BMCR 1997.09.08

Greek-English Lexicon; Lexicographica Graeca

, , Greek-English Lexicon, Ninth Edition with Revised Supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. xlv + 2042 (Lexicon); xxxi + 320 (Revised Supplement). ISBN 9780198642268.
, Lexicographica Graeca: Contributions to the Lexicography of Ancient Greek. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. vi, 343 pages. ISBN 9780198149705.

It is convenient to consider the Revised Supplement to LSJ together with Lexicographica Graeca, since Chadwick’s book provides an interesting commentary on the Supplement as well as general remarks on the history of LSJ and on lexicography in general. Chadwick is on the whole critical of both LSJ and the two supplements (1968 and 1996) and provides a stimulating foil for evaluation both of the main lexicon and of the new Supplement.

Lex. Graec. is a slightly odd-looking book, consisting of a preface, a thirty page introduction, and then eighty or so Greek words (headwords, as they would appear in a dictionary) with discussion and definition. It might be expected that a book of this format would be slightly dry and dull. In fact the reverse is true: Chadwick’s salty style combined with the semantic insights and lexicographic tips that he offers make a fascinating book which, though certainly browsable, may be read from cover to cover. In the first sentence of the Preface, C. records that he is “surprised at his own boldness—temerity might be a better word—in embarking on the compilation of this collection of notes.” This is no doubt a little lexicographic joke (slyly recalling Plato’s parody of Prodicus in the Protagoras), since C. is particularly well qualified to write on the Greek lexicon; as he tells us in his wide-ranging and semi-biographical Introduction, he worked on the Oxford Latin Dictionary at the start of his career, and after many other lexicographic projects was on the committee formed in 1980 to oversee the production of the Revised Supplement to LSJ. As an expert in the field he takes a dim view of LSJ and an even dimmer view of the 1968 Supplement. In his 1994 article 1 on the subject he remarked that “those with no lexicographical experience will probably still approve much that they examine [sc. in LSJ], for it takes a special kind of expertise to uncover the errors.” He is probably right, but on the principle that best should not be the enemy of the good, it may be permitted to those of us without such experience (but with various other angles on the history of Greek language) to benefit from C.’s criticisms but to come to less pessimistic conclusions. A crucial question in the evaluation of LSJ as it stands (i.e., ninth ed. with Revised Suppl.) is who the users are likely to be and whether it gives good value for money in serving their needs. C. notes that his first encounter with the Lexicon (eighth edition) was “the result of an excellent classical education which I received at my public school” (why does he add the word “public”? No doubt more lexicographical whimsy—the word here means “private, expensive”—and a pointer to his discussion of the way a word can come to mean its opposite, p. 221 s.v. ὅσιος). Times, of course, have changed; nowadays it is exceptional even for undergraduates to consult the large dictionaries (unless they are doing prose composition, which is rarely compulsory on University syllabuses). An important category of customers for LSJ is (as Glare 2 has noted) graduate students, who work increasingly on uncanonical authors, papyrological and epigraphic material. Secondly, people in workshops, museums and dig-houses all over the world who may not have access to the TLG on CD-ROM and who need practical help with an unfamiliar form. A third major category comprises University teachers, who would not doubt love to have the perfect lexicon sitting on their desks (accurate, full, idiomatic, up-to-date, compact, cheap and tailored to their own particular interests), but who should be in a position to deal with minor mistakes in LSJ by means of recourse to specialist works and computerized databases. At the end of this review I shall consider briefly whether LSJ in its present form is likely to satisfy these various needs.

