BMCR 1997.09.09

Lexicographica Graeca

, Lexicographica graeca : contributions to the lexicography of ancient Greek. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. vi, 343 pages. ISBN 9780198149705. $85.00.

Classicists should read at least the introduction to this work as well as scan several entries in order to learn something about principles of lexicography. Chadwick has long and profitably been interested in lexicography, and in this work presents principles of procedure in the creation of lexical entries and some corrections to LSJ and its supplements. We all use LSJ, and it would be well that we consider on what principles—if any—entries are arranged in that work and possible objections to them. Chadwick offers a number of additions and corrections to LSJ, some of major significance, others rather slight. Though Chadwick finds fault with LSJ in its layout and some of its archaic glosses of words, he nonetheless holds (11) that “most of the entries are basically sound.” Furthermore it is unlikely that another such lexicon will ever be produced. New information on words and new attestations continually occur, though, and these necessitate corrections and additions to the lexicon. In written form, this is of course impossible, since one cannot simply add to existing entries. Hence supplements have been created. To these Chadwick objects on a number of grounds, one being sheer size and complexity: to him a dictionary is a tool, and the larger and more convoluted a lexicon, the less useful it will prove.

His lexicographical principles seem impeccable. One can either take over another’s lexicon and add/delete to/from it; or one can start from scratch. In the former instance—that of LSJ in fact—one is apt to include ghost words: e.g., ἔτυς ἥρυς ὀλερός; Hesychian glosses that are mistaken: ἄντομος; or forms due to editorial error δισκυρ. The other way is to start from scratch, assemble examples of the various lexical items and sort them. A provisional definition should be arrived at, and a basic meaning of the term elicited. One should avoid a proliferation of meanings for any word, another fault in LSJ, which not only gives too many meanings, but also does not present for the reader a clear and easy way to determine the various ways a word can be used. Chadwick suggests reordering of a number of entries—ἰσχυρός κεφαλή κινέω—providing a clearer sequence of meanings.

So far so good, the lexicographer has spoken, and has illustrated his methodology with a number of short articles on points in which he feels that LSJ requires improvement: I particularly recommend his words (311-2) introductory to his comments on LSJ‘s entry ψυχή. Chadwick does not undertake to replace LSJ or even suggest that such should be done; nor does he attempt a (portion of the) semantics of Greek. His aim is to provide better entries on Greek words and to arrange meanings in a logical sequence that will prove informative for the user. His work is not definitive (27): “These notes are not finished pieces of a new lexicon, but drafts in usum lexicographorum, which will, I hope, be of interest to Greek scholars generally.”

And in this lies the strength of the work and its weakness: one can learn from Chadwick about method, but will not begin to appreciate the nature and richness of the Greek vocabulary. His alphabetical listing which follows LSJ assures an atomistic approach, and obscures, e.g., the fact that θυμός μένος ψυχή have a shared range of meanings, at least for the English-speaking reader, and should be considered together; as should ἱερός ὅσιος. A semantic analysis would have grouped these words. Chadwick is quite correct in his treatment of θάλος θάλεα, but clearly a semantic analysis of these words should also have to include θαλερός θαλέθω (a principle Chadwick acknowledges [266] in his discussion of τέλειος).

He speaks of “meanings,” and refers to monosemy, the case of words with but one meaning, and polysemy, the case in which a word has many meanings.

But he does not define meaning. The closest he comes—and this is very close—is in his critique of LSJ‘s practice (20): “This should be, if necessary, a lengthy phrase which accurately defines the examples grouped together and excludes all others.” Here he is absolutely correct, and one wonders why he speaks then of “meanings,” when (I think) he really means “uses.” For example with ἐκτός to which he devotes some five pages he discerns nine “senses.” All of the sentences quoted are correct and correctly glossed in English, but one is left wondering about the meaning of the word. It seems clearly to mean “outside” in all of its uses. I hold that a dictionary should provide as its definition that word (or words or phrase/s) that meets Chadwick’s requirments for a “provisional definition.” One may then list as many uses as one wants and the audience will demand, but the user of the dictionary will at least know that there is a basic meaning that underlies all the others. In fact LSJ (and hence Chadwick) in part are providing in a somewhat opaque manner an English-Greek lexicon (lemmatized, to be sure, under the Greek word) that enables the English speaker to determine in given contexts how to render English expressions into Greek. Or, put another way, the lexicon informs the reader how to translate—but not necessarily to understand—the word in given contexts: LSJ is a discursive commentary on selected passages of Greek and not a true lexicon.

I choose the entry ὀξύς in order to contrast the lexicographic and the linguistic construction of dictionary entries. Chadwick holds of this word (211): “The general sense of the word is so close to English sharp, that it might seem unnecessary to devote a note to a detailed investigation.” He gives eleven uses, all suitable to the contexts in which they occur. The first, “pointed,” is almost certainly the basic meaning and will do throughout, save that in English “pointed” when used of perception is usually rendered “sharp.” The question is: did Greeks perceive a difference in meaning ? Clearly they did not, otherwise they would not have used the word in the many contexts that they did. It is to be noted that some of Chadwick’s categories contain the same syntagmata—e.g., ὀξὺ βέλος in Il. 4.185 describes a missile and means “sharp”; but the same phrase occurs also in Il. 11.269, where Chadwick glosses it as “intensely distressing, fierce, keen.” Are we really to believe that there are two senses here? Or should we not rather hold that English requires several glosses for the single Greek word? Chadwick gives as meanings—I should say contextually defined applications—”acute,” “shrill, piercing,” “high-pitched,” “pungent,” “quick in movement.” The word in Greek seems used mostly of pointed objects and of various activities of the senses. We lack in English words that combine an object with its effect, though Chadwick’s “keen” will do for those for whom the word has meaning. Save that one in Greek cannot be “keen” to do something. So one can assign constructions under the following headings: 1) of physical objects “pointed”; 2) of perception “keen”, adding for the English user: 3) not used of active emotions. Chadwick’s “short-lived, fleeting,” required for Hp. Aph. 1.1 in the phrase ὁ δὲ καιρός ὀξύς I feel misrepresents the Greek, the point of which is that the moment is not so much fleeting as it is pointed, i.e., there is only a point in time at which (not during which) one can act. I note that Chadwick practises semantic analysis in his fine discussion of παρθένος. Let me commend to the reader in addition his entries on ἀραιός θυμός μένος.

Chadwick’s Lexicographica graeca is useful and interesting, but will not find the wide readership or wide acceptance that some of his other works have. He is resigned to that fact, and is the more to be commended for treating of a subject that many practise poorly and others eschew altogether. We can all learn from Chadwick’s lexicographical work as we have from his better-known contributions to Linear B.