Sunday, November 26, 2017


Ignacio Rodríguez Alfageme (ed.), La lengua del Corpus Hippocraticum. Seis estudios. Serie investigación, 5. Madrid: Ediciones Complutense, 2017. Pp. 228. ISBN 9788466935227. €25.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Mikel Labiano, Universitat de València (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

La lengua del Corpus Hippocraticum. Seis estudios is a remarkable and useful collection edited by Ignacio Rodríguez Alfageme. It contains, as its title indicates, six articles on different aspects of the language of the Corpus Hippocraticum (CH); two deal with word formation and four analyse the syntax of the infinitive and of clauses.

Ignacio Rodríguez Alfageme has been leading a research group at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid for many years now. The group's work includes detailed research on topics relating to the shaping of the CH and the diverse nature of its texts, with a particular emphasis on—and preference for—linguistic matters. From this perspective and using its own methodologies, such as the application of statistics for linguistics (i.e., statistical linguistics), the members of this research group have published a number of significant studies in recent years, though perhaps their work has not received as much attention as it should outside of Spain. For example, in Elizabeth M. Craik's recent and magnificent book, The Hippocratic Corpus. Content and Context (London; New York: Routledge 2015), no mention is made of this research group in Madrid (with the exception of Pilar Pérez and a series of articles that she published in English). However, given their work on the relationships among Hippocratic texts, their proposed datings,1 and their discussion of linguistic matters,2 this research team certainly deserves wider recognition. The fact that most of this scientific research is published in Spanish should not be a great hindrance.

In what follows, we offer a short summary of each of the six articles.

Pascual Espinosa focuses our attention on the fact that the suffix -ώδης is not used much by medical authors in general, whilst in the CH there are 318 forms of this kind. Of the 318 formations with -ώδης, 60 are not found documented again outside of the CH. As such, they are hapax legomena in the CH. Espinosa observes how in the 5th century BC a process of grammaticalization occurs and the number of formations of this kind increases, although he does differentiate between the ancient use of the suffix with the meaning "that smells of" (root *od-), and which lost productivity, and the grammaticalization of the suffix that, through a metaphorical process, goes on to adopt the more vague and general meaning of "abundant in" or "similar to". The most important aspect of this new series of adjectives ending in -ώδης is that they are all technical terms. Espinosa then goes on to offer us a detailed description of each of the 60 hapax legomena in the CH.

In the second article, Ignacio Rodríguez Alfageme studies compound forms made up of two nominal or verbal lexemes. With the aim of creating a specialised scientific vocabulary, Hippocratic authors used the resources in Greek that they had at their disposal in the most immediate contexts. It comes as no surprise to us, therefore, that amongst these terms we should find examples from the marine world, agriculture, cooking and home life. The adjectives that appear in the first part of the compound form are usually adjectives that indicate quantity, color or form. Of the substantives there is a high number of names of foodstuffs and parts of the body. Verbs that indicate rejection or abandonment are of the most frequent. The second position of the compound is much more varied in terms of meaning. The most frequent combinations join an adjective and a noun (over 37), an adjective and a verb root (over 30), an important pattern to bear in mind when interpreting the forms. Of these, those forms that refer to body parts or bodily fluids are clearly medical terms (-γαστρ, -κεφαλ, -οφθαλμ, -στομ, -χειρ, -φλεγματ, -χολ, -ουρι, -λοχ, -πυο), as are those that refer to illnesses (-ελκ, -πυρ, -αλγ, -οιδ, -ρραγ, -παθ), or physiological functions (-τοκ, -πνο, -ωπ). The distribution of compounds in the different treatises allows us to spot tendencies between them, coincidences that are supported by the most similar types of text. This is the case of Epidemics VII, Prorrhetic II, or Stratum A of gynaecological texts.

Alicia Esteban Santos studies the infinitive forms that appear in Epidemics (henceforth, Epid.), paying particular attention to the differences between some parts and others in this group of treatises. She goes on to differentiate between the groups of books by Ep. (I-III, II-IV-VI and V-VII, and, of these, also between their subgroups) and, on the other hand, between the different types of passage (individual and general). Above all, a significant difference is evident between the use of the infinitive in the general passages and in the clinical stories, where its use is much more formulaic and limited to a very reduced number of phrases that are repeated (this does not occur in Epid. IV). In the general passages, on the other hand, a wide range of constructions are found. Infinitives tend to appear in formulaic combinations alongside verbs that indicate a modality (θέλω, ξυμφέρω, οἶμαι, δοκέω, δεῖ, δύναμαι, ἀδυνατώτεροι, ἀνάγκη, οὐκ οἷόν τε), or a particular development of the action of verb (ἄρχομαι, μέλλω, ῥήϊον). With regards to the differences and similarities between the different groups and subgroups of books, through its analysis of the infinitive, this article confirms the conclusions that other members of the research group have reached in previous studies.3

