Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.02.07

Cooper III, Guy L., Attic Greek Prose Syntax, 2 Vols. After K. W. Krüger.   Ann Arbor:  University of Michigan Press, 1998.  Pp. 1875.  ISBN 0-472-10844-1.  $125.00 (set).  

Reviewed by William F. Wyatt, Brown University (
Word count: 1363 words

I rejoice in the appearance of these volumes, not only for themselves, but because they prove that interest in Greek as a language is still alive. Cooper loves Greek, and has devoted years of work to these volumes; both he and the University of Michigan Press are to be congratulated and thanked for seeing them through to publication. Anyone interested in Attic Greek will want to own the work, though I am confident that readers will at times be perplexed and annoyed at C.'s formulations of grammatical matters and his overheated vocabulary.1 Any reader will, however, be informed by the mass of detailed information on a variety of grammatical, syntactic, and stylistic points.

This work constitutes C.'s massive and idiosyncratic revision of sections 43-69 of K. W. Krüger's Griechische Sprachlehre für Schulen I.2 (fifth edition, Berlin 1873): K.'s sections 1-42 dealt with morphology. Of C.'s 1875 pages 411 are devoted to an index locorum -- there is no index verborum or grammatical index; Preface and index -- repeated in the second volume for some reason -- consume another 72 pp. and have to serve as a (partial and unsatisfactory) index verborum. The still considerable remainder is devoted to what K. (and C.) considered syntax. C. states (p. 6) that his revision of K.'s second volume is "well in hand": we can only hope that it will be soon in press; and that it will contain indices verborum et rerum to both volumes.

K. produced 349 pp. (of smaller print) of syntax: C.'s work is thus some four times as massive as the original which he follows. It is of course for that reason far more detailed, and substitutes thorough coverage for K.'s often sehr knapp and lapidary formulations (cf. C. p. 5). C. also often abbreviates the quotations of K., so that in 43.2.1 ἀγαθῷ stands in for the ἀγαθῷ δὲ οὐδεὶς περὶ οὐδενὸς οὐδέποτε ἐγγίγνεται φθόνος (Pl. Ti. 29e) printed by K. 57.4.2, a most interesting section on predicate adjectives, simply lists the adjective without its context: the examples are therefore meaningless unless one compares the Greek text. C.'s revision thus expands talk about language and reduces the amount of Greek actually quoted. In most cases, though, C. has improved greatly both on K.'s formulations and his examples (e.g. 43.4.15-18) -- though K. is frequently awfully good.

The work is divided into four parts: I "Uses of Declined Forms," which includes number, gender, cases of noun and pronoun (523 pp.); II "Functions of Conjugated Forms," in which voice, tense, mood of the verb are treated (307 pp.); III "Conceptions Proper to the Study of Sentence Structure (Syntax) As Such," which deals with relations between substantives, subject and predicate, complex sentences (178 pp.); IV "Uses of the Uninflected Parts of Speech" such as adverbs, the negative, prepositions and particles (367 pp.). This is K.'s arrangement and reveals that for K. and C. syntax is quite literally a syntax, a placing together of words, or applied morphology: sentences are constructed of forms rather than derived from abstract structures.

K.'s 43 (Gender) covers 10 pp., Cooper's requires 40; K.'s formulations are epigrammatic, C.'s full and detailed; K. is more suited to schools and learners, C. to textual critics and scholars (cf. C. p. 1). I prefer K. as a grammar, and will use C. more as a reference to the interpretation of passages or constructions that interest me. To K.'s 43.4.4 that reads: In metaphorischer Bedeutung bezeichnet ein so substantivirtes Neutrum Standpunkt, Lage, Mass, Grad, etc. C. has, by expanding and combining with other sections: "When expressions such as those in the preceding section pass over into metaphorical acceptance, difficult problems of translation often result. Sometimes a happy coincidence of language allows approximation to the original in its twofold relation, but that is rare. And when it is possible, it is often insidious. To the modern reader the literal sense is usually more apparent. To the ancient author the transferred and secondary sense was frequently more important. Yet half-forgotten residues of local significance are often recollected again as they contribute to stylistic brilliance." This may very well be true -- though I do not see how one can be sure -- but the formulation is impressionistic and sensu stricto not proper to a grammar (or syntax). C. is providing us -- at least in part -- with a contrastive grammar of Greek and English rather than a grammar of Greek. He also pays much attention to style.

