between this and the early instances of the verb, in which human beings had made signs, are clear. While we should be cautious about stating that the verb was not used in this latter sense in second century BC (just as we were in the case of the Homeric “σηµαίνειν”), and while other expressions of meaning were certainly being applied to inanimate objects at this point (“sibi uelle” and “ualere”, for example), the attested history of “significare” follows the same pattern as that of the Greek verb: the usages broaden in the course of time. That the Greek expression “σηµαίνειν” developed in a similar manner to the Roman one in this respect may suggest either that the Latin verb was influenced by “σηµαίνειν” itself,48 or that the shift may be due to a more general tendency to transfer verbs like “σηµαίνειν” and “significare” from intentional subjects (people) to inanimate ones (things).

  • 49 Brachet (1999), 37 n. 47, counts 108 uses of “significare” in this sense in the De Lingua Latina, (...)

33It is also from the first century BC that the grammatical usage of “significare”, where the verb corresponds with the English “to mean”, is attested.49

25. “carere” igitur hoc significat: egere eo quod habere uelis.

“This is the meaning of ‘carere’: to lack something that you wish to possess” (Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes 1.88).

26. “tueri” duo significat, unum ab aspectu..., alterum acurando ac tutela.

“‘tuerimeans two things: the first concerns sight..., the other concerns caring and protecting” (Varro, De Lingua Latina 7.12).

34The gulf between these grammatical usages and the earlier ones is important: if we look to the etymological origins of the verb, the words “carere” and “tueri” literally make signs (signa faciunt). Nor was this usage limited to grammatical contexts – it could also be used of texts like laws and stories:

27. quod autem “pietatem adhiberi, opes amoueri” [lex] iubet, significat probitatem gratam esse deo, sumptum esse remouendum.

  • 50 Cf. “haec significat fabula dominum uidere plurimum” (“this fable means that the master sees the m (...)

“As for the fact that it commands that ‘piety be recovered, wealth removed’, the [law] means that good morals are pleasing to god, expenditures are to be dispensed with” (Cicero, De Legibus 2.25).50

35That this etymology (“significare” = “signum facere”) was, however, no longer a real force in Latin by the first century BC is clear from the following excerpts: in defining the word “signum”, both Varro and Cicero make use of the verb “significare”:

28. signa quod aliquid significent, ut libra aequinoctium.

“‘Signs’ [of the zodiac’ are so called] because they signify something, as the scales [signify] the equinox” (Varro, De Lingua Latina 7.14).

29. signum est, quod sub sensum aliquem cadit etquiddam significat, quod ex ipso profectum uidetur...

“A sign is something that falls under one of the senses and signifies something which seems tofollow logically from it...” (Cicero, De Inuentione 1.48).

  • 51 For Augustine, who considers words tobesigns in the De Magistro (2.1-3), we have the following: “A (...)

36Varro etymologizes “significare” in a different way from what was argued above: here, the “signum” element does not represent an accusative, Varro arguing (oddly) that the signs of the zodiac received the name “signa” because they “signify”. The peculiarity of this particular etymology again becomes clear when we consider verbs of similar structure: aedes are not called as such because they aedificant. The origin of “significare” is also passed over by Cicero, who has a sign essentially make a sign in excerpt 29 (although here the orator is not attempting an actual etymology).51

  • 52 As in the case of “σηµαίνειν”, prefixes could add nuance; see OLD s.v. “assignifico” 2: “(of words (...)

37The double usage of “significare” can be found throughout the remainder of Latin literature, and is reflected in other types of word derived from the verb.52 For example, the verb’s adjectival present participle could be used of both speakers and texts in a variety ways by Quintilian:

30. …qui solos esse Atticos credunt tenuis etlucidos et significantis [esse]…

“[They seem to me to err], who believe that only Attic orators are subtle, clear, and expressive…” (Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 12.10.20).

31. erit autem narratio aperta ac dilucida, sifuerit primum exposita uerbis propriis et significantibus.

  • 53 OLD s.v. “significans”; cf. Gellius, Noctes Atticae 1.15.17: “...quod genus homines a Graecis sign (...)

“[Narration] will be open and thoroughly clear if it has first been laid out in proper and expressive terms” (Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 4.2.36).53

32. …locorum quoque dilucida et significans descriptio.

“…also a thoroughly clear and expressive description of places” (Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 9.2.44).

38In each case, the present participle “significans” is used – first of orators (30), then of words (31), and finally of a description (32). The same thing happens in English, as can be seen in the instances of “expressive” in the translations: authors, words, and descriptions can all be “expressive”, although authors are expressive in a different manner from that of words and descriptions.

