approximately : περι / ως / ωσει / ...

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
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David Lim
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approximately : περι / ως / ωσει / ...

Post by David Lim » June 24th, 2011, 5:30 am

Dear all,

When used with quantities to denote approximation, what are the differences between "περι" and "ως" and "ωσει"? LSJ (Perseus) does not clearly differentiate them. Middle Liddel says that "περι" is for numbers loosely given. I noticed that "ως" seems to be for better estimates as compared to "ωσει", but none of the lexicons indicate that. But LSJ and Middle Liddel note that "περι" is used mainly for time. Are there finer distinctions between these three, and what others are there? I was wondering because English has so many such words ("about" / "around", "approximately", "close to", "roughly" / "more or less", "nearly" / "almost") each with its own nuances, but while I know that "περι" is very close to "about", I am not sure about the other two. Is "ως" like "approximately" which indicates an estimate? Is "ωσει" like "something like"? And how would you say "nearly" / "almost" ("I am nearly there.") in Greek?

Thanks!
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cwconrad
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Re: approximately : περι / ως / ωσει / ...

Post by cwconrad » June 24th, 2011, 6:13 am

David Lim wrote:Dear all,

When used with quantities to denote approximation, what are the differences between "περι" and "ως" and "ωσει"? LSJ (Perseus) does not clearly differentiate them. Middle Liddel says that "περι" is for numbers loosely given. I noticed that "ως" seems to be for better estimates as compared to "ωσει", but none of the lexicons indicate that. But LSJ and Middle Liddel note that "περι" is used mainly for time. Are there finer distinctions between these three, and what others are there? I was wondering because English has so many such words ("about" / "around", "approximately", "close to", "roughly" / "more or less", "nearly" / "almost") each with its own nuances, but while I know that "περι" is very close to "about", I am not sure about the other two. Is "ως" like "approximately" which indicates an estimate? Is "ωσει" like "something like"? And how would you say "nearly" / "almost" ("I am nearly there.") in Greek?
For what it's worth, I think the last place to look for sharp delineation is in the group of words indicating "proximity." I once complained of the usage of καθως and καθαπερ, etc. as comparable to the vague and loose conversational usage of "like" by American teenagers who have trouble describing things with any precision. The reference to go to for this sort of thing is Louw & Nida's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains. There I note in §§64.12-64.15 an endeavor to differentiate between several words indicating similarity and approximation:
64.12 ὡςa; ὡσείa: relatively weak markers of a relationship between events or states — ‘as, like.’...

64.13 ὥσπερ; ὡσπερεί: somewhat more emphatic markers of similarity between events and states — ‘as, just as.’ ...

64.14 καθά; καθώςc; καθόa: markers of similarity in events and states, with the possible implication of something being in accordance with something else — ‘just as, in comparison to.’ ...

64.15 καθάπερ; καθώσπερ: emphatic markers of comparison between events and states — ‘just as, precisely as.’...

64.16 ὡσαύτως: a marker of similarity which approximates identity — ‘just as, in the same way, in like manner.’ ...
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

David Lim
Posts: 901
Joined: June 6th, 2011, 6:55 am

Re: approximately : περι / ως / ωσει / ...

Post by David Lim » June 24th, 2011, 10:00 pm

cwconrad wrote:For what it's worth, I think the last place to look for sharp delineation is in the group of words indicating "proximity." I once complained of the usage of καθως and καθαπερ, etc. as comparable to the vague and loose conversational usage of "like" by American teenagers who have trouble describing things with any precision.
Haha! Is there no reliability in guessing the "original nuances" from more formal or polished Greek texts?
cwconrad wrote:The reference to go to for this sort of thing is Louw & Nida's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains. There I note in §§64.12-64.15 an endeavor to differentiate between several words indicating similarity and approximation:
64.12 ὡςa; ὡσείa: relatively weak markers of a relationship between events or states — ‘as, like.’...

64.13 ὥσπερ; ὡσπερεί: somewhat more emphatic markers of similarity between events and states — ‘as, just as.’ ...

64.14 καθά; καθώςc; καθόa: markers of similarity in events and states, with the possible implication of something being in accordance with something else — ‘just as, in comparison to.’ ...

