Preverbs and Scalar Transitivity in Attic Greek Prose

Crusemire, Harry, Classics - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
George, Coulter, Classics, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines competition between simple and compound verbs in Ancient Greek. The argument is that the theory of scalar transitivity, as presented by scholars such as Hopper and Thompson, can be used to account for the value of grammaticalized preverbs in Greek. The project focuses on the preverbs κατα- and δια-, which both express motion that reaches the end of a trajectory, before losing this semantic value to serve a grammatical function, namely marking higher transitivity. By comparing the features of the verbs, subjects, and objects in clauses with a simplex and compound, we conclude that compounds with such a preverb are more transitive than their simple partners. Findings are based on evidence from prose texts written in the Attic dialect from the Classical period. The main authors are thus Thucydides, Isocrates, Plato, and Xenophon. The project is essentially synchronic, with questions of diachronic development receiving limited attention. The project starts with a chapter that looks at the history of work on preverbs in Greek, introduces the concept of scalar transitivity, and briefly treats certain topics such as preverbal deletion. Most of the dissertation consists of case studies which assess when the authors in question write a simple verb or its compound (with either κατα- or δια-). There are two main parts: the first focuses on κατα-, the second on δια-. Each part has a chapter that focuses on the parameter of affectedness, another that focuses on Aktionsart, and a final chapter with a case study where the voice and semantics of the verb are important for determining the difference between the simplex and compound. A final chapter argues that κατα- is more reliable as a transitivizing preverb than δια-, before presenting some diachronic data on how the use of κατα- and δια- progressed from the fifth to the fourth century BC.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
preverb, prefix, Ancient Greek, Attic Greek, transitivity, scalar transitivity, grammaticalization, affectedness, telicity, Aktionsart
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: