Re: Grammatical Tense, LEGW,

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Nov 12 1995 - 17:28:44 EST

I shall write one tiny little quibble in response to what I think is an
extraordinarily illuminating note by Edgar Krentz on Marcan style.

At 3:19 PM 11/12/95, Edgar M. Krentz wrote:
>First of all, DE is not a particle, but a conjunction. Particles and
>conjunctions are the most difficult terms in Greek to master--which is why
>so many beginning Greek students omit them when they translate. The
>question is not whether you agree with Gundry; rather, do you understand
>the many variations in sense possible in the term DE. Often it is simply
>resumptive, picking up the story line, like "well" or "so" in English. One
>should disregard no term in another language, e.g. in German, where "so"
>has as many different senses as DE, or German "also".

My quibble is to take issue with Edgar's insistence that "DE is not a
particle but a conjunction." I would say that DE is, in fact, a particle, a
weak adverb used like several others to mark linkage of thought to previous
clauses. Of course, to define it like that is practically to admit that it
is a conjunction. I don't know, however, whether the quibble is altogether
worth my effort, as adverbs are so often used this way in Greek. Come to
think of it, it strikes me that "particle" is itself not a very useful
word. But consider, in the three sentences preceding the one you're
reading, the phrases, "in fact," "of course," and "however": are they
adverbial or conjunctive? or both?

I have to admit to being one of those nuts who lays all too much store by
etymology and word-history. In fact, DE is a short-vowel form of the same
word that we spell as DH, just as MEN is a short-vowel form of the same
word that we spell as MHN. And while MEN and DE do in fact have an
honorable specialized correlative function in parallel or antithetical
clauses in Greek, their basic meanings are "to be sure" (Ger. "zwar"?) and
"in fact." What comes hard to the English speaker is that Greek has a
horror of a clause without a link of some sort to an antecedent clause or
sentence; DE is one of a great number of Greek words, many of which are
called "particles," that serve this linking function and indicate what kind
of a link it may be, even if it's nothing more than a "In fact, ..."

That's more quibble than it's worth, I fear.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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