64.15 καθάπερ; καθώσπερ: emphatic markers of comparison between events and states — ‘just as, precisely as.’...

64.16 ὡσαύτως: a marker of similarity which approximates identity — ‘just as, in the same way, in like manner.’ ...
I see. Concerning similarity, I took "ως" = "as / like" and "ωσει" = "as if he/she/it/they were" and "ωσπερ" = "even as" and "καθως" = "just as", but I have not seen the rest. But I intended to ask concerning approximation of quantities or time. Can I use "περι + acc." for time and "ως" for quantities by default? And does "σχεδον" serve the function of "almost", or do I have to use "μελλω ειναι εκει" = "I am about to be there"?
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cwconrad
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Re: approximately : περι / ως / ωσει / ...

Post by cwconrad » June 25th, 2011, 7:01 am

David Lim wrote:[I see. Concerning similarity, I took "ως" = "as / like" and "ωσει" = "as if he/she/it/they were" and "ωσπερ" = "even as" and "καθως" = "just as", but I have not seen the rest. But I intended to ask concerning approximation of quantities or time. Can I use "περι + acc." for time and "ως" for quantities by default? And does "σχεδον" serve the function of "almost", or do I have to use "μελλω ειναι εκει" = "I am about to be there"?
It appears that ("sounds like") you rather enjoy "stab-in-the-dark" guessing. Use the better lexicons; -- BDAG, LSJ. if you're not content with what they'll tell you, do your own research in the TLG database.

Here's what LSJ says in its lengthy entry on περί (you could have lookied it up yourself!):
of Time, π. λύχνων ἁφάς about the time of lamp-lighting, Hdt.7.215; π. μέσας νύκτας about midnight, X.An.1.7.1; π. πλήθουσαν ἀγοράν ib.2.1.7; π. ἡλίου δυσμάς ib.6.5.32 ; π. τούτους τοὺς χρόνους Th.3.89, etc.
of round numbers, π. ἑβδομήκοντα about seventy, Id.1.54; π. ἑπτακοσίους X.HG2.4.5, etc.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

David Lim
Posts: 901
Joined: June 6th, 2011, 6:55 am

Re: approximately : περι / ως / ωσει / ...

Post by David Lim » June 26th, 2011, 1:30 am

cwconrad wrote:
David Lim wrote:[I see. Concerning similarity, I took "ως" = "as / like" and "ωσει" = "as if he/she/it/they were" and "ωσπερ" = "even as" and "καθως" = "just as", but I have not seen the rest. But I intended to ask concerning approximation of quantities or time. Can I use "περι + acc." for time and "ως" for quantities by default? And does "σχεδον" serve the function of "almost", or do I have to use "μελλω ειναι εκει" = "I am about to be there"?
It appears that ("sounds like") you rather enjoy "stab-in-the-dark" guessing. Use the better lexicons; -- BDAG, LSJ. if you're not content with what they'll tell you, do your own research in the TLG database.

Here's what LSJ says in its lengthy entry on περί (you could have lookied it up yourself!):
of Time, π. λύχνων ἁφάς about the time of lamp-lighting, Hdt.7.215; π. μέσας νύκτας about midnight, X.An.1.7.1; π. πλήθουσαν ἀγοράν ib.2.1.7; π. ἡλίου δυσμάς ib.6.5.32 ; π. τούτους τοὺς χρόνους Th.3.89, etc.
of round numbers, π. ἑβδομήκοντα about seventy, Id.1.54; π. ἑπτακοσίους X.HG2.4.5, etc.
Indeed I did look at the entire entries in LSJ, Middle Liddel, Slater and Autenrieth on Perseus, as I mentioned in my first post. But they did not say anything about the distinction between these three ways of approximating quantities and time. Otherwise I would not have asked. Furthermore, they seem to indicate that none of these are used to mean "almost", and I believe "μελλω ειναι εκει" does not quite imply that "I am very close to reaching there"... Can anyone offer suggestions on how to say "almost"?
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cwconrad
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Re: approximately : περι / ως / ωσει / ...

