Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.12.23
Alexandros Vasileiades, Από την φιλίαν στην φίλησιν ουσιαστικά σε -σις στο αριστοτελικό corpus: συμβολή στη μελέτη των μηχανισμών δημιουργίας φιλοσοφικών τεχνικών όρων. Αριστοτελικά μελετήματα 1. Thessaloniki: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 2010. Pp. 180. ISBN 9789602436707.
Reviewed by Amy Coker, University of Liverpool (firstname.lastname@example.org)
[A table of contents, with translations of the chapter-titles, is given at the end of the review.]
This book (in English entitled ‘From φιλία to φίλησις: nouns ending in -σις in the Aristotelian corpus: a contribution to the study of the mechanisms giving rise to technical philosophical terminology’) does exactly what its title suggests, giving a detailed account of the appearance and use of nouns ending in –σις in the works of Aristotle. The fifth and fourth centuries BC witnessed the creation of a large number of Greek nouns in -σις formed from verbs and denoting the result of an action (nomina actionis, and also nomina rei actae), e.g. δόσις ‘the act of giving’ or ‘gift’ from δίδωμι ‘I give’.1 These new words are found frequently but not exclusively in works concerned with intellectual enquiry, especially philosophy and medicine; many are found for the first (and often the only) time in works attributed to Aristotle, hence this study devoted to understanding his use of this specific type of formation.2 Vasileiades’ book is a revised version of his doctoral thesis of 2007 and is the first volume in a new series entitled ‘Αριστοτελικά μελετήματα’ (‘Aristotelian studies’), published by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.3 The aim of the series is to publish original monographs produced at the University and, more broadly, to foster interest in Aristotle, and thus this work is an appropriate first volume. While the fact that the work is written in Modern Greek may render it inaccessible to many readers, the concise summary in English provided at the end of the book, together with the indices cataloguing his data, make much of Vasileiades’ work available to anyone familiar with the alphabet and willing to sit down with a dictionary. An English translation of the table of contents is given at the end of this review to assist those who wish to delve deeper.
After a short introduction (pp. 15-17), Vasileiades begins with discussion of a pair of terms which encapsulate some of the issues and introduce some of the questions on which he will focus, namely φιλία and φίλησις (pp. 19-28). He outlines how the development of Aristotle’s thinking on the nature of friendship in Nicomachean Ethics led to the need for more than the single term φιλία: φιλία developed in Aristotle’s writings to mean specifically the virtue ‘friendship’ (‘a disposition without affective experience’ as Vasileiades translates on p. 159), while φίλησις was created for use alongside the original term with the meaning ‘loving’ as the pathos or affective state. Vasileiades stresses that the creation of terminology is very much a part of Aristotle’s thinking and it is this terminological innovation – using –σις to create new terms, all of which express some kind of ‘activity’ – which is explored through the rest of the book.
The next chapter gives an overview of the use of the suffix -σις, with a survey of previous scholarship and figures on the distribution of nouns formed in this way in works before Aristotle and in the Aristotelian corpus: around 5% off all nouns in works attributed to Aristotle are formed with -σις and of these some 36% (231 nouns) are not attested in earlier works (p. 33). Those which are attested prior to Aristotle are generally first seen in Plato and the Hippocratic corpus, and Vasileiades ponders the relationship between Aristotle and these writers, as well as with pre-Socratic texts including the early Ionian philosophers. The author concludes with his assertion that Aristotle creates new terms in line with existing linguistic patterns, but in the mould of his own individual language, a conclusion stressed elsewhere in this work.
The next chapter is in many ways the core of the work, containing detailed discussion of the bulk of Vasileiades’ data; it is the largest chapter by far, amounting to around a third of the total work. This mammoth chapter develops the hypothesis that terms in -σις in Aristotle are created according to his own philosophical principles, and that all denote changes of state: the chapter is thus divided into sections which focus on these various types of changes and their subdivisions, and the nouns which can be grouped under each heading. These categories are ἐνέργεια (activity), κίνησις (motion) and μεταβολή (change). The chapter then considers the different spheres in which nouns in –σις are found: Logic, Rhetoric/Poetics and Ethics/Politics. One of Vasileiades’ findings is that this body of nouns can be divided into semantic neologisms (earlier attested words used with new meanings) and lexical neologisms (words which appear first in Aristotle), and these processes of noun creation take place as part of the philosophical discourse. In this framework, in the pair φιλία ~ φίλησις, φιλία is a semantic neologism, φίλησις a lexical neologism. The author reasserts his earlier statement here, that Aristotle’s language is not at odds with general principles of language development observed elsewhere in Greek, but that he innovates within the existing framework while attempting to form his own technical vocabulary beyond that established by earlier writers on science and philosophy (p. 90, paraphrased).