39The noun “significatio” is widely attested from the first century BC in a range of senses; on the one hand, it could preserve the idea of sign-giving:

33. ignibus significatione facta…

“...with a signal having been made by means of fires” (Caesar, Bellum Gallicum 2.33.3).

  • 54 On “ἔµφασις”, see below. OLD s.v. “significatio” 3b: “(rhet.) a device by which more is suggested (...)
  • 55 The term was to become key for the Roman Stoics; cf. Seneca, Epistulae 89.17: “διαλεκτική in duas (...)

40It could also be used in a rhetorical context as a Latin equivalent for the Greek term “ἔµφασις”, translated as “implication” or “underlying meaning” in English.54 Alternatively, however, it could simply be translated as “the meaning” or “sense” (of a word or expression), as in the following examples from Gellius and Cicero:55

34. falsa atque aliena uerbi significatio.

“An incorrect and improper meaning of a word” (Gellius, Noctes Atticae 1.22.1).

35. ...ut liceat ei, qui contra dicat, eo trahere significationem scripti, quo expediat ac uelit.

“...with the result that it is possible for the individual speaking for the other side to interpret the sense of the document in whatever way is useful and he wishes” (Cicero, De Partitione Oratoria 108).

  • 56 OLD s.v. “significantia” 1:“meaningfulness, significance”; s.v. “significatus” 3:“the fact of sign (...)
  • 57 OLD s.v. “significatiuus”: “Indicative (of), denoting”.

41In number 34, we learn that there is a proper meaning of a word and an author may use a term incorrectly. Moreover, in the second sentence the significatio of the text (“scriptum”) is to be determined by the person who interprets it rather than by the author. Various other nouns are derived from “significare”, such as “significantia” and “significatus”;56 an adjective “significatiuus” (“indicative of”, “denoting”) is attested primarily in the later literature (for example, Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana 2.29.13).57

  • 58 See Brachet (1999), 33 : “On peut s’étonner que significare, qui était predisposé à avoir un sujet (...)

42There seems to be little in the usages of “significare” that is specific to language: words “mean” things in much the same way as springtime and flights of birds “mean” things. But the fact that the same verb can be used of both human beings in their attempt to make something public (when they literally make a sign by speaking, nodding, etc.) as well as of what descriptions and words signify is suggestive, given the verb’s importance in contemporary criticism. If we look to the verb’s etymology, when we say “the text signifies” the sign itself – the medium by which a speaker or author communicates with his or her audience – “makes a sign” (“signum facit”). In the face of the fact that the intransitive usage appears earlier than the grammatical usage it is reasonable to suppose that the verb was originally used of animate individuals in silent communication (“to make a sign”), was transferred by metaphor to inanimate objects such as natural phenomena (“to be a sign of”), and was thus applied also to words (a sense synonymous with that of the English verb “to mean”).58 This is of course a polysemy that the ancient noun has in common with its descendants, “signification” and “significance”.

III. Further Expressions

43Various other ancient verbs could perform the same functions as “σηµαίνειν” and “significare”, in that they were to be used both of what human beings “show” and what texts “mean” to us. First, “µηνύειν” (“reveal”, “indicate”, “make known”) could be used of both human beings in the act of reporting (36) and of inanimate grammatical subjects (37):

36. οὗτος ὁ τῷ Θρασυβούλῳ τὸ χρηστήριον µηνύσας.

“...this was the man who revealed the oracle to Thrasybulus” (Herodotus, Histories 1.23.1).

37. τόδ᾽ ἔργον... σε µηνύει κακόν.

“This act... reveals your baseness” (Euripides, Hippolytus 1077).

44In addition, however, Plato could use “µ ηνύειν” of words and discussions:

38. ἔπειτα δὲ ἡ “µνήµη” παντί που µηνύει ὅτι µονή ἐστιν ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ ἀλλ᾽ οὐ φορά.

  • 59 Cf. “ὡς ὁ ἔµπροσθεν πᾶς µεµήνυκεν ἡµῖν λόγος” (“as our entire preceding argument has shown” Plato,(...)

“Then again, everyone can see that ‘µνήµη’ [“memory”] signifies that rest is in the soul, not motion” (Plato, Cratylus 437b).59

  • 60 Cf. “σήµατ᾽... τά οἱ ἔµπεδα πέφραδ᾽ Ὀδυσσεύς” (“the signs... the clear ones that Odysseus showed t (...)
  • 61 Cf. “... ἐπίθετον πολλάκις προσριφὲν ὑπὸ ποιητοῦ βαθὺν ἐµφαίνει καὶ ἐπιστηµονικὸν νοῦν, οἷόν ἐστι (...)
  • 62 Cf. “ὡς κάρτα µοι σαφῶς ἐδήλωσας κακά” (“how extremely clearly you have revealed to me the evils” (...)
  • 63 Cf. “τὸ σηµαινόµενον”. Related nouns include “δήλωµα” (“means of making clear/known”) and “δήλωσις (...)