C.’s lexical notes reflect his engagement with the destiny of LSJ in the wider sense and his involvement with the Revised Suppl. in particular. The notes vary in length and purpose: (i) some serve as expanded or explanatory pieces on entries in the Revised Suppl.; (ii) some record his disagreement with entries that prevailed, and (iii) some are attempts to rewrite (or adumbrate) existing LSJ entries from scratch. There is a good deal of illuminating lexicographic comment on top of the semantic and philological analysis; some entries involve a reinterpretation of a literary passage. They are all well worth reading, and I simply add some miscellaneous notes: – ἄχυρον. If Mod. Gk. is to be cited (as C. argues) then he could mention modern ἄυρο to support his definition “straw.” -γράφω. It may be true that “the practice of writing must have been known to the poet we call Homer,” but in view of the hot disagreements on this topic that continue to the present it is perhaps unfair to criticize LSJ for their (implied) position. – The note on ἤ and ἦ is an excellent analysis which clears up much of the confusion surrounding the meanings of these words and their accentuation. I wonder if he is right (11) to cite Aristophanes as evidence that interrogative ἤ was colloquial: he quotes Nu. 482f. πυθέσθαι βούλομαι / ἦ μνημονικὸς εἶ, but the MSS have ει) (Coulon’s apparatus is wrong in ascribing ἦ to M; it is a conjecture by Dobree). In Ach., for example, where the word occurs five times, three instances are in the mouth of the Megarian, and two appear in the high-blown and paratragic language of Euripides. Under 14 (ἤ introduces indirect question in Homer) one should perhaps also cite Eur. Med. 493f. (and Page’s note ad loc.). – θάλασσα. The discussion of Laconian κα[θ] θαλ[θ]θαν is a little difficult to follow. If the inscription confirms (and its date is disputed) that in 5th cent. Laconian θ was pronounced as a spirant [θ] (as in Engl. “thin”), then this may be because the spelling -θ for -ς is an “inverse spelling”; which is to say that the engraver will have been aware of the new habit of writing σ for θ and became so confused by all the spirants in the sequence κα[θ] θαλα[σ]σαν that he wrote θ for σ by mistake.

I shall return occasionally to Chadwick’s book in the following remarks on the Revised Supplement.

It is difficult to review a dictionary, even a supplement. One can make general remarks on the guiding philosophy, and examine particular entries in a hopelessly random way. A little background 3 may be helpful to begin with: LSJ in its present form is the ninth edition of the lexicon, compiled between 1925 and 1940. The first edition of Liddell & Scott appeared in 1843: it had taken ten years to put together, and was based on the fourth edition of the Greek-German lexicon of F. Passow (1831). The first edition of Passow (1824) was in turn based on the Griechisch-deutches Wörterbuch of J. Schneider (1798). LSJ is, therefore, a lexicon with a past. One might take the view (with Chadwick) that this is in itself a problem, and that the ideal solution would be to start again from scratch (thus the OLD). Since, in my view, LSJ is in an adequate state, this would not be worth the time or the money, and is probably not feasible in any case. What is perhaps negotiable is whether additions and corrections could be incorporated into the main lexicon rather than separately produced in supplements. The first Supplement did not impress Chadwick (“amateurish and in places incompetent”), but received some good reviews (e.g., by Gordon Messing in CPh 1969, who even composed a supplement to Hardy’s famous poem on Liddell & Scott). Reviewers took issue with the omission of Mycenean Greek on the grounds that “the scholarly world is at present divided on the validity of the Ventris decipherment” (Preface p. v), which seemed absurd in 1968. The Revised Supplement adds the Myc. forms to the end of entries “to warn the user that the word occurred in the Linear B texts” (I might prefer “to excite the user with the information that “).

There are three types of entry in the Revised Supplement: i) completely new lemmata, which are marked (as in 1968) by a superscript “x”; ii) additions and corrections to entries in LSJ, which are unmarked; and (iii) entries from LSJ which have been substantially redrafted; these are marked with a superscript “+”. Cross-references within the Supplement are marked with a superscript circle, and cross-references to both Supplement and LSJ are marked with a double cross . In the main lexicon lemmata are marked with a superscript cartwheel (a circled asterisk) to indicate that the Supplement should be consulted. Although one quickly gets used to this, users have complained bitterly that the symbols are not laid out for easy reference at the beginning of the Supplement, but buried in the text on p. vi. The quality of the photographic reproduction of the main text of LSJ is passable though not good.

