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Greek and Latin. Expressions of Meaning

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Andreas T. Zanker

Appendix II: Further Nouns of Meaning

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I. Heads

  • 1 Cf. Slater (1969), s.v. “κορυφά” b.α: “chief point, purport of words”. Cf. LSJ s.v. “κεφάλαιος” II (...)

1While the Greek and Roman vocabulary of meaning falls under the six categories mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 2 when it comes to verbs, there are certain outliers as far as nouns go. One of these can be marked in the early Classical period. Pindar employed the term “κορυφά”, which generally meant “head” or “top” and had been used of the peaks of mountains in Homer, in the sense of “the sum” of [someone’s] words – their point:1

1. τελεύταθεν δὲ λόγων κορυφαί
ἐν ἀλαθείᾳ πετοῖσαι.

“The sum of these words was fulfilled, falling in with truth” (Pindar, Olympians 7.68-69).

  • 2 On the early history of the expression, see West (1978), 178.

2The metaphor is already implicit in Hesiod (Works and Days 106 West), where the singer states that he will recapitulate the main points of the myth of races – “ἐγὼ λόγον ἐκκορυφώσω” (“I shall summarily state the account”).2 In Pindar, however, the noun could also be used of the “sense” of the sayings themselves:

2. εἰ δὲ λόγων συνέµεν κορυφάν, Ἱέρων,
ὀρθὰν ἐπίστᾳ, µανθάνων οἶσθα προτέρων...

  • 3 Cf. Pindar, Paeans 8a = 52iA.13-14: “καὶ τοιᾷδε κορυφᾷ σάµαινεν λόγων” (“and she indicated with th (...)

“But if you know how to understand the true sense of the sayings, Hieron, you know the lesson of the ancient poets...” (Pindar, Pythians 3.80-81).3

  • 4 For other Pindaric metaphors of communication, compare the difficult passage at Olympians 2.83-84: (...)

3The expression of interpretation used here, “συνέµεν”, together with the context, suggests that we take “κορυφά” as “sense” or “meaning”. This usage of the term “κορυφά” does not seem, however, to have taken on a significant role in Pindar’s verse,4 nor did it do so in the other poets.

II. Things

  • 5 Cf. “πρέπον δέ ἐστι λέξις οἰκεία τῷ πράγµατι...” (“appropriateness is when the style is appropriat (...)

4A second type of noun that we should mention corresponds with the English “thing” (“πρᾶγµα”, “res”); the Greek term “πρᾶγµα” can simply mean “subject matter”,5 but we also see it employed in contrast with a term such as “word”. Thus:

3. ...καὶ ποῖα ὁµοίως καὶ ποῖα ἑτέρως ἐπί τε τῶν πραγµάτων συµβαίνει καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ὀνοµάτων.

“...and what similarities and differences belong to things and their names” (Aristotle, On Sophistical Refutations 175a8-9).

  • 6 Cf. Sluiter (1997), 154-155.
  • 7 Cf. Modrak (2001), 20.
  • 8 Cf. Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 1.311, 1.313. On these two uses of “πρᾶγµα” in Stoic (...)
  • 9 See Lallot (1997), II. 349 s.v. “acte”; Sluiter (1997), 155. On this piece of vocabulary in Apollo (...)

5Here, the word “πράγµατα” (“things”) refers to the external objects to which the names are attached; indeed, in Plato and Aristotle, “πρᾶγµα” is frequently used in order to describe the “referent” of an expression.6 The phrase “Callias sits” is true if the πρᾶγµα, Callias’ body, is so disposed (cf. Aristotle, Categories 4a34-4b2).7 Besides being used of the external object, however, the noun “πρᾶγµα” could also be used of the incorporeal sense of a word – according to Sextus Empiricus, the Stoics thought of both the reference (“τὸ τυγχάνον”) and the meaning (“τὸ σηµαινόµενον”) of an expression as a πρᾶγµα, although the first is physical and the second is incorporeal (Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 8.11-13).8 In the writing of the grammarian Apollonius Dyscolus, we see the noun being employed in the specialized sense of “the signification of a verb” – that is, the action that a verb denotes.9

  • 10 OLD s.v. “res” 9:“Material (of speech, writing, etc.), matter, topic”. Cf. Cato the Elder’s “rem t (...)