45The verb “φράζειν” (“to show”) follows a similar pattern,60 as do “ἐµφαίνειν” (“exhibit”, “display in”),61 and “δηλοῦν” (“make visible”, “reveal”, “make plain”).62 Just as in the case of “σηµαίνειν”, the substantivized passive participle of “δηλοῦν”, “τὸ δηλούµενον” (“that which is indicated”), could serve as a noun denoting “meaning”, and this is seen frequently from Plato onwards.63

  • 64 OLD s.v. “ostendo” 9: “(of words or their users) To express, signify, denote”. TLL s.v. “ostendo(...)

46In Latin, we have words like “ostendere”, which is composed of “ob” + “tendere” (“stretch forth”) and may have been used of divination early on:64

39. [tabellas] ostendimus Cethego; signum cognouit...

“I showed Cethegus [the letter]; he acknowledged the seal...” (Cicero, In Catilinam 3.10).

40. nec, ut “mucro” gladium, sic mucronem “gladius” ostendit.

“Αlthough ‘mucro’ denotes a sword, ‘gladius’ does not denote a blade” (Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 10.1.14).

  • 65 OLD s.v. “declaro” 3b: “(of words, etc.) to express (a meaning), signify, mean”; TLL s.v. “declaro(...)
  • 66 OLD s.v. “indico” 1: “(of writings, inscriptions)”: “... ut indicant scripta Polemonis” (“... as t (...)
  • 67 OLD s.v. “noto” 8. “(of things) to be a sign or a token of, mark”.
  • 68 TLL s.v. “innuo” 7.1.1728.67-85.
  • 69 OLD s.v. “signo” 4. “To make known, indicate. B to indicate specially, designate (by a name, descr (...)

47The same thing goes for “declarare” (fundamentally, “to make clear, evident, apparent”),65indicare” (“to make known”, “point out”),66notare” (“to indicate”),67innuere” (“to nod”, “indicate”),68 and “signare” (“to mark”, “indicate”) – the latter also deriving from “signum”.69 In both languages, then, we see the same phenomenon at work – Greek and Latin expressions of showing or revealing, when used of an inanimate grammatical subject, serve much the same purpose as “σηµαίνειν” and “significare”.

IV. Conclusion

  • 70 This is the view of Telegdi (1977), 381: “Andererseits wurde σηµαίνειν, gewiss seit alters, metaph (...)

48To sum up, it would seem that the English word “to signify” is derived from a Latin verb that was originally used of human beings making a sign; the earliest usage of the word was intransitive and may be glossed as “signum facere”. Only later on (in the first century BC) do we find evidence for “significare” being used in the grammatical sense with which we are familiar (“the word signifies X”). Although, as we have seen, expressions of meaning such as “sibi uelle” and “uis” could be used of inanimate objects in the sense of “to mean/signify” in the second century BC, it is possible that the transference of “significare” was itself a relatively late occurrence. If we accept this, its history would run along the same lines as the Greek verb “σηµαίνειν”, whose earliest instances are applied to animate subjects and the act of “marking”, “pointing out”, and “commanding”. It therefore seems reasonable to suppose that both of the principal verbs that we have been considering, “σηµαίνειν” and “significare”, were transposed from intentional agents onto inanimate things by metaphor, and thus to texts and words: in order to create a vocabulary to describe what things (including texts) did, ancient authors made use of words like “σηµαίνειν” and “significare” in a fashion analogous to their application to natural phenomena (“to be a sign of”).70 The case that this occurred by a process of metaphor is bolstered by consideration of the expressions of meaning featured in the previous chapter.

49Why is this important? What can this discussion tell us about our own usage of the English verb “to signify”? Perhaps the key thing to note is that the classical equivalents of “to signify”, which comes across as clinical and impersonal when contrasted with “to mean”, appear to have been applied to words and texts later than they were used of human beings. It might seem at first as if the modern English verb “to signify” is the propria uox for talking about what a text means to us. As we have seen, however, its etymology goes back to a verb glossed as “to make a sign” that was used, in its earliest extant instances, of intentional subjects. Even though we might use it today as a synonym of “to mean” when talking about what texts do, we do nothing to prevent or dispel the possible metaphor of text = person, particularly when it is used in conjunction with other personifying expressions:

  • 71 Riffaterre (1981), 228.

