[B-Greek] KAT' AITIAN
cwconrad2 at mac.com
Wed Jul 20 09:22:16 EDT 2005
On Jul 20, 2005, at 8:36 AM, Mitch Larramore wrote:
> The case we call Accusative is apparently better
> understood as KAT' AITIAN, which ATR finds acceptable
> and translates as "cause." In what sense is the
> Accusative case to be understood as meaning "cause"?
> Second, what is the (Latin) meaning behind
> "accusative" and why is it inadequate?
Your questions both seem to arise from ATR's big grammar; they are
answered in that first paragraph on "the name" on p. 466, but I don't
think you've understood accurately what ATR actually says. While he
says that Dionysius Thrax's term KAT' AITIAN is "a more likely idea"
than Varro's 'accusandei casus' from Greek AITIAOMAI, he's not saying
that he actually approves of it. The problem is that AITIA covers a
wide range of senses which I would group under an umbrella notion of
"explanatory factor." Latin CAUSA does mean the same as Greek AITIA
and the Latin verb ACCUSO (<AC-CAUSO) does mean "point to someone or
something as an explanatory factor"--as does the Greek verb
AITIAOMAI. But both Greek AITIAOMAI and Latin ACCUSO are most
commonly used in a judicial or forensic context with pretty much the
same sense as English "accuse."
As a term describing the function of the Greek accusative case, KAT'
AITIAN might work in the sense of "with regard to explanatory
factor," but that might be also said to be the function of the
genitive, especially the ablatival genitive as used with APO or EK.
ATR discusses the ancient terms employed for the grammatical
categories and, it seems to me, more often than not finds them to be
inadequate. I rather think that's true of most of our grammatical
terms: they are inadequately descriptive, often misleading if one
attempts to derive some sense from them on etymological grounds, and
provide little assistance for the student attempting to grasp the
range of functions performed by the grammatical category in question.
With regard to the accusative, I've personally always found most
useful the notion that the accusative is the "case of the limit"--the
case that indicates the terminal point of verbal action or adjectival
In fact, however, I think that the attempt to grasp the meaning of a
case-form or verb-tense or voice or the like in terms of precise
abstract definitions is ultimately less efficacious than acquiring
familiarity with the range of actual functions of the case-form or
verb-tense or voice -- or whatever -- in actual usage. An analogy
that i've used before and that I think is useful is this: grammatical
definitions and rules are like road maps or maps of a terrain: they
are useful to give a general sense of direction but they are not a
substitute for driving the roads and walking the terrain in question;
ultimately learning a language is more like becoming intimately
familiar with a landscape than memorizing a manual of definitions and
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at ioa.com or cwconrad2 at mac.com
More information about the B-Greek