Jesús Ángel y Espinós studies temporal subordination and, to this end, focuses on the conjunctions ὅταν, ὁκόταν/ὁπόταν, ἐπήν and ἐπειδάν. He then goes on to classify in great detail the contexts in which these conjunctions are found. His choice of four temporal conjunctions is due to two main factors: his aim to continue tracing a map of the expression of time in the CH (a task already started by other members of the research group4) and to search for possible individual features in the use of conjunctions that have always been considered variants, as in the case of the pair ὅταν, and ὁκόταν/ὁπόταν, and in the pair ἐπήν and ἐπειδάν. The corpus provides a total of 2020 examples, distributed in the following way: ὅταν (738 examples), ὁκόταν/ ὁπόταν (699), ἐπήν (490) and ἐπειδάν (93). All of this material has been organised into a database with the following fields: Verb in the main clause, verb in the subordinate clause and respective order of both clauses. At the same time, within the database, the date and treatise in which each conjunction appears has been summarised. The results have highlighted, amongst other things, certain aspects linked to the verb tenses and their distribution in different periods. They have also allowed the author to pinpoint some writing styles that clarify some of relationships between the different treatises in the CH. It is also clear that ἐπειδάν offers a series of features that differentiate it from the other three conjunctions studied.

Elsa García Novo tackles the use of διό both as an indirect interrogative and with its "resultative" value, a specific use first seen in the CH. García Novo explains that it is a means of introducing clauses that has often been badly classified as a causal clause when in reality it is an action or a state that leads to an effect, introduced by the subordinate διό. It is found in 21 treatises (three of which are from the late period), with a total of 45 passages in which variants are discussed and a translation is offered. It is a comfortable resource to use, and one that is particularly useful thanks to its referencing sensu lato to the previous passage, so no antecedent is necessary. Xenophon, Plato, Isocrates and, above all, Aristotle also know of and use this meaning.

Finally, the article by Mercedes López Salvá analyses the use of the subjunctive and optative through the treatises De capitis vulneribus, De carnibus, De corde and De decente habitu, with a view to establishing how the use of these modes developed from the 5th century BC to the 3rd Century AD. With regards to the optative, we see a strong tendency for it to be used in stereotyped formulae and for it to disappear from conditional clauses where the subjunctive is preferred.

In summary, this book is generally well edited and has a modest index of subject matter (although a more generous subject index including the passages and authors quoted would have been gratefully received). It contains a collection of six linguistic studies of a high scientific and methodological quality and standard, which help us to better understand the language of the CH and, as a result, its content. It is a highly recommendable book for those studying the CH, the history of the Greek language and Greek linguistics in general.

Authors and Titles

Introducción. 5-11
Pascual Espinosa Espinosa, "Adjetivos acabados en -ώδης, que son hapax legomena en el Corpus Hippocraticum". 13-51
Ignacio Rodríguez Alfageme, "Los compuestos lexemáticos en el Corpus Hippocraticum". 53-88
Alicia Esteban Santos, "Los infinitivos en las Epidemias y su relación con la composición de los distintos tratados". 89-129
Jesús Ángel Espinós, "La subordinación temporal en el Corpus Hippocraticum a partir del empleo de las conjunciones ὅταν, ὁκόταν/ὁπόταν, ἐπήν y ἐπειδάν". 131-156
Elsa García Novo, "Estudio de διό en el Corpus Hippocraticum". 157-175
Mercedes López Salvá, "Estudio de los modos subjuntivo y optativo en VC, Carn., Corde, Decent. y Gland.". 177-214
Bibliografía. 215-226
Índice de materias. 227-228


1.   Vid. e.g. Rodríguez Alfageme, Ignacio. "Sobre la fecha de Hipp. De glandulis". Epos 8 (1992), 549-566. "La atribución de Hipp. De visu". CFC (G) 3 (1993): 57-65. "De locis in homine: intento de datación". CFC (G) 20 (2010), 25-44. Sierra de Grado, Cristina. Rasgos de estilo y recursos de composición en algunos tratados del Corpus Hippocraticum. Madrid: E-Prints Complutense, 2003.
2.   Vid. e.g. "La medicina hipocrática: formación del Corpus Hippocraticum y su proyección". La lengua científica griega: orígenes, desarrollo e influencia en las lenguas modernas europeas. Ed. Juan Antonio López Férez. Madrid: Ediciones clásicas, 2000. 173-182.
3.   Vid. e.g. Ángel, Jesús. Comentario sintáctico-estilístico de Epidemias V y VII. Madrid: E-Prints Complutense, 2003.
4.   Vid. e.g. García Novo, Elsa. "Relación entre infinitivo y modos en la oración de πρίν, tomando como ejemplo el Corpus Hippocraticum", CFC (G) 2 (1993) 137-164. "El adverbio πρίν y el autor C del Corpus Hipocraticum", CFC (G) 3 (1993) 129-140. Ángel, Jesús. "A propósito de ἡνίκα en el Corpus Hippocraticum", CFC (G) 5 (1995,)193-196. "Algunas consideraciones acerca de ciertos rasgos sintácticos en "Epidemias V y VII": la subordinación temporal en el contexto de la lengua hipocrática", Minerva, 22 (2009) 107-126.

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