41. “The text refers not to objects outside of itself, but to an intertext. The words of the text signify not by referring to things, but by presupposing other texts”.71

50The boundaries between human beings and texts are at times difficult to establish when it comes to expressions of meaning such as “to signify”.

Notes

1 For the distinction, cf. “sed a significando, quod uolt eloqui, nusquam digrediatur” (“let him [the orator] never depart from showing that which he wants to say” Fronto, Ad Marcum Caesarem 4.3.7).

2 Both usages go back at least to the fourteenth century in English; the word was imported into English from French.

3 OED s.v. “signify” 1a and 1b.

4 OED s.v. “signify” 2a and 2b.

5 The main German example is the verb “bedeuten” (“to signify”); one sees it most often today used of things – “das Wort bedeutet mir nichts” (“the word doesn’t mean anything tome”) – but it can also be used of human beings in the act of signaling: “Ich bedeutete ihr, mir zu folgen” (“I signaled to her to follow me”); see DWB s.v. “bedeuten” 4 and 5. Similarly, the verb “heißen” appears originally to have been a verb of commanding and subsequently to have been used of what things meant; see DWB s.v. “heiszen” II. 4. The element of “sagen” in the verb “besagen” is transparent. The Anglo-Saxon verb “tācnian” (“to indicate/signify”) works in a similar way; see BT. In modern Greek, we find “το κείµενο σηµαίνει” (“the text means”) – the direct descendant of the ancient Greek expression under discussion in this chapter.

6 DELG s.v. “σῆµα”; Frisk s.v. “σῆµα”; LfgE s.v. “σῆµα”, “σηµαίνω”; Beekes s.v. “σῆµα”; Telegdi (1977), 377; Nagy (1992), 202-222, follows Brugmann in arguing for a connection to the Sanskrit root “dhī” (“to think”). The suffix “-αίνω” marks the verb as a denominative. Cf. “σηµεῖον”/ “σηµειοῦν”, unattested in Homer and Hesiod but found frequently in later authors; see Noriega-Olmos (2013), 42-75.

7 My account of the development of “σηµαίνειν” is particularly indebted to Telegdi (1977) and (1982); I use a number of his examples.

8 Cf. Kirk (1990), 258.

9 A prose summary of Hesiod’s treatment of the Orion myth in Pseudo-Eratosthenes may preserve Hesiod’s use of “σηµαίνοντα”, although this is unlikely: “...σηµαίνοντα τὰς ὁδούς” (“...while he pointed out the roads” Hesiod, fr. 148a. 8 Merkelbach-West).

10 Hesiod also refers to how the crane “brings a sign” of the onset of the ploughing season (“σῆµαφέρει”, Works and Days 450 West – on this, see Chapter 5); cf. “signum facere” (discussed below).

11 A “σῆµα” in Homer can generally be a portent, sign, funeral mound, token, or mark. Cf. LfgE s.v. “σῆµα”; Ford (1992), 131-171; Foley (1997), 72-82.

12 On these passages, see Kirk (1990), 181-182 and 258; Steiner (1994), 10-60; Graziosi & Haubold (2010), 124-125.

13 Neither Pindar nor the other early poets used the verb in this way either; see Slater (1969), s.v. “σαµαίνω”; cf. the indices of Lobel & Page (1955), Page (1966), and West (1989-1992). Nor did the early Presocratics use “σηµαίνειν” of inanimate things – in fact, the only instances of “σηµαίνειν” in the index of Diels-Kranz besides Heraclitus (see below) are from Philolaus (44 B5DK, cf. 13) and Democritus (68 B 212 DK), both contemporaries of Socrates (also included is an instance of the word in Diogenes Laertius’ discussion of the Pythagorean School). Neither Hecataeus of Miletus nor Acusilaus of Argos employ the term (although the fragments are meager).

14 See Telegdi (1977), 381.

15 Cf. “...οὔτε λέγει οὔτε κρύπτει ἀλλὰ σηµαίνει” (“[he] neither speaks nor hides, but gives a sign” Heraclitus 22 B 93 DK); Theognis, Elegies 808. Simonides apparently describes how Apollo “gives a sign” in a mutilated fragment (fr. 511a. 7 Page). Cf. “Ἀγαµέµνονος γυναικὶ σηµαίνω τορῶς εὐνῆς ἐπαντείλασαν ὡς τάχος δόµοις...” (“to the wife of Agamemnon I clearly make a sign to rise from her couch…” Aeschylus, Agamemnon 26-27). See Telegdi (1977), 379; Manetti (1993), 17-19; Sluiter (1997), 151. A Heraclitean sense of obscurity is also present in the usage of the Derveni commentator: cf. Ford (2002), 75: “The Derveni commentator repeatedly sets his allegorical interpretations against the ways of ‘the many’, ‘those who do not understand’. He holds that Orpheus ‘speaks in signs’ like an oracle (semainein) and departs from language as it is commonly used because he ‘does not wish all to understand’ (25.13 L-M)”.

