PAWAG: Poorly Attested Words in Ancient Greek

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Ghost-words - Dumb and Duber

Post by Stephen Hughes » July 22nd, 2014, 9:19 pm

Shirley Rollinson wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:elimination of any ghost-word
Just a question from the dumb kid at the back of the class...

What is a "ghost-word"?
The dumb kid is the one who doesn't ask the question.
The smart kid is the one who realizes that he doesn't know, and has the guts to ask.
I actually still don't understand it.
cwconrad wrote:In terms of this definition, one of the most common ancient Greek "ghost words" is ποιέω -- it's in the dictionaries and word-lists, it's taught as ποιέω, but that uncontracted form is not found in Greek literature. Many of us think that we should indeed eliminate it and use the contracted infinitive ποιεῖν as a lemma instead of using a ghost word.
RandallButh wrote:Not sure that I would call ποιέω a ghost word in the light of Ionic (and we won't forget Lucian's syrian Goddess).
There must be a lot of words that either do not occur in their first person singular present indicative(/subjective) active form in the extant literature, or perhaps not in the corresponding infinitival form either. I don't have search capabilities, but I would guess the most common form in the Gospels and Acts is third person singular aorist indicatives, and in the epistles it would be the same, but with second person forms making up a little ground. A lexicographer becomes a creator of language, who follows the grammatical rules of the language to arrive at the "dictionary form" of a word. In the same way, a grammarian applies what they know about the language to fill in forms in a table. At a learner's level that doesn't really phase anyone, but for some research purposes, I could conceive that it would be misleading to rely on conjectured forms uncritically. Building on the scholarship of others is, of course, "progress". On the other hand, it seems regressive to reject forms, when knowing the language we supply the "missing" forms.

In terms of other scholarly reconstructions, dictionaries refer to conjectured forms with digamma, and conjectured P.I.E. forms for cognates.

If all non-extant forms are technically ghost words, and are thought fit to be eliminated, then I think scholarship is in retrograde. Why? Because, now having the technology to search for all forms of a word, that technology displaces our human ability to apply our natural language skills to a language, we lose something. I mean, what is more intelligent, to point out that neither of the forms λύω nor λύειν occur in the New Testament, or to be able to create them as word-forms, using our language skills?

If we were to be honest about which forms have been found in literature, then I would guess that 85% percent of the forms of words in grammatical tables should be asterixed, and greater then 90% of head-words in dictionaries should be bracketed (in either pres.ind or inf.). But we are using (researching, learning, teaching) a language, not a set of discrete forms. "Analysis" can not easily answer the question, "What would ... ?", but that doesn't make it any less valuable a question.

Having further dumbed myself, I still don't understand what "ghost-words" are?
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

RandallButh
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Re: PAWAG: Poorly Attested Words in Ancient Greek

Post by RandallButh » July 22nd, 2014, 10:39 pm

Stephen,

A ghost word is like when BDB lists נגד as 'it was conspicuous', when the word is unattested in biblical Hebrew and never meant 'to be conspicuous' anyway. (A real word הגיד means 'he told') Hebrew dictionaries like BDB and "Strong's" used to be loaded with ghost words and the unsuspecting user sounds pretty funny or tragic in the ears of someone who knows the language.

I don't think Carl was referring to the first person form, per se, but to the -e- form of the verb ποιέω as far as the Attic and Koine are concerned.
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Stephen Hughes
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נגד and הגיד

Post by Stephen Hughes » July 23rd, 2014, 12:54 am

RandallButh wrote:A ghost word is like when BDB lists נגד as 'it was conspicuous', when the word is unattested in biblical Hebrew and never meant 'to be conspicuous' anyway. (A real word הגיד means 'he told') Hebrew dictionaries like BDB and "Strong's" used to be loaded with ghost words and the unsuspecting user sounds pretty funny or tragic in the ears of someone who knows the language.
So, a ghost word something like a lexicographer's mistake, like if a dictionary included "irregardless" as a lemma, that still doesn't make it a word?

On your BDB example; Isn't נגד the tri-literal root of the hif'il הגיד?
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Stephen Carlson
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Re: PAWAG: Poorly Attested Words in Ancient Greek

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 23rd, 2014, 1:07 am

A ghost word is something like Dord, which came about from a lexicographer's mistake. Ghost words were never in actual use but come into lexicons and commentaries out of mistakes by a critic.

A Greek example from the wikipedia article is:
The supposed Homeric Greek word στήτη = "woman", which arose thus: In Iliad Book 1 line 6 is the phrase διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε = "two [= Achilles and Agamemnon ] stood apart making strife". However someone unfamiliar with dual number verb inflections read it as διά στήτην ἐρίσαντε = "two making strife because of a στήτη", and he guessed that στήτη meant the woman Briseis who was the subject of the strife.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Stephen Hughes
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διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε - The ghost becomes a word

Post by Stephen Hughes » July 23rd, 2014, 1:36 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:A Greek example from the wikipedia article is:
The supposed Homeric Greek word στήτη = "woman", which arose thus: In Iliad Book 1 line 6 is the phrase διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε = "two [= Achilles and Agamemnon ] stood apart making strife". However someone unfamiliar with dual number verb inflections read it as διά στήτην ἐρίσαντε = "two making strife because of a στήτη", and he guessed that στήτη meant the woman Briseis who was the subject of the strife.
A fuller explanation of that is given at διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε

In this case - where the ghost word has been picked up and used by others in the ghost sense - doesn't it become a word? If it were eliminated, what becomes of the later poet's work?
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

RandallButh
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Re: נגד and הגיד

Post by RandallButh » July 23rd, 2014, 1:40 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
RandallButh wrote:A ghost word is like when BDB lists נגד as 'it was conspicuous', when the word is unattested in biblical Hebrew and never meant 'to be conspicuous' anyway. (A real word הגיד means 'he told') Hebrew dictionaries like BDB and "Strong's" used to be loaded with ghost words and the unsuspecting user sounds pretty funny or tragic in the ears of someone who knows the language.
So, a ghost word something like a lexicographer's mistake, like if a dictionary included "irregardless" as a lemma, that still doesn't make it a word?

On your BDB example; Isn't נגד the tri-literal root of the hif'il הגיד?
Yes, a ghost word is something like a lexicographer's mistake, but if people use "irregardless" then it is not a mistake.

And yes, the BDB example is a lexical and methodological mistake. nagad is not a biblical Hebrew word and it did not mean 'was conspicuous' (in addition, a root is not a word in use). If and whenever there was a word "nagad" there is nothing to tell us what meaning it had among the speakers. Not only does the "nagad" entry fall into the trap of the etymological fallacy, but it creates an etymology of an unattested meaning. Pure imagination and misguided and misleading.

There, maybe that is clearer.
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