6To move to Latin, “res” could also mean something as basic as “subject” or “subject matter”,10 yet it also took on the specialist meaning of “reference” in texts influenced by Stoic philosophy. In De Dialectica 5, Augustine distinguishes between four aspects of language marked by the terms “uerbum” (a word as it is mentioned rather than used), “dictio” (a word being used rather than mentioned), “dicibile” (Augustine’s translation of “τὸ λεκτόν”, or “sayable”), and “res” (reference). Thus, when considering the first word of the Aeneid (“arma”), the uerbum element consists of “arma” in and of itself; the dictio resides in the use of “arma” in context (that is, the way Vergil uses the word); the dicibile consists of the “arma” as stored within the author’s mind; and the res comprises the wars or weapons to which the word refers:

4. ipsa uero bella uel arma, quae gesta aut ingestata sunt ab Aenea... ipsa ergo per se nec uerba sunt nec dicibilia nec dictiones, sed “res” quae iam proprio nomine res uocantur.

“These wars or weapons, which were waged or worn by Aeneas... these things are in themselves neither sayables nor words, but are called ‘things’ in the proper sense of the name” (Augustine, De Dialectica 5).

7This usage of “res” therefore corresponds to the Stoic notion of τὸ τυγχάνον (the reference of a term).

  • 11 OLD s.v. “res” 5:“The thing, fact (as distinguished from the word signifying it).

8On the other hand, the use of the term “res” could be broader, in that “res” could simply be contrasted with “sonitus” and “uerba”:11

5. quin etiam passim nostris inuersibus ipsis
multa elementa uides multis communia uerbis,
cum tamen inter se uersus ac uerba necessest
confiteare et re et sonitu distare sonanti.

  • 12 Cf. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 6.740. On Lucretius and language, see e.g. Holmes (2005) and Sheari (...)

“Since even throughout our verses you see many letters held in common by many words, although you must admit that verses and words are dissimilar both in their sense and in the ring of their sound” (Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1.823-826).12

6. re enim intellecta in uerborum usu faciles esse debemus.

“As long as the meaning [of words] itself is intelligible, we can be free in our usage of words” (Cicero, De Finibus 3.52).

9In these excerpts, “res” stands for the sense of a term as opposed to its sound. In general, these Greek and Latin words for “thing” plug a number of semantic gaps, as one might expect given our own broad usage of the English term.

III. Ways

10A further category consists of nouns like “τρόπος” and “modus”, generally translatable as “way” or “manner”, which could be combined with a passive verb of speaking to yield an expression of meaning:

7. τὸ δὲ “ἔχειν” κατὰ πλείονας τρόπους λέγεται.

“‘To have’ has several meanings” (Aristotle, Categories 15b17).

8. ea [i.e. “terra”] tribus modis dicitur, communi et proprio et mixto.

  • 13 Cf. OLD s.v. “modus” 11b: “(pl.) ~is, in .. ways; also, in .. senses”.

“It [i.e. ‘earth’ ] has three meanings – communal, private, and mixed” (Varro, De Re Rustica 1.9.1).13

11One might compare these with the passive verbs of speaking used with adverbs such as “ἰσαχῶς” and “πλεοναχῶς” discussed in Chapter 2.IV. There are also, however, examples in the active voice:

9. ἔοικε δὲ ἀλλοτριώτατος ὁ νῦν ῥηθεὶς τρόπος τοῦ “ἔχειν”. οὐδὲν γὰρ ἄλλο τῷ “ἔχει γυναῖκα” σηµαίνοµεν ἢ ὅτι “συνοικεῖ”. Ἴσως δ᾽ ἂν καὶ ἄλλοι τινὲς φανείησαν τοῦ “ἔχειν” τρόποι. οἱ δὲ εἰωθότες λέγεσθαι σχεδὸν ἅπαντες κατηρίθµηνται.