Post by cwconrad » June 26th, 2011, 6:53 am

David Lim wrote:
cwconrad wrote:
David Lim wrote:[I see. Concerning similarity, I took "ως" = "as / like" and "ωσει" = "as if he/she/it/they were" and "ωσπερ" = "even as" and "καθως" = "just as", but I have not seen the rest. But I intended to ask concerning approximation of quantities or time. Can I use "περι + acc." for time and "ως" for quantities by default? And does "σχεδον" serve the function of "almost", or do I have to use "μελλω ειναι εκει" = "I am about to be there"?
It appears that ("sounds like") you rather enjoy "stab-in-the-dark" guessing. Use the better lexicons; -- BDAG, LSJ. if you're not content with what they'll tell you, do your own research in the TLG database.

Here's what LSJ says in its lengthy entry on περί (you could have lookied it up yourself!):
of Time, π. λύχνων ἁφάς about the time of lamp-lighting, Hdt.7.215; π. μέσας νύκτας about midnight, X.An.1.7.1; π. πλήθουσαν ἀγοράν ib.2.1.7; π. ἡλίου δυσμάς ib.6.5.32 ; π. τούτους τοὺς χρόνους Th.3.89, etc.
of round numbers, π. ἑβδομήκοντα about seventy, Id.1.54; π. ἑπτακοσίους X.HG2.4.5, etc.
Indeed I did look at the entire entries in LSJ, Middle Liddel, Slater and Autenrieth on Perseus, as I mentioned in my first post. But they did not say anything about the distinction between these three ways of approximating quantities and time. Otherwise I would not have asked. Furthermore, they seem to indicate that none of these are used to mean "almost", and I believe "μελλω ειναι εκει" does not quite imply that "I am very close to reaching there"... Can anyone offer suggestions on how to say "almost"?
The frustrating thing about this inquiry is that it's never been clear what you are really trying to find out. It appeared that you were really interested in approximation with quantitative expressions. Since you've consulted lexica (or checked all that Perseus offers) from the whole range of ancient Greek, it appears that your interest is not in Koine usage in particular, and now it looks like you're really looking for an ancient Greek equivalent of an English expression, "I'm almost there."

σχεδόν does indeed mean "almost"; it derives from the root of the verb ἔχω/ἔσχον, the middle of which (ἔχομαι) is used with a genitive in the sense, "I am holding onto ... " or "I have my paws on ... " Herodotus uses ἔχομαι regularly in geographical comments to express the notion of spatial contiguity. μέλλω with an infinitive does indeed mean "be on the verge of" (originally it seems to have meant "intend, have a mind (to do something)" -- but μέλλω ἐκεἰ εἶναι looks and sounds altogether alien to any Greek I've ever seen, and looks like it was cooked up precisely to be an equivalent of English, "I'm almost there." I'm rather inclined to think that the verb ἐγγίζω and the adverb ἑγγύς (comp. ἐγγύτερον, sup. ἔγγιστα). Far better than an expression such as μέλλω ἐκεῖ εἶναι (which really doesn't seem Greek at all), it seems to me, would be ἐγγύς εἰμι -- to express either temporal or spatial near proximity. Cf. Rev. 1:3 ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς ἐγγύς.
0 x
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

David Lim
Posts: 901
Joined: June 6th, 2011, 6:55 am

Re: approximately : περι / ως / ωσει / ...