There are various types of new information which justify the production of the Supplement: i) new words and usages from epigraphic and papyrological finds; ii) Mycenaean forms; iii) the correction of inadvertent mistakes and omissions in LSJ and the 1968 Supplement; and (iv) the correction of entries which, in the judgment of the new editors, LSJ (and 1968 Suppl.) analyzed wrongly. Each column in the Supplement (which with 20, 000 entries is nearly twice the size of 1968) has, by my calculation, approximately forty to forty-five entries, of which between a quarter and a third are new lemmata. In the new prefatory section I (Authors and Works) modern editions are listed and corrections are made (e.g., under Corinna we have “for ‘vi BC’ read ‘?v/iii BC'” where 1968 had “iii/ii BC (?)”). Similarly for sections II-V (Epigraphical publications, abbreviations, etc.). These of course apply only to the new Supplement, although the entries in the Supplement do not necessarily follow the readings of the listed edition. The editors made no attempt to correct any of the out-dated etymologizing which is found (irregularly) in LSJ. This is the right decision: a lexicon like LSJ should not be consulted for historical linguistic information, which can be got from more appropriate and up-to-date sources. The excellent Chicago Hittite Dictionary illustrates the wisdom of avoiding the temptation to add etymological speculation to a lexicon designed to show meaning and usage. The new Myc. information takes two forms: Myc. forms are listed as addenda to existing LSJ entries; and there are occasional (asterisked) new entries where a Myc. form is listed that is not found in alphabetic Greek. The preface claims that the probable reconstruction of Myc. forms is given together with the standard (syllabic) transliteration. This is on the whole only true of the new lemmata; the addenda are usually given in syllabic form, with some guidance as to their inflectional form (thus under βοῦς( “Myc. qo-o [prob. acc. pl.]”). Meanings are occasionally added when the editors feel sufficiently confident that a significant difference is involved (thus under βασιλεύς the Myc. qa-si-re-u is glossed “chief [not king]”). A common sense, if slightly irregular, approach to the morphology has been adopted: thus ki-ti-me-na is listed both under κτίζω and ἐυκτίμενος but (probably rightly) no new athematic verb Κτίημι is added to the list of lemmata. It is not of course the purpose of the Supplement to function as an unofficial lexicon of Mycenean Greek, but in fact a quick comparison with the indices of standard Myc. handbooks indicates that most undisputed Myc. words have in fact been incorporated. One slight irritation reflects a defect in the original plan of Liddell & Scott: the omission of place-names and many personal names. Where LSJ lists a personal name, such as Ἀχιλλεύς the Suppl. adds the Myc. form. The editors will also sneak in a Myc. name under a substantive lemma (thus under γλαυκός), but there are no new lemmata for, e.g., Deucalion or Idomeneia. Since many Myc. texts consist of lists of names this represents a considerable gap.

Important new contributions from papyri and epigraphy are included. The editors could perhaps have indicated a cut-off date in the preface: since a major new inscription from Selinous published in 1993 4 did not make it, one can assume that this must be roughly the terminus. In an attempt to reach an overview on the entries I tried two steps: i) I checked one column at roughly five-page intervals under A and B, and (ii) I drew up a list of odd words and sources that I happen to have come across in the last few years and looked them up. It is easy to list quibbles on this method, but I should say at the beginning that in most cases the Supplement gave a perfectly satisfactory entry. It is more difficult to detect omissions than points of disagreement, and others will no doubt add more to the list from different areas of specialization. I don’t underestimate the extraordinary task that the team had in tracking down so many diverse and obscure publications.

It is worth noting that the editors have no problem printing accents on epigraphic forms (the linguistically correct have queried this practice: thus Sihler, New Comparative Grammar).