16 Already in the Homeric poems Eurycleia can “tell/say a sign” to Penelope – the scar of Odysseus: “σῆµα ἀριφραδὲς ἄλλο τι εἴπω” (“I shall tell you an extremely clear proof besides...” Odyssey 23.73); cf. Laertes at Homer, Odyssey 24.329.

17 Cf. “... ὡς οὔτ᾽ ἄναυδος οὔτε σοι δαίων φλόγα ὕλης ὀρείας σηµανεῖ καπνῷ πυρός...” (“[and the thirsty dust alleges,] that it will not voicelessly signal by means of the smoke of fire, starting a fire of mountain timber...” Aeschylus, Agamemnon 496-497); “...εἰ µὴ παρόντι φθόγγος ἦν ὁ σηµανῶν” (“...if there were not the voice of you in person to inform me” Aeschylus, Suppliants 245). In a similar way, Theognis describes a beacon as “a voiceless messenger” (“ἄγγελος ἄφθογγος” Elegies 549).

18 Cf. “ἐλέγετο δὲ καὶ ἐδόκει ἐπὶ τοῖς µέλλουσι γενήσεσθαι σηµῆναι” (“this was said and was believed to serve as a mark for what was to come to pass afterwards” Thucydides, Peloponnesian War 2.8).

19 Cf. Euripides, Andromache 265 ; Bacchae 976 ; Hippolytus 857.

20 Cf. for example Plato, Gorgias 527c; Theaetetus 160c. Plato appears to use “σηµαίνειν” and “δηλοῦν” in much the same way; see, e.g., Cratylus 394c, where the verbs are used interchangeably. On this, see Manetti (1993), 56 and Ademollo (2011), 173, who notes that these verbs could be used of the etymological sense of a word as well as of its referent.

21 For the usage by the grammarians, see Ddtgg s.v. “σηµαίνω”.

22 See footnote 13 above.

23 On this, see Manetti (1993), 62; Urmson (1990), 148-149.

24 For a later Greek example: “Μητρόδωρος... τὸ ‘πλεῖον’ δύο σηµαίνειν φησὶ παρ᾽ Ὁµήρῳ” (“Metrodorus... says that the word ‘πλεῖον’ means two things in Homer” Porphyry, Homeric Questions on Iliad 10.252-253).

25 For the term in the Cratylus, see Ademollo (2011), 157-172.

26 See, for example, Rhetoric 1410b10: “τὰ δὲ ὀνόµατα σηµαίνει τι” (“...words mean something”); cf. Noriega-Olmos (2013).

27 On the verb “σηµαίνειν” in Aristotle, see Noriega-Olmos (2013), 42-75.

28 Cf. “...προσσηµαίνει γὰρ χρόνον” (“...for they signify in addition a time reference” Aristotle, On Interpretation 19b14).

29 LSJ s.v. “ὑποσηµαίνω”: “throw out hints of, intimate”. Other variants exist: “ἐνσηµαίνειν” appears at Plato, Cratylus 395b. The verb “συσσηµαίνειν” was used by Apollonius Dyscolus inthe sense of “to co-signify”: “τὰ γὰρ τοιαῦτα τῶν µορίων ἀεὶ συσσηµαίνει...” (“the words of this type always co-signify” Apollonius Dyscolus, On Syntax 1.12).

30 LSJ s.v. “σηµαντικός”.

31 Cf. “τὸ τῆς διαλεκτικῆς ὄνοµα οὐκ ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ σηµαινόµενον πάντες οἱ φιλόσοφοι φέρουσιν” (“not all philosophers use the term ‘dialectic’ with the same meaning” Alexander of Aphrodisias on Aristotle’s Topics 1.8-14 Long-Sedley).

32 On these terms, see Sluiter (1997), 152. Μeaning (“τὸ σηµαινόµενον”) was apparently already contrasted with the physical sounds of words (“ψόφοις”) by the fifth-century poet Licymnius (Aristotle, Rhetoric 1405b6-8). From the third century, we can also find the noun “σηµασία” used in philosophical and grammatical texts in the sense of “meaning”. Compare the later derivatives of “σῆµα” and “σηµαίνειν” found in the grammarians and other later authors: “ὁµοιόσηµος” (“of like signification”) and “πολυσήµαντος” (“with many significations”). See the Ddtgg on these terms.

