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The Spatial Meaning of διά with the Accusative in Homeric Greek

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Abstract The semantic difference between spatial usages of διά with the accusative and with the genitive in Homeric Greek is not clearly described in reference works. The available literature leaves readers the feeling that there is wide overlap between the two cases, possibly to be explained through metrical factors. This paper is an attempt to shed light on the issue, through a careful scrutiny of all passages in which the preposition occurs. It turns out that, if the analysis is extended to a large enough context, semantic motivations for the occurrence of either case can be detected, which lead to a distinction between the genitive on the one hand, and the non-directional and directional accusative on the other. While the genitive occurs in passages in which a unidirectional path or a simple location are indicated, the non-directional accusative indicates multidirectional path or multiple location. Finally, the directional accusative indicates that an entity is crossed over. The semantic description makes use of concepts and terminology common in cognitive grammar.

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21. FN1 1)I would like to thank Mnemosyne’s anonymous referee for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.
22. FN2 2)On the trajector/landmark alignment see Langacker 1987, 231-6.
23. FN3 3)See Taylor 1991. Note that, although the name ‘trajector’ might be taken to imply movement, this is not the case, and the trajector/landmark alignment also applies to stationary situations (this can also be the case with διά, though less frequently, see section 4.1.3).
24. FN4 4)Uniplex entities may occur with prepositions that require biplex trajectors. Biplex entities can also be indicated by singular count nouns when the two-sided nature of the entity is emphasized, as is the case with landmarks occurring with ἀµφί, cf. Luraghi 2003, 256.
25. FN5 5)Indeed, the fact that example (6) sounds more normal without the addition of the second clause reflects profiling properties of into: one is likely to use intowhen one needs to specify that the trajector does not remain outside the landmark. Since this is the common inference also when one uses to, when describing the normal situation in which someone goes to the station to take a train one usually does not add unnecessary information regarding the end segment of the trajectory.
26. FN6 6)See the recent discussion in Haug 2009.
27. FN7 7)As is well known, spatial meaning of Greek cases is connected with case syncretism; the three prepositions ἐν, εἰς and ἐκ were already much more common than plain cases in Homeric Greek, and can be seen as substitutes for cases in the encoding of the three basic spatial relations locative, allative and ablative, see Luraghi 2009.
28. FN8 8)See Luraghi 1988 and 2003. The fact that the plain accusative could not only indicate direction and function as an allative in Ancient Greek is described in reference grammars, which mention the so-called ‘accusative of extension’ indicating extension in space or duration in time, see Schwyzer 1950, 67-70, Chantraine 1953, 45-6.
29. FN9 9)Μετά with the accusative could also occur with motion verbs, in which cases it had a directional meaning, see Luraghi 2005.
30. FN10 10)The description in this section is partly based on Luraghi 2003, 168-75.
31. FN11 11)On the etymology of διά see Chantraine 1968 s.v. This particle is somewhat exceptional with respect to most other Greek prepositions/preverbs, because it never occurs in Homer as a free standing adverb, see Chantraine 1953, 95.
32. FN12 12)Further semantic roles expressed by διά with the genitive are time, instrument and intermediary; see Schwyzer 1950, 450-4, and Luraghi 2003, 176-87.
33. FN13 13)On the meaning of κατά in Homer, see Chantraine 1953, 112-5, and Luraghi 2003, 197-204.
34. FN14 14)Contrary to διά with the genitive, διά with the accusative is not limited to space expressions in Homeric Greek, but can also indicate cause. Cause expressions are left out of consideration in the current discussion.
35. FN15 15)The same type of motion is described in Il.11.147, in which the headless whole body of a dead hero is described as rolling through the fighting soldiers with the verb κυλίνδεσθαι.
36. FN16 16)The PP διὰ προµάχων occurs thirteen times starting in the second foot, and twice starting in the third; the similarity of the verses where it occurs points toward the highly formulaic character of the PP.
37. FN17 17)The anonymous referee points out that “Leto’s (intended) trajectory does indeed terminate outside the landmark Panopeus”. However, while I agree on the referee’s remark that “[t]he fact that she does not cross Panopeus completely is not expressed by διά + gen. but rather by the present stem”, it still remains that the landmark is not completely crossed: so διά with the genitive is not limited to occurrences in which it indicates complete crossing of a landmark.
38. FN18 18)Even though it can be remarked that Peiraeus was leading Odysseus to the place purposefully.
39. FN19 19)The fact that the trajectory does not remain inside the landmark in such occurrences of διά with the accusative obviously creates problems for Ebeling’s interpretation of the meaning of landmarks in the accusative with this preposition, which he sees as necessarily connected with trajectories enclosed in the interior of landmarks conceived as closed areas. Thus he attempts various explanations, partly from ancient scholiasts: regarding (30) he mentions a gloss which interprets διὰ τάφρον as ἐπὶ τάφρον i.e. ‘up to the ditch’ (without crossing it), with no regard for the overall meaning of the text, which clearly implies crossing.
40. FN20 20)The latter is the case in the passage from which example (37) is taken. The following verses indicate that the spear continued and describe the further trajectory: ‘and straight on beside his flank the spear shore through his tunic; but he bent aside and escaped black fate’ ( Il.3.359-60).
41. FN21 21)Horrocks (1981, 255) leaves both possibilities open without going through all examples. Temporal meaning of διὰ νύκτα is also assumed in the recent book by Pietro Bortone, who considers this an example of “[i]ndiscriminate use of cases in PPs”, since, in his opinion, διά could indicate duration in time both with the accusative and with the genitive. As examples, he gives (out of context) the passage quoted here as (39) and a passage from Herodotus, in which διά with the genitive does indeed express time (Bortone 2010, 159). Apart from considerations regarding the real meaning of διὰ νύκτα, we should bear in mind that neither does διά with the genitive express time in Homeric Greek, nor is the PP διὰ νύκτα ever found in time expressions after Homer, a fact reported in all handbooks.
42. FN22 22)Verbs of perception are often considered as metaphorically corresponding to motion verbs in Greek, and there is clear evidence in later Greek theories of perception for such interpretation (see Luraghi 1989). In Homer, there is also evidence for the eyes to be conceived as containers, rather than channels, which could imply a stationary concept of perception (see Luraghi 2004). A discussion of this interesting issue is beyond the scope of this paper; in any case, in the light of the discussion below, it does not matter much in this context whether one takes the verb ‘see’ as implying metaphorical motion or not.

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Affiliations: 1: Università di Pavia, Dipartimento di Linguistica Teorica e Applicata Strada Nuova 65, 27100 Pavia Italy


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