The closing chapters consider more briefly the occurrences of nouns in -σις alongside the verbs from which they are created, and then the relationship between nouns formed with -σις and those made with other suffixes which form nouns with similar semantic content, namely -μα and -μός (also forming nomina actionis and nomina rei actae), and the adjective-forming suffix -τικός. Before the short conclusion, Vasileiades provides a comprehensive list of nouns in -σις in Aristotle, with each noun annotated according to distribution.4 He concludes that Aristotle’s creation of nouns in -σις is tied to his general philosophical principles, i.e. concepts of ‘movement’ and ‘activity’, and that he also used and developed existing terms as part of his own particular discourse; he suggests that mechanisms similar to those outlined in Aristotle’s creation of technical terms in -σις also operated for those terms he formed with different suffixes, e.g. -μα.
This is an unashamedly specialist work and has the feel very much of a doctoral thesis. However, it is generally fairly readable and on the whole the philosophical background needed to appreciate the discussion is explained in the appropriate place. The evidence on which Vasileiades’ conclusions are based is presented clearly, and moreover the catalogue of data is well set out and easy to use. The work contains much of use to scholars interested in the details of Aristotle’s Greek and how the philosopher tailored his language and terminology to suit his discursive and argumentational needs.
To this linguistically-minded reviewer (scholars of philosophy may find other issues to raise), one area which perhaps deserves more consideration is the relationship between Aristotle’s use of the suffix -σις and its use by his non- prose predecessors, especially given the stress laid by Vasileiades on the degree to which Aristotle innovates. The growth of this class of nouns at this period appears not to be driven exclusively by the need for theoretical terminology within the realm of intellectual enquiry, as its numbers increase also in poetry and other linguistic spheres. For example, as part of his discussion of examples of -σις in the Aristophanic corpus, Andreas Willi observes that examples found in Attic inscriptions of the fifth century BC cannot all be ascribed to the need for intellectual vocabulary, but are rather to be seen as part of a more general trend in expression.5 Similarly, albeit in a later period, there are many new formations in -σις attested in the Ptolemaic papyri, by no means all of which can have been purely technical formations.6 This suggests that the increase in the use of -σις was more widespread than the literary evidence alone suggests, and that Aristotle’s usage reflects not only an intellectual or literary trend, but a more general one affecting the language at many levels. Conversely, there are places in the book where Vasileiades seems to accord Aristotle more influence as a linguistic trail-blazer than is justified by his data: Aristotle may create new words, but many of them do not gain common currency, even within philosophical discourse. However, neither of these points detracts greatly from the overall contribution of Vasileiades’ work, which has much to recommend it to those interested in the specifics of Aristotelian language.
As a final point, I wonder whether a Greek-English glossary might have been helpfully included, as in some recent Greek works on linguistics.7 Even among classicists, Greek is not the most familiar of the modern languages of Europe, and while not wishing to over-accommodate the Anglophone, I suggest that with a glossary Vasileiades could have easily and cheaply enhanced the accessibility of his book, which remains quite a technical, ‘niche-market’ text.
Table of Contents
Prologue (Πρόλογος) pp. 13-14
Introduction (Εισαγωγή) pp. 15-17
The terms φιλία~φίλησις (Οι όροι φιλία-φίλησις) pp. 19-28
The productive ending –σις (Η παραγωγική κατάληξη –σις) pp. 29-35
The meaning and shape of terms (Σημασία και μορφή ορων) pp. 37-91
Nominal* and Verbal logos (Ονοματικός και ρηματικός λόγος) pp. 93-104 * translated by Vasileiades (p. 164f.) as ‘nominative’
Related productive endings and terms (Συγγενείς παραγωγικές καταλήξεις και όροι) pp. 105-133
Nouns in -σις in the Aristotelian corpus (Τα ουσιαστικά σε -σις του αριστοτελικό corpus) pp. 135-146
Conclusions (Συμπεράσματα) pp. 147-151
[English] Summary pp.159-167
Index locorum in Aristotle (Πίνακας αριστοτελκών χώρων) pp. 169-173
Index of Greek words (Ευρετήριο λεξέων και όρων) pp. 175-180
1. A detailed account of the suffix and its history is found in P. Chantraine, La formation des noms en grec ancien (Paris, 1933), §§217-228
2. Broad-brush figures are found in G. R. Vowles, ‘Studies in Greek Noun-Formation: Dental Terminations, V: Words in -σις and -τις’. CPh 23 (1928), 34-59 at 58, repeated in Chantraine 1933 (see note 1), §223.
3. The second volume in the series is announced here
4. The key to this useful list is translated here into English: (K) in common use; (author name) occurrence in earlier or contemporary writers; (A) first witness is Aristotle. For the (A) category, in addition the annotations used are: (α) hapax in Aristotle; (1) found only in Aristotle; (*) presence in a work whose attribution to Aristotle is disputed; (+) does not appear in LSJ.
5. A. Willi, (2003) The Languages of Aristophanes. Aspects of Linguistic Variation in Classical Attic Greek (Oxford, 2003),134-6
6. E. Mayser, Grammatik der griechischen Papyri aus der Ptolemäerzeit I.3 (Leipzig, 1970), §83.19
7. e.g. A. Αναστασιάδη-Συμεωνίδη, Α. Ράλλη & Δ. Χειλά-Μαρκοπούλου (eds.), Το Γένος (Athens, 2003)