[b-greek] Re: TIS : the indefinite person in masc sing

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Tue Jun 20 2000 - 19:22:30 EDT

At 12:56 AM +0200 6/21/00, Roe wrote:
>Thanks Carl, and others, for your help.
>> For what it's worth, Philippians 2:1 is interesting...
>Yes, and, having not seen that before, I'm comforted to hear you say the
>construction appeared strange before stumbling across it alone...
>I was about to send this to the list when I noticed that I was
>responding to a mail sent directly to me. I'll send it anyway here,
>though it doesn't specifically address your post. Someone wrote to me:
>> Although ADELFOS would refer to a male, the plural ADELFOI can
>> refer to males and females.
>But what about the indefinite singular...? What if one wants to say "If
>any 'brother'...", meaning any of 'the brethren' -- brother or sister?
>Would one have to say "EI TIS ADELFOS hH ADELFH..."? or could one
>simply say "EI TIS ADELFOS..."?

Yes, I think so, but I'm not sure I can prove it.

>Looking (from a novice's perspective) at passages like the following
>leads me to think the latter masculine-only rendition might work...
>1 Cor 3:18 ... EI TIS DOKEI SOFOS EINAI...
>These cases have TIS referred to with a masculine adjective or noun.
>Yet, they don't seem to be masculine-specific.
>I think I failed to ask what I really question: How (or with what
>gender) does one express the singular indefinite person? It *seems* to
>me to be with the masculine...

I rather think that there's something comparable in the 2-termination
pronouns to the -OS declension of nouns; although one thinks of
second-declension nouns as fundamentally masculine, there are in fact very
numerous nouns of the second declension that are feminine--one thinks
immediately of hODOS, NOSOS, NHSOS and I think there are quite a few plant
and tree names that are feminine. I'm not really sure to what extent this
is true, but I am strongly inclined to think that the more fundamental
distinction of "gender" is not three-way (MFN) but rather two-way
(person/thing--or there might be a better way to define that difference).
But as ANQRWPOS can take either a masculine or feminine article and mean
"male person" or "female person," so also I think that for words like TIS
the masculine gender-terminations, where applicable, are applied without
necessarily implying that a male of the species is being spoken of.

One could carry this further and note that the application of -S endings on
first-declension nominative of nouns (and -OIO/-OU genitive sg. endings) to
indicate masculine gender is a relatively late innovation: Homer has
masculine nouns with nominatives in -A and -H and genitives in -AO or -EW.

I think this whole matter probably deserves a closer look; it's probably
been written about but I'm not familiar with the literature on it. If
anyone DOES know more about research on this, it would be nice to hear of


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad@ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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