33 For the Stoics, the key source is Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 8.11-13; see Manetti (1993), 92-110. For compact discussions of Stoic semantics, see Long & Sedley (1987), 1.199-202; Sluiter (1990), 22-36. For the argument that the Stoics used the verb “σηµαίνειν” in a more precise sense than Aristotle (of the sense rather than the reference of utterances), see Graeser (1978), 82.

34 On this, see Manetti (1993), 53-54.

35 Cf. Vergil, Aeneid 6.318: “‘dic’ ait, ‘o uirgo, quid uolt concursus ad amnem?’” (“‘tell me’, he said, ‘o virgin, what does this crowd at the river mean?’”).

36 On “signum”, see DELL s.v.; cf. Benveniste (1948), 122-124, who derives it from the same root as “sequi”. The OLD s.v. “signum”, however, takes it from “secare” (“to cut”); cf. Brachet (1994). My account of the origin and development of “significare” itself is much indebted to Brachet (1999). On the suffix, see OLD s.v. “-fico”: “vbl suffix... Forms vbs. expr. making, doing, causing, etc.”; compare “pacificare”, “aedificare”, “sacrificare”, etc. See also OED s.v. “-fy” (suffix).

37 Augustine glosses “significare” as both “signum dare” and “signum facere” (“to give/make a sign”): “nec ulla causa est nobis significandi, id est signi dandi, nisi ad depromendum et traiciendum in alterius animum id, quod animo gerit, qui signum dat” (“nor is there any reason for signifying (that is to say giving a sign), except the desire of drawing forth and giving into another’s mind what the giver of the sign has in his own mind” De Doctrina Christiana 2.2.3-20); “cum enim loquimur, signa facimus, de quo dictum est ‘significare’” (“for when we speak we make signs – hence we call it ‘signifying’” Augustine, De Magistro 4.1).

38 It should be noted that this example is not unproblematic as an example of the transitive usage; the correction of “quid” to “qui” is endorsed by De Melo, and the “quippiam” can be taken adverbially (on which, see OLD s.v. “quispiam2” c: “in any way, at all”). The issue does not affect my overall argument.

39 The intransitive usage is found at: Plautus, Truculentus 788; Q. Claudius Quadrigarius, Annales fr. 10b Peter; Sisenna, fr. 131 Peter; Cicero, De Oratore 1.122; Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1021-1022; Caesar, Bellum Gallicum 7.3.2; Caesar, Bellum Ciuile 1.28.2; Sallust, Bellum Iugurthinum 60.4; Vergil, Aeneid 12.692; Vitruvius 7 Preface 6. These are collected by Brachet (1999), 29-30.

40 Compare the later Vergilian example: “significatque manu et magno simul incipit ore” (“he makes a sign with the hand and begins inabooming voice” Vergil, Aeneid 12.692).

41 As mentioned, De Melo prints the correction “qui” for “quid”, which would make all of the early examples of the verb intransitive.

42 OLD s.v. “aedifico” 1; TLL s.v. “aedifico”.

43 Cf. OLD s.v.“significo” 4:“To indicate (by means of speech or writing), make known, intimate”. On this, see Brachet (1999), 32-33.

44 Cf. “quos ait Caecilius ‘comicos stultos senes’, hos significat credulos, obliuiosos, dissolutos” (“those whom Caecilius says are ‘ridiculous, stupid old men’, he indicates to be credulous, forgetful, and depraved” Cicero, De Senectute 36).

45 Cf. “tuumque significant initum” (“[the airborne birds] announce [you and] your arrival” Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1.12-13).

46 Brachet (1999), 36, argues that the word was probably not used in this fashion in the earliest strata of Roman divination, citing Cicero, De Diuinatione 1.93, where Cicero mentions “ostendere”, “portendere”, “monstrare” as the ancient terms for sign-giving in this context; he is etymologizing terms such as “ostentum” (“sign”). The term “significare” was to compete with these terms in the subsequent period.

47 Brachet (1999), 35.

48 Brachet suggests that “significare” may have been influenced by the usage of “σηµαίνειν” of signs (“signify”, “show”, etc.); Brachet (1999), 36.

49 Brachet (1999), 37 n. 47, counts 108 uses of “significare” in this sense in the De Lingua Latina, 5in the De Re Rustica. Cf. OLD s.v. “significo” 6: “non liber hic ullus, non qui mihi commodet aurem, uerbaque significent quid mea norit, adest” (“There is no book here, nor any man who might lend ear tomeand might know what my words mean” Ovid, Tristia 5.12.53-54). OLD s.v. “significo” 6b: “Nam ‘argumentatio’ nomine uno res duas significat” (“for the one word, ‘argument’, means two things” Cicero, De Inuentione 1.74).

