Re: Proleptic Accusatives in Indirect Questions

From: Mary L B Pendergraft (
Date: Wed Mar 03 1999 - 05:28:23 EST

At 02:01 AM 3/3/99 EST, wrote:
>In Gerry Wakker's Conditions and Conditionals, 380-381 she makes the
>statement: "Indirect questions often involve a proleptic accusative stating
>the theme upon which the subordinate clause bears or the Topic about which
>subordinate clause predicates something." What does she mean by "proleptic
>accusative." She gives the following example TOUTON OISQ' EI ZWN KUREI (As
>him, do you know whether he is alive? S. Ph. 444) where TOUTON is the
>proleptic accusative. In Mark 15:44 there are two indirect questions: HO DE
>EPHRWTHSEN AUTON EI PALAI APEQANEN. But I do not see anything which could be
>considered a proleptic accusative. Could someone clarify this matter.

This proleptic accusative is apparently what's often called the "lilies of
the field" construction:
"consider the lilies of the field, how they grow" where English would say,
"consider how the lilies...grow."
In the example you cite (from Sophocles Philoctetes?) the Greek says "do
you know him, if he possesses life?" But in the Mark passage you're right:
 there's no proleptic accusative because there's no expressed subject for
the verbs of the indirect questions, TEQNHKEN, APEQANEN.


Mary Pendergraft
Associate Professor of Classical Languages
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem NC 27109-7343
336-758-5331 (NOTE: this is a new number)

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