Within the first few pages -- and of course elsewhere -- I observed a number of typographical lapses, none really serious, but all at least vaguely disturbing: they should be cleared up for subsequent printings. The reader or user of the work should be advised that there are some repetitions, some misprints, and occasionally a computer-related failure to alter the font from English to Greek, so êρσην for ἄρσην. I have no reason to believe that references to ancient texts are anything but accurate. The Index Locorum is divided into sections with section headings at the top of the page: these headings refer to the section rather than the work to be cited on that page. So in looking for Plato's Timaeus, one goes to the section Pl. Lys. - Pl. Ti, some 42 pp., and then searches till one comes to Pl. Ti. This is inconvenient, the more so since the preceding section is labeled Lys. 17- Pl. Lg.: Plato is divided into two (arbitrarily established) sections.

The section on the definite article (50) is both full and helpful: it does not answer all our questions about Attic use of this form, but the chances are that the answers to our questions reside in the head of the ancient authors, and our analysis will not penetrate so deep. After a bit of nonsense -- (52.3.1) about the "virtual passive" and (48.15.3) "the agent with passive verbs is, in a sense, the real subject anyway" -- C. treats well the voices and tenses. There is both good information here and a nearly total absence of references to the philological investigations of others and to contemporary linguistic theory. At 51.2.5 he provides a ten-page essay on the use of αὐτός as a reflexive pronoun, providing many examples and arguments together with sample translations. This paragraph is an essay preparatory to the simple grammatical statement: "oblique cases of αὐτός can be used as reflexives." (2) Para.67 deals with negatives (40 pp.), and is helpful. 68.9.0 is an eight-page essay on the non-repetition of prepositions when two substantives are construed with the same preposition: this level of detail seems excessive. I record here one basic difference between C.'s approach and my own (p. 1024): "The reason for this rich complexity of modal usage is not only that Greek has such a variety of moods in its conjugation, but also that each mood has such a wide range of distinguishable senses with the so-called potential optative (optative with ἄν) a particularly amazing example of this protean semantics." I hold that Greek had but a few moods, and that the optative had but the one meaning (roughly) "ideal situation": doubtless individuals would use it for different pragmatic purposes, but it lacked "protean semantics."

Who is going to use the work and how? I have read a good deal of the book, and now know how to make my way through it. Students, though, will find it hard going, and scholars may well find it annoying, both in what it says, and in the fact that modern discussions of grammatical points are not cited. Indeed C. cites mainly older works in his (two-page) bibliography, and only Denniston of (more or less) modern scholars is cited often. He evidently believes that the material itself as arranged by K. is sufficiently clear and that subsequent analysis has not brought new insights. I would suggest that users of these volumes read C.'s introduction; then read through the index; read certain portions of the text that seem of immediate interest; and then (perhaps) undertake to read larger sections or even the entire work. It is a gold mine of information, but one has to know where to dig.


1.   E.g., "brilliant" (often) "punchy" (p. 1009), "penchant for belletristic diction" (of Xenophon - p. 1041). Non-linguistic explanation is not rare: "Xenophon's exceptional position here ... is perhaps to be explained by his long years of exile, and his service earlier, as still quite a young man, in large mercenary armies of pan-Hellenic origin" (p. 1051). I note that "middle class materialist" (of Nikias - p. 500) is not a grammatical category. Grammar becomes personified: "But ἄν is drawn to important words in the sentence and lends its phonetic weight to them so that in this way it is often drawn some distance away from the verb with which it is, strictly speaking, construed." (p. 1275)

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