50 Cf. “haec significat fabula dominum uidere plurimum” (“this fable means that the master sees the most” Phaedrus, Fabulae 2.8.27).

51 For Augustine, who considers words tobesigns in the De Magistro (2.1-3), we have the following: “Aug. constat ergo inter nos uerba signa esse?Ad. constat.Aug. quid? signum nisi aliquid significet, potest esse signum?” (Augustine: “Do we agree then between us that words are signs?”; Adeodatus: “Certainly”; Augustine: “What then? Can a sign be a sign unless it signifies something?”).

52 As in the case of “σηµαίνειν”, prefixes could add nuance; see OLD s.v. “assignifico” 2: “(of words) To denote, mean”. Cf. “uerborum quae tempora adsignificant...” (“of the words that also signify time...” Varro, De Lingua Latina 6.40).

53 OLD s.v. “significans”; cf. Gellius, Noctes Atticae 1.15.17: “...quod genus homines a Graecis significantissimo uocabulo ‘κατάγλωσσοι’ appellantur” (“...the type of person that is called by that highly significant/evocative term ‘chatterers’ by the Greeks”).

54 On “ἔµφασις”, see below. OLD s.v. “significatio” 3b: “(rhet.) a device by which more is suggested than the words actually state”. See already the Rhetorica ad Herennium 4.67: “significatio est res quae plus in suspicione relinquit, quam positum est in oratione” (“significatio is when a matter remains more in the realm of implication than is set in speech itself”); on these terms, see (Richard) Thomas (2000).

55 The term was to become key for the Roman Stoics; cf. Seneca, Epistulae 89.17: “διαλεκτική in duas partes diuiditur, in uerba et significationes, id est, inres quae dicuntur et uocabula quibus dicuntur” (“dialectic isdivided into two parts – into words and meanings, that is to say those things which are said and the words by which they are said”); Varro (De Lingua Latina 9.40) also contrasts “significatio” with “uox”.

56 OLD s.v. “significantia” 1:“meaningfulness, significance”; s.v. “significatus” 3:“the fact of signifying an idea, meaning, sense” (a prominent example of the latter is Verrius Flaccus’ title, De Significatu Verborum).

57 OLD s.v. “significatiuus”: “Indicative (of), denoting”.

58 See Brachet (1999), 33 : “On peut s’étonner que significare, qui était predisposé à avoir un sujet animé, ait pu prendre un nom de chose pour sujet”.

59 Cf. “ὡς ὁ ἔµπροσθεν πᾶς µεµήνυκεν ἡµῖν λόγος” (“as our entire preceding argument has shown” Plato, Phaedrus 277c). The adjective “µηνυτικός” could in later Greek be used in the sense of “σηµαντικός”; cf. LSJ s.v. II: “suggestive, indicative”.

60 Cf. “σήµατ᾽... τά οἱ ἔµπεδα πέφραδ᾽ Ὀδυσσεύς” (“the signs... the clear ones that Odysseus showed to her” Homer, Odyssey 19.250); “τοῦτο δὲ φράζει ὅτι ἥδεται δέ τ᾽ ἀκούων” (“this signifies that he enjoys listening” Xenophon, Symposium 8.30); “ἢν µὲν ἐκσώσῃς γραφήν, αὐτὴ φράσει σιγῶσα τἀγγεγραµµένα...” (“if you keep my writing safe, it will silently Compare also the indicate what is written inside” Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris 762-763). On “φράζειν” here, see Svenbro (1993), 15-16; Steiner (1994), 17-26; both refer to the cross-cultural love-affair at Herodotus, Histories 4.113, where “φράζειν” and “σηµαίνειν” are used in a similar way. For the noun “φράσις” in the sense of “meaning” in the grammarians, see the Ddtgg.

