Philosophy

attention to authentic grammar

The analyzers of the Morpheus family (Biblos.js for ancient Greek, Pecha.js for Tibetan, etc.) are developed on the basis of authentic grammar, not modern linguistics. Morpheus’s goal is to obtain, when the mouse points to a word, information about the word that would be given by a contemporary of the author.

So, Morpheus analyzers - not linguistic programs. They are intended to help in reading and understanding the ancient text, but not for the study of the highly questionable modern concept of “language”. I think that this type of program can be called computer hermeneutics, and not computer linguistics.

The concepts of modern theory cannot be directly applied to understanding an ancient text. They are for research, but not understanding. To understand, one must reason as the ancient author reasoned, as he was taught to reason in his school. It is necessary to reason as a competent person of his (the author) reasoned. Let us show an example from ancient Greek how the use of modern linguistics distorts the meaning of the ancient text even before any discussion of the lexical meaning of the words we read. Of course, we are talking about nuances and overtones, but in a serious philosophical or religious text for us there can be no trifles.

Dionysius the Thrax lists 23 kinds of names, among which there are no nouns, and there are no adjectives. First three are: κύριον, προσηγορικόν, ἐπίθετον. Proper name, common name, and epithet. (“Epithet” is a term here, and it does not mean the same as the modern term “epithet”). Ἐπίθετον … δηλοῦν ἔπαινον ἢ ψόγον. - Epithet … expresses approval and censure. For example, ἀπὸ μὲν ψυχῆς ὡς σώφρων ἀκόλαστος, ἀπό δὲ σώματος ὡς ταχύς βραδύς, ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν ἐκτὸς ὡς πλούσιος πένης - about the soul - prudent, unbridled, about the body - fast, slow, about the other - rich, poor. So, the epithet is an additional name that expresses, in addition to the lexical meaning, the speaker’s attitude.

It can often be seen that the term epithet is translated as “adjective”. This is an impossible value. We will find many examples of the use of the term “epithet” in Apollonius the Dyscolus: ὁ γραμματικὸς Τρύφων, ὁ φιλόσοφος Δίων - grammar Tryphon, philosopher Dion, etc. From the point of view of modern grammar, “grammars”, “philosopher”, “citizen”, “senator” are not at all adjectives. And the translation of the word “epithet” as “adjective” is at least strange here.

In modern grammar, we see two possible constructions, the first is a name plus an adjective, i.e. definition - ὁ ποτήρ καλός, ὁ ποτήρ χρυσὸς; and the second is the name plus the noun - ὁ γραμματικὸς Τρύφων, and in this case the connective verb “to be” is meant. But in ancient grammar this is one and the same construction - name plus epithet. And to imply the verb-connective “to be” in this case is violence over the meaning of the utterance. This is not “is”, but “I think” - a completely different meaning.

What does καλός mean in the expression ὁ ποτήρ καλός? There can be three variants of meaning: a) the cup is beautiful (adjective), b) the cup is beauty (noun), c) the cup is beautiful to me, I feel beauty (adverb). Of course, any person who knows the language will choose option a). But why? Because καλός in the modern dictionary has the meaning of an adjective, and in modern grammar καλός is defined as an adjective, and in the modern language the “bowl is beautiful” is a statement quite correct and clear. But this reasoning, quite clear to us, is impossible for the ancient Greek. For him, καλός is an epithet, and expresses the speaker’s attitude. And the meaning of his statement is option c), “the bowl is beautiful to me, I feel beauty.” We are interested in exactly what the ancient author thought, and how he did it. Option a), where a certain property of the bowl is approved (as if it were the quality of the bowl), is absent for the ancient author, according to the ancient grammar. Though, the translation into the modern language, of course, will remain the same, “the cup is beautiful.” But here I do not touch upon the problem of translation at all. I am only talking about understanding now.

Please note that all the previous discussion has not yet touched upon the discussion of the lexical meaning of the word “philosopher” or the word “beautiful”. The grammar itself already sets some frameworks, only within the boundaries of which the lexical meaning can be entered. Which limits and predetermines it to some extent. And, relying only on modern grammar theory, we simply skip, do not take into account the nuances that in some text can even determine the meaning of a statement.

Linguistics is a science. Like any science, linguistics wants to obtain objective knowledge. It refers to the word as an object. But what “means”, “wants to say” and “hides” is not an object. The word is part of our overheard conversation. A word taken out of context is a many-voiced choir in which individual voices are not distinguishable. To speak a word is not an object, but an act; to understand a word is also an act. “There can be no science of an act” (Aristotle).

Linguistics is a science. The scientific method consists of two steps. The first step is to construct, create mentally an object, refusing to consider all that we cannot measure and weigh numerically. This step was historically first made by Descartes (if without details). The second step is to create a theory (preferably mathematical) for the objects obtained. Newton was the first to take the second step (if without details). Both steps are necessary. Science does not deal with the world around us, but with a specially created experimental environment. In living life, the laws of physics do not work. The body does not “remains in rest or in motion at a constant velocity” in our world. The method of science is fruitful in physics. Linguistics also takes both of these necessary steps, imitating the exact sciences. And it will get its result, the method of science is universal. I have nothing against linguistics. But you and I are interested in the word in his living life. We need an understanding now, and not the correctness or incorrectness of a certain theory in special conditions. Linguistics builds its object, linguistics offers its own theory of the object. Great, but on the way, it kills the meaning of the word - the author said, to change the world at least a little, but they don’t listen to him — they study him.

(By the way, the idea of nouns and adjectives appears in linguistics just along with the emergence of the Newtonian picture of the world. Objects are nouns, their properties are adjectives. Very average quality idea, in my opinion).

Ancient and other-cultural authors do not know the concept of language. Unaware of nouns and adjectives. The word of the ancient language is the unity of knowledge and emotions, of all that we carefully distinguish, considering this distinction to be a scientific method. But with this action we are changing the meaning of the ancient word. It is clear that modern knowledge should be temporarily put “out of the question” - ἐποχή - if you want to understand the author, not to study him. This is not an anti-scientific orientation. This is a different, additional direction of attention, a different ἕξῐς (Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1098b). It does not contradict in any way, and cannot contradict the results of the science of linguistics. It is perpendicular.

I’m interested in reading the text as a conversation with the author, and not studying it. If, while reading an ancient author, you use modern linguistics, you know and use what the author did not know. And you think in this way and in a way that he did not know how to think. Nor do you know what he surely knew, and do not reason like he does. It is important for me that the author acted on the reader. And the reader acted on the author.

Why is the influence of modern theory (grammar) on the meaning of the text invisible to us? For the same reason why the fish do not know about water. The author cannot be seen without first seeing yourself and our own method of thinking, and the distortion that is introduced into the author’s thought by our thinking. But “see the water” is only the first, near goal. The ancient author, like us, spoke a ready-made, predetermined language. And he could also “see the water”, cease to be a fish, and set a goal to engage in dialogue with the first people who once and somewhere lived in hunger and cold in clay pits and created our whole world in a newborn language. This second task, which is still impossible for us, I call figuratively “to catch the eye of the water.”

For more information on the relationship between linguistics and hermeneutics, see the notes in the [blog] (/blog) section - only Russion, sorry.