Some of the corrected entries are barely worth a line of print: e.g., s.v. ἁβρύνω “delete wax wanton” (this is the sort of correction that could be made in a re-set edition). ἀείδω why bother deleting the ref. to Ar. Lys. 1243? The text is corrupt (Laconian) but this lexeme is certain. Conversely, βαρβαρόμυθος (Ar. Pax 753) is an unnecessary addition, an unlikely conjecture of Meineke for MSS βορβορόθυμος (the Budé—the listed text—keeps the MS reading).The entry in LSJ s.v. ἠλεός should include a ref. in the Supplement to a Laconian form ϝαλεός at Lys. 988, and this reference should be deleted from LSJ s.v. παλαιός. άει? – LSJ give “Dor. αἰές” on the strength of Ar. Lys. 1266; the entry in the Suppl. should perhaps add a new epigraphic ref. for this (SEG 11. 956, Laconia, v B.C.). διδώμι Cowgill’s interpretation ἔδυϝαν (syllabic script) at ICS 217.6 is accepted, but this entails a new lemma οἰν(υ), which Cowgill associated with οὖν, and deletion of the LSJ ref. to Cypr. NU, s.v. νῦν ιι.3. μᾶδδα in Ar. Ach. 732, 835 all MSS give μάδδα. The accent implies a short vowel, which is what one would expect in view of Latin massa (implies μάζα, Attic μάζα_ is anomalous). μένος a ref. to Archil. fr. 196A (West, P. Colon. 7511) ἀφῆκα μένος might be worth while (compare the ref. to blood in LSJ I.4). Finally, some new Menandrian forms 5 appear to have escaped the notice of the editors of the Revised Supplement (many were missing from 1968). Thus the perfect of σπείρω . Oxy. 2656), which antedates LSJ’s reference (Polyaenus) by several centuries. Similarly for βωλοκοπέω (no reference to Menander in the new entry) and for κινέω, λαλέω, λυπέω, ὀδυνάω, and others. In general the chronological principle which Liddell & Scott embrace in their preface needs to be clarified by future editors: are we to understand that when an entry gives an instance of (say) the perfect, that this is the first attested perfect form of that verb? Or does the principle extend to meaning only and not to morphology? The same problem occurs with names as with Mycenean above: new epigraphic finds are not added unless LSJ has a corresponding lemma. Thus the Suppl. gives μενέλας s.v. μενέλαος, but does not give ϝελεναι (dat., SEG 26. 458, Laconia, vi B.C.) which is considerably more interesting as a form.

There are many more issues that one could record, and the reader is referred to Chadwick’s introduction for discussion of points omitted here. The questions remain, is this a useful book, and should one buy it? Those who already possess LSJ will wonder whether to buy the Revised Supplement or whether to go for the new package. There is a slight economic inducement to go for the whole package, which is more reasonably priced per ounce than the Supplement, and comes with the advantage of cartwheels in the text of the main lexicon to indicate an entry in the Supplement. The Supplement is certainly worth the money for professional classicists, epigraphists, papyrologists. Students and other bargain-seekers could look out for second-hand copies of LSJ (1968) and use the Supplement in libraries. But the investment is worth it, in my view, for anyone who can afford the new edition (and it’s not unreasonably priced at the equivalent of seven Loebs). The main lexicon, with all its faults, is a marvellous research tool, and the Supplement is a genuinely useful addition for all who intend to do more than read Greek tragedy in their lifetimes. It is a pity that modern technology will not allow a printed edition with the addenda incorporated into the main text: and one looks forward to the issuing of the new edition on CD-ROM, which would allow future additions and corrections to be added at regular intervals. I cannot agree with Chadwick that the time has come for a parting of the ways: a “total lexicon” at an electronic site plus selective, specialized dictionaries. There could be no objection, of course, to a total lexicon, if such a project could ever be realized; but in the foreseeable future a corrected, updated and portable version of LSJ on CD would ensure that what Glare rightly calls “the most useful aid to Greek lexicography ever published” retains its position into the next century.

1.”The case for replacing Liddell & Scott,”BICS 39, 1-11.

2.”Liddell and Scott: its background and present state,” in Studies in Lexicography (ed. R. Burchfield, Oxford 1987), 1-18.

3. Useful accounts in Chadwick, Glare (op. cit.), and Robert Collison, A History of Foreign-Language Dictionaries (London 1982).

4. A Lex Sacra from Selinous (GRBS Monogr. 11), Durham NC 1993.

5. For which I am grateful to Donna Goldberg (Hebrew Univ.).