This book is an extensive study of the use of subordinate clauses and participial clauses in Xenophon’s prose. Buijs (hereafter B.) successfully demonstrates that the choice between a subclause or a participial clause in the management of textual information may best be understood through discourse analysis, a method of examining linguistic phenomena in context, moving beyond the limitations of a sentence-by-sentence approach. B. intends his audience to be not just specialists in Greek linguistics and discourse analysis but anyone interested in Xenophon and Greek historiography generally. All Greek in the book is translated. Translations are either taken directly or are adapted from the Loeb editions of Xenophon.
The book begins with a lengthy introduction, in which B. reveals as insufficient the explanations which traditional grammars1 have given for the seemingly arbitrary choice between participial clauses and subclauses. For his discourse analytic approach, B. announces that he will not define “rules,” but “regularities” of linguistic choice, drawing primarily from Xenophon’s Hellenica and Anabasis, though a good deal of evidence is also drawn from the Agesilaus and the Cyropaedia. As his study treats narrative phenomena, B. regularly distinguishes between the “level of the Real World construction” and the “level of text articulation” (13-16).
Chapter two is a close reading of six near minimal pairs (NMP’s), parallel passages from the works of Xenophon which differ in their choice of subclauses and participial clauses for relaying similar narrative information. B.’s comparative analysis of Hellenica 3.4.15-16 and Agesilaus 1.19-25 is representative of his methodology as a whole. Both passages depict the same real world event — the raising of a cavalry force by Agesilaus — and much of the wording is similar in both passages. There are, however, differences in the deployment of finite verbs, participles, and subordinate clauses. When Agesilaus is represented raising a cavalry in the passage from the Hellenica, it is as part of a larger narrative episode, whereas the same narrative material in the Agesilaus is given more elaboration. Grammatical differences, argues B., are due to the texts’ different discursive aims: in the historiographic narrative of the Hellenica, Agesilaus’ action is “hierarchically downgraded” by the conjunct participle
In chapter three, B. examines real world relationships conveyed by the use of subordinate clauses and participial clauses. The chapter is divided into four sections. First, B. analyzes causal and temporal relations conveyed by subclauses which begin with the semantically specific relators
In chapter four, B. explores the impact of preposed subclauses and participial clauses on text segmentation, basing his understanding of a text’s thematic units on continuity between the four “coherence strands” (referential coherence, temporal coherence, locational coherence, and action-event coherence) delineated by Givón.2 To exemplify the different levels of text segmentation possible, B. provides a close reading of the story of Mania (Hellenica 3.1.10-16). The level of text segmentation indicated by a preposed subclause or participial clause may be reflected in its relative desententialization, or grammatical dependence upon the matrix clause to which it is joined.3 Each of the four types of subordinate, embedded predications fall somewhere along a continuum of dependence upon the matrix clause. They are, from least to most dependent: subordinate clauses, infinitival clauses (which B. does not treat), genitives absolute, and conjunct participles (which agree in case, number, and gender with a noun component in the matrix clause). Consequently, preposed subclauses, having a low dependence on the matrix clause, signal a comparatively high level of text segmentation, which in turn reflects a proportional discontinuity in the representation of real world events. Genitives absolute and conjunct participles, on the other hand, while indicating text segmentation, do not reflect significant discontinuity in the representation of real world situations. Preposed participial clauses, in other words, indicate textual boundaries within the larger boundaries of a thematic unit.
Chapter five is divided into two sections. In the first section, B. examines the distribution of (a) postposed “causal” clauses headed by
Chapter six serves as a summary and general conclusion. B. reminds readers that in any good discourse analysis there is an inescapable interdependence between the text as a discursive whole and its syntactic parts. It is doubtful that B.’s approach will supplant that of the traditional grammars in the short term, especially for beginners still grappling with the complexities of the language. But this study provides an important corrective to the ambiguities and blind spots which have stymied traditional approaches to the language, in particular as regards clause combining and the use of subclauses and participial clauses. It is the nature of the discursive approach to language “to describe regularities which will have to be reconsidered in each individual context” (260).
The eight-page bibliography is followed by an index of linguistic terms (which will be helpful for those readers unacquainted with the terminology), a general index, and an index locorum.
The book is clearly intended for specialists in Greek linguistics and discourse analysis. I am less certain, though, that B.’s technical study will attract those who are interested in Xenophon and Greek historiography in a general sense. Nevertheless, this book’s insights will reward many readers, and anyone interested in Greek prose narrative should, after reading this book, return to the primary texts with a renewed sensitivity towards the language.
The book is unfortunately flawed by a number of typographical errors and by some confusing and sometimes ungrammatical sentences4 which seem to have eluded the eye of the editor. Surprising in a study of such a technical nature are a few misprints in the Greek.5 These are superficial criticisms, though, and do not ultimately detract from the value of the book as a whole.
1. Kühner, R. & Gerth, B., Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache. Zweiter teil: Satzlehre. Hannover: 1898-1904; Schwyzer, E. & Debrunner, A., Griechische Grammatik. II: Syntax und syntaktische Stilistik. München, 1950; Goodwin, W. W., Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb. London: 1889; Smyth, H. W., Greek Grammar. Cambridge, Mass.: 1920 (rev. ed. 1956); Bornemann, E. & Risch, E., Griechische Grammatik. Frankfurt am Main: 1973; Gildersleeve, B. L., Syntax of Classical Greek from Homer to Demosthenes. Groningen: 1980 (reprint); Humbert, J., Syntaxe Grecque. Paris: 1960.
2. Givón, T., Syntax. A Functional-Typological Introduction. Volume II. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: 1990. 827 n. 3. See also Givón, T., English Grammar. A Function-Based Introduction. Volume II. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: 1993. 286-287.
3. For the notion of desententialization, B. follows Lehmann, C., “Towards a Typology of Clause Linkage.” Clause Combining in Grammar and Discourse. Typological Studies in Language 18. J. Haiman and S. A. Thompson, eds. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: 1988. 181-225.
4. “Although is self evident” (2); “verbal contituent” (39); “the discourse structure that is abuilding” (94); “Rather, since … that adds to text comprehension” (135); “when the subclause contains an aorist verbal constituent, will have to be interpreted” (136); and “The subclause thus …to the communicative mode” (146).
5. For example, there is a peculiar recurrence of