61 Cf. “... ἐπίθετον πολλάκις προσριφὲν ὑπὸ ποιητοῦ βαθὺν ἐµφαίνει καὶ ἐπιστηµονικὸν νοῦν, οἷόν ἐστι τὸ ‘βαθύσχοινον λεχεποίην’ παρ᾽ Ὁµήρῳ” (“...an epithet thrown out by a poet often exhibits a deep and scientific meaning, as for instance Homer’s ‘deep in rushes, with abed of grass’” Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 1.307); Ahl (1984). Compare also the Ddtgg s.v. “παρεµφαίνω”; cf. “οἵ τε σύνδεσµοι πρὸς τὰς τῶν λόγων τάξεις ἢ ἀκολουθίας τὰς ἰδίας δυνά µ εις παρε µ φαίνουσιν...” (“conjunctions exhibit their individual meanings according to the arrangement of the words or the context” Apollonius Dyscolus, On Syntax 1.12). The word could be lengthened quite considerably: the Stoic Chrysippus went so far as to use the verb “συµπαρεµφαίνεσθαι” (roughly, “to appear by implication”). For derivative nouns, see LSJ s.v. “παρέµφασις”: “signification of words”; “συνέµφασις” (“joint or secondary indication”); and “ἔµφασις” (“meaning”, “signification”).

62 Cf. “ὡς κάρτα µοι σαφῶς ἐδήλωσας κακά” (“how extremely clearly you have revealed to me the evils” Aeschylus, Persians 519); “καὶ δηλοῖ ἐκείνοις τε τὸ αὐτὸ τελευτῶντος τοῦ ‘ῥῶ’ καὶ ἡµῖν τοῦ ‘σῖγµα’;” (“and does the final ‘rho’ signify to them just what the ‘sigma’ does to us...?” Plato, Cratylus 434c); “τοὺς καλου µ ένους ‘ἐκστραορδιναρίους’, ὃ µεθερµηνευόµενον ‘ἐπιλέκτους’ δηλοῖ” (“...these being called ‘extra-ordinarii’, that is, when translated, ‘select’” Polybius, Histories 6.26.6). For the verb in Plato, see Ademollo (2011), 173; for Aristotle, see Noriega-Olmos (2013), 58-61; for the grammarians, see Ddtgg s.v. “δηλόω”. For a variant, cf. LSJ s.v. “συνδηλόω”: “make altogether clear”.

63 Cf. “τὸ σηµαινόµενον”. Related nouns include “δήλωµα” (“means of making clear/known”) and “δήλωσις” (“explanation”, “signification”); cf. Sluiter (1997), 152, and the Ddtgg (under the relevant entries). For “δήλωσις” in Epicurean thought, see Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 10.76. Just like “µηνυτικός”, “ἐµφαντικός”, and “σηµαντικός”, the adjective “δηλωτικός” could mean “indicative”.

64 OLD s.v. “ostendo” 9: “(of words or their users) To express, signify, denote”. TLL s.v. “ostendo” 9.2.1125.69-83. Cf. OLD s.v. “portendo”, and Brachet (1999), 35-36.

65 OLD s.v. “declaro” 3b: “(of words, etc.) to express (a meaning), signify, mean”; TLL s.v. “declaro” 5.1.184.68-46. Cf.“hominem catum eum esse declaramus” (“I declare him to be a clever fellow” Plautus, Pseudolus 681-682); “utilitatis speciem uidebat, sed eam, utres declarat, falsam iudicauit” (“he saw the appearance of expedience, but, as the fact shows, he judged it to be false” Cicero, De Officiis 3.99); “nec tamen exprimi uerbum euerbo necesse erit... cum sit uerbum, quod idem declaret, magis usitatum” (“it is not necessary for [a translation] to be squeezed out word for word... when there is a more familiar word that conveys the same meaning” Cicero, De Finibus 3.15); “opera danda est, ut uerbis utamur quam… maxime aptis, id est rem declarantibus” (“care is to be applied that we employ the words… that are most suitable, that is, those that convey the fact” Cicero, De Finibus 4.57); cf. Cicero, De Finibus 2.13.

66 OLD s.v. “indico” 1: “(of writings, inscriptions)”: “... ut indicant scripta Polemonis” (“... as the writings of Polemon indicate” Cicero, Academica 2.131 = Lucullus 131); TLL s.v. “indico” 7.1.1151.44-69.

67 OLD s.v. “noto” 8. “(of things) to be a sign or a token of, mark”.

68 TLL s.v. “innuo” 7.1.1728.67-85.

69 OLD s.v. “signo” 4. “To make known, indicate. B to indicate specially, designate (by a name, description, etc.); (of a word) to signify”.

70 This is the view of Telegdi (1977), 381: “Andererseits wurde σηµαίνειν, gewiss seit alters, metaphorisch auf Unbeseeltes übertragen. Das Verb bedeutet (wie wir gesehen haben) ursprünglich ‘ein Zeichen geben (um etwas anzuzeigen, oder zu veranlassen)’; diese Tätigkeit wird sekundär dem Zeichen selbst zugeschrieben”. For acontinuation of this idea, see the following chapter.

71 Riffaterre (1981), 228.

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