Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Frédéric Lambert, Rutger J. Allan, Theodore Markopoulos (ed.), The Greek Future and its History. Le futur grec et son histoire. Bibliothèque des cahiers de linguistique de Louvain, 139. Louvain-la-Neuve: Peeters, 2017. Pp. viii, 327. ISBN 9789042935136. €84.00.

Reviewed by Staffan Wahlgren, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim (staffan.wahlgren@ntnu.no)

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The changing ways of denoting the future in Greek have been a favourite study of linguists. One reason for their interest lies in the fact that, because of its long-documented history, Greek lends itself so well to diachronic study. Also, for all their similarities, Ancient and Modern Greek are two remarkably different languages from a typological point of view. The neat but semantically vague morphological future of Ancient Greek (which is never very common and always has to compete with other expressions) is replaced by the construction with the particle θα, which, while also competing with other constructions, has the advantage of being integrated into the aspectual system. The intermediary stages of this development and its chronology have been keenly debated, as well as modality and to what extent wishes and expectations of the speaker are articulated in expressions denoting the future.

The present volume aims at an overview of the field of study. After a short editorial "Introduction" (pp. 1-5), a "Prélude" by F. Lambert (pp. 9-32) follows. This is not concerned with the Greek future as such, but with conceptions of the same among ancient and Byzantine grammarians until the 9th c., so as to provide "un panorama de l'histoire de l'idée de futur chez les grammairiens grecs". This is an excellent paper, raising such issues as the understanding of formal vs. semantic categories, and perceptions of the relationship between the future and the aorist. It demonstrates that the ancients had much more sophisticated views about the future than the grammatical literature suggests. Considering the time-span of the texts discussed (more than a millennium is covered), perhaps more could have been said about any signs of development in linguistic thought.

The first section ("Archaic and Classical Greek", pp. 35-234) is by far the largest of the book's three sections, and thus the volume contains a lot about Antiquity and little about anything else. Truly diachronic perspectives are only rarely taken into account. The contributions are written in either English or French, with abstracts provided in both languages. The volume is sometimes less than perfectly edited, with a considerable number of misprints and some problems with the English (and French) of the non-native speakers. Unfortunately, no general index is added. Notes on select contributions follow.

At the head of the first section stands E. Crespo's paper (pp. 35-41) on ἐσσεῖται/ἔσσειται, forms that are attested in the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Hesiod's Works and Days and serve as alternatives to ἔσσεται/ἔσεται/ἔσται. The question asked is from where these forms come into the epic language. As an answer to this question, Crespo suggests that we should look in the direction of some living Doric (or North-West Greek) dialect, concluding that there is no good reason to think of the existence of a Doric epic tradition; rather we should see a panhellenic quality in the epic language, in the sense that it was possible to borrow from anywhere, and that even a clearly Doric, or North-West Greek, trait would cause no offense to an original audience. I think the author is quite right to state his conclusion with caution. After all, the employment of analogy in the epic poems (clearly one of the issues at stake) is a complex matter, and a single group of forms, like ἐσσεῖται/ ἔσσειται, cannot tell all that much.

Second is R. J. Allan's paper (pp. 43-72) on the competition between the -σω-future and constructions with μέλλω. Borrowing the term subjectification from cognitive linguistics, and discussing semantic developments shared by the -σω-future and μέλλω, he answers in the negative the question "whether semantic developments occur in a random manner". Moving on, interesting, and with many fine observations, is J. de la Villa's paper (pp. 73-86) on the future optative, which puts the construction in the wider perspective of the grammaticalisation of relative tense. Further, D. Kölligan discusses (pp. 87-109) the construction with ἔρχομαι and the future participle (i.e. ἔρχομαι φράσων and the like, to which we may compare similar expressions in modern languages, such as going to or (Swedish) kommer att). He describes the restrictions on the usage in a convincing way, and he is perfectly right to stress that this is a literary device and that, whenever the construction occurs in later Greek, there is reason to suspect direct imitation of Herodotus.