Post by David Lim » June 26th, 2011, 9:28 am

cwconrad wrote:The frustrating thing about this inquiry is that it's never been clear what you are really trying to find out. It appeared that you were really interested in approximation with quantitative expressions. Since you've consulted lexica (or checked all that Perseus offers) from the whole range of ancient Greek, it appears that your interest is not in Koine usage in particular, and now it looks like you're really looking for an ancient Greek equivalent of an English expression, "I'm almost there."
Actually my main question was on appoximation with quantitative expressions, for which LSJ did not seem to offer substantial information, but which your response answered: that there does not seem to be clear distinctions unlike in English. My other question was merely related, in that none of the words used for approximation implied a goal or expected outcome that has not been reached, which "almost" in English implies. Sorry if my inquiries were ambiguous; maybe I should have asked in separate topics.
cwconrad wrote:σχεδόν does indeed mean "almost"; it derives from the root of the verb ἔχω/ἔσχον, the middle of which (ἔχομαι) is used with a genitive in the sense, "I am holding onto ... " or "I have my paws on ... " Herodotus uses ἔχομαι regularly in geographical comments to express the notion of spatial contiguity. μέλλω with an infinitive does indeed mean "be on the verge of" (originally it seems to have meant "intend, have a mind (to do something)" -- but μέλλω ἐκεἰ εἶναι looks and sounds altogether alien to any Greek I've ever seen, and looks like it was cooked up precisely to be an equivalent of English, "I'm almost there." I'm rather inclined to think that the verb ἐγγίζω and the adverb ἑγγύς (comp. ἐγγύτερον, sup. ἔγγιστα). Far better than an expression such as μέλλω ἐκεῖ εἶναι (which really doesn't seem Greek at all), it seems to me, would be ἐγγύς εἰμι -- to express either temporal or spatial near proximity. Cf. Rev. 1:3 ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς ἐγγύς.
I understand "εγγυς" and "εγγιζω" (somehow I cannot get the entries for this on Perseus) to imply proximity but not to imply an intention or expectation of reaching a goal. I did intend "μελλω ειναι εκει" to be a precise equivalent of "I am about to be there" but I did not think it would imply a goal that is almost reached. However from what you said, it may but is unnatural, so what would be the natural way of conveying it? (Perhaps in a context like: "Have you reached the place?" "I am almost there!") Or is there no such thing in Greek thought?
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Mark Lightman
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Re: approximately : περι / ως / ωσει / ...

Post by Mark Lightman » June 26th, 2011, 10:02 am

I understand "εγγυς" and "εγγιζω" (somehow I cannot get the entries for this on Perseus) to imply proximity but not to imply an intention or expectation of reaching a goal. I did intend "μελλω ειναι εκει" to be a precise equivalent of "I am about to be there" but I did not think it would imply a goal that is almost reached. However from what you said, it may but is unnatural, so what would be the natural way of conveying it? (Perhaps in a context like: "Have you reached the place?" "I am almost there!") Or is there no such thing in Greek thought?
Hi, David,

οὐk μέν ἦδη παρεῖμι, διώκω δ' εἰ καὶ παρῶ.

cf. Philippians 3:12

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnD6ojjA0OA
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cwconrad
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Re: approximately : περι / ως / ωσει / ...

Post by cwconrad » June 26th, 2011, 5:07 pm

Mark Lightman wrote:
I understand "εγγυς" and "εγγιζω" (somehow I cannot get the entries for this on Perseus) to imply proximity but not to imply an intention or expectation of reaching a goal. I did intend "μελλω ειναι εκει" to be a precise equivalent of "I am about to be there" but I did not think it would imply a goal that is almost reached. However from what you said, it may but is unnatural, so what would be the natural way of conveying it? (Perhaps in a context like: "Have you reached the place?" "I am almost there!") Or is there no such thing in Greek thought?
Hi, David,

οὐk μέν ἦδη παρεῖμι, διώκω δ' εἰ καὶ παρῶ.

cf. Philippians 3:12
I had thought of that text: Phil. 3:12 Οὐχ ὅτι ἤδη ἔλαβον ἢ ἤδη τετελείωμαι, διώκω δὲ εἰ καὶ καταλάβω -- but I don't think that formulation will work. οὐκ with a ’κ' won't work with a μὲν, in any case; but in fact μὲν and δὲ, when used in coordination, ought to follow directly upon the words they mark as parallel or contrasting. Better: πάρειμι μὲν ἤδη οὔ, σπεύδω δὲ ὥστε τάχιστα παρεῖναι.

Actually I think the better bet is the clause in the penultimate verse of the GNT -- Rev 22:20: ναί, ἔρχομαι ταχύ -- "I'll be there soon." But we all know, of course, from Zeno's paradoxes, that "almost there" is as good "miles to go before I sleep." Whatever else may be implied by "I'm almost there," it certainly implies "I'm not there yet."
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

David Lim
Posts: 901
Joined: June 6th, 2011, 6:55 am

Re: approximately : περι / ως / ωσει / ...

Post by David Lim » June 26th, 2011, 8:23 pm

I see. Thanks a lot! :)
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