“This meaning of ‘to have’ seems very far-fetched. For we indicate nothing other by means of ‘[a man] has a wife’ than that ‘[he] lives with her’. Perhaps there are more senses of ‘have’, but the customary ones, I think, have been nearly entirely enumerated in the foregoing summary” (Aristotle, Categories 15b29-33).

12While there are certainly other nouns that could be used of words and texts in the senses of “meaning”, “signification”, or “intention” – one might, for instance, consider the development of the term “σκοπός” (“aim”, “purpose”) – these examples should be enough to reinforce the points made about metaphorical and metonymical transference elsewhere in the book: in the final analysis, these nouns were used in other ways before they were applied to issues of lexical signification.

Notes

1 Cf. Slater (1969), s.v. “κορυφά” b.α: “chief point, purport of words”. Cf. LSJ s.v. “κεφάλαιος” II.2: “chief or main point”. This metaphorical usage of “κορυφή/ά” as an expression denoting the key “point” of an argument is mirrored in the usage of “caput” in Latin. Cf. OLD s.v. “caput” 15.b: “a fundamental argument, main point”.

2 On the early history of the expression, see West (1978), 178.

3 Cf. Pindar, Paeans 8a = 52iA.13-14: “καὶ τοιᾷδε κορυφᾷ σάµαινεν λόγων” (“and she indicated with this sense of words”).

4 For other Pindaric metaphors of communication, compare the difficult passage at Olympians 2.83-84: “πολλά µοι ὑπ᾽ ἀγκῶνος ὠκέα βέλη ἔνδον ἐντὶ φαρέτρας φωνάεντα συνετοῖσιν ἐς δὲ τὸ πὰν ἑρµανέων χατίζει” (“I have many swift darts inside my quiver under my arm, which speak to those who have understanding; but for the masses they lack interpreters”); for other examples, see Olympians 6.84-85 (whetstone of the tongue); 6.97-98 (sweetly-speaking songs); 7.54-55 (speaking reports); 9.12 (arrows of the muses); 10.93-94 (sweetly-speaking lyre); Pythians 1.44 (javelin of song); Nemeans 7.70-73 (javelin of song); 8.46-48 (song as a stele); 9.52-55 (javelin of song); Isthmians 2.1-8 (arrows of song, silver-faced songs); 5.46-48 (arrows of song); 6.9 (honey-voiced songs).

5 Cf. “πρέπον δέ ἐστι λέξις οἰκεία τῷ πράγµατι...” (“appropriateness is when the style is appropriate to the subject matter” Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 7.59).

6 Cf. Sluiter (1997), 154-155.

7 Cf. Modrak (2001), 20.

8 Cf. Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 1.311, 1.313. On these two uses of “πρᾶγµα” in Stoic semantics, see Barwick (1957), 13-14. Cf. de Jonge (2008), 59, particularly on the somewhat ambiguous usage of Dionysius Halicarnassus: “...it is not in all cases clear whether πρᾶγµα [in Dionysius] designates the ‘thought’ or ‘referent’”.

9 See Lallot (1997), II. 349 s.v. “acte”; Sluiter (1997), 155. On this piece of vocabulary in Apollonius Dyscolus, see further Blank (1982), 32-34, 81. For discussion of the term “ποιότης” as the signification of nouns in Stoic semantics, see Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 7.58, with Long & Sedley (1987), 1.200.

10 OLD s.v. “res” 9:“Material (of speech, writing, etc.), matter, topic”. Cf. Cato the Elder’s “rem tene, uerba sequentur” (“hold on to the subject, and the words will follow”, fr. 15 Jordan).

11 OLD s.v. “res” 5:“The thing, fact (as distinguished from the word signifying it).

12 Cf. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 6.740. On Lucretius and language, see e.g. Holmes (2005) and Shearin (2015).

13 Cf. OLD s.v. “modus” 11b: “(pl.) ~is, in .. ways; also, in .. senses”.

© C.H.Beck, 2016

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