The remaining papers of this section are mostly concerned with a limited material (often taken from the classical period only, or even from a limited number of texts), and they contain discussions of matters that, in some cases, seem peripheral. Among these papers I think J.-Chr. Pitavy's contribution (pp. 149-169), on future reference by other devices than the morphological future (or by μέλλω), stands out. For these other devices the author employs the linguistic term futurate, and he focuses the discussion on syntactic patterns with semantic restrictions (such as ὅταν with the subjunctive) as well as the employment of future-oriented adverbials (such as αὔριον).

The second section of the volume, which is devoted to "Diachronical Aspects", is short and contains only two papers. For the reader coming to this volume because of an interest in diachrony, it is likely to be a disappointment. K. Sampanis (pp. 237-251) starts out with a discussion of future expressions in Indoeuropean, moves on to subjunctives in Homeric Greek and arrives, after some further stops along the way, at Modern Greek θα and να. Thus, plenty of ground is covered at great speed. In short, Sampanis argues a parallel development of the future and the subjunctive. Further, C. Denizot/S. Vassilaki contribute an extensive paper (pp. 253-281) on the adverb τυχόν in Ancient and Modern Greek.

In the final section, devoted to Greek of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period (the title of this section, "Early Modern Greek", does not seem well chosen), two papers are presented, both of which make use of hitherto unpublished, or little studied, non-fictional material (whether we are dealing with true reflections of a vernacular is hard to say). First of the papers is Th. Markopoulos' discussion (pp. 285-306) of The Rasûlid Hexaglot, a 14th c. dictionary from Yemen containing entries in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Armenian, Mongolian and Greek. The text has been ignored (by Greek scholars, at least) until now. Besides pointing to the use of Greek outside the Greek-Romance area, it demonstrates the potential of non-literary sources to complement the picture of the Late Medieval Greek we can recognise from literary texts. A specific finding is that the construction with θε να has to be dated earlier than usually thought. At the very end of the volume E. Karantzola (pp. 307-327) presents some texts from the 16th c. Touching upon problems of register and style, she illustrates the great variation and complexity of alternative expressions current at the time.

Obviously, this is not a book for the many. As is often the case with publications of papers read at a conference, the ambitions of the editors—in this case, to cover the history of future expressions in Greek—can hardly be said to have been realised, and there is considerable lack of consistency. Yet, for all its shortcomings the collection of papers may prove of value to those interested in current trends in the discussion of the future in Greek.

Table of Contents

R. Allan, F. Lambert, Th. Markopoulos: Introduction ... 1
F. Lambert: Prelude ... 9

1. Archaic and Classical Greek
E. Crespo: Le futur dorien dans l'épopée archaïque ... 35
R. J. Allan: The history of the future: grammaticalization and subjectification in Ancient Greek future expressions ... 43
J. de la Villa: The future optative and the expression of relative tense in Ancient Greek ... 73
D. Kölligan: From discourse to grammar? Ἔρχομαι + future participle in Greek ... 87
R. Faure: Εἰ + futur: un cas atypique de proposition complétive en grec classique ... 111
A. Orlandini/P. Poccetti (Le futur issu du thème du parfait en grec et en latin: une approche contrastive ... 129
J.-Chr. Pitavy: 'No future'?: exprimer le future sans le futur en grec ancien ... 149
A. Rademaker: If you will vote in my favour: anticipations of the verdict in speeches by Lysias, Antiphon and Andocides ... 171
L. Tronci: Le futur en grec ancien et son rapport au moyen ... 193
E. Weiss: Le futur dans la seconde partie de la première table grecque d'Heraclée ... 211

2. Diachronical Aspects
K. Sampanis: The interplay between the future and the subjunctive mood in the diachrony of the Greek language ... 237
C. Denizot/S. Vassilaki: La fabrique de l'éventuel en grec: les fortunes de τυχόν ... 253

3. Early Modern Greek
Th. Markopoulos: The Rasûlid Hexaglot and the development of the Greek future ... 285
E. Karantzola: Aspects de l'expression grammaticale du futur au XVIe siècle ... 307

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