This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
οὐ μή has never been satisfactorily explained. While there is a general agreement as to the meaning of the two forms of expression in which this double negative occurs, that (1) οὐ μὴ γένηται or οὐ μὴ γενήσεται is it will not happen, and (2) οὐ μὴ καταβήσει is do not come down, there is great diversity of opinion as to the manner in which these meanings are obtained from the Greek expressions, and still greater as to the origin of the constructions themselves. Most scholars have explained expressions of denial with οὐ μή and those of prohibition on entirely different theories, which involve different views of the functions of the negatives in the two forms. The explanation of the expressions of denial (like οὐ μὴ γένηται) which has gained most favour is that of an ellipsis after οὐ of a verb or other form denoting fear, on which μὴ γένηται depends; so that the full form would be οὐ δέος ἐστὶ μὴ γένηται, there is no fear that it will happen. Since a strong argument for this ellipsis is the existence of such examples as οὐ φόβος μή σε ἀγάγω, XEN. Mem. ii. 1, 25 , and οὐχὶ δέος μή δε φιλήσῃ, AR. Eccl. 650, which, by omitting φόβος and δέος, would become οὐ μή σε ἀγάγω and οὐχὶ μή σε φιλήσῃ, it can hardly be said that this is supposed to be one of the unconscious ellipses which are no longer felt in actual use. This explanation, however, does not help to account for the prohibitions in the second person, like οὐ μὴ καταβήσει, for there is no freak of language by which οὐ δέος ἐστὶ μὴ καταβῇς or even οὐ δέος ἐστὶ μὴ καταβήσει (if we can suppose such an expression) could be transformed into οὐ μὴ καταβήσει, in the sense do not come down. The prohibitions have, therefore, generally been explained, on Elmsley's theory, as interrogative; and οὐ μὴ καταβήσει; is supposed to mean will you not not come down? i.e. do not come down. All subjunctives that are found in these prohibitions, as in “οὐ μὴ σκώψῃς μηδὲ ποιήσῃς,” AR. Nub. 296 , have generally been condemned since Brunck and Elmsley, and such subjunctives are seldom seen in recent editions of the dramatists. But all attempts to explain these constructions of οὐ μή on different theories lead to fatal difficulties. We cannot make all the prohibitions interrogative, nor can we change all the prohibitory subjunctives to futures without violence to the text; nor are all cases of οὐ μή with the second person of the subjunctive or of the future prohibitory. The following examples show a complete transition from one of the uses of οὐ μή to the other, and yet no line of distinction, on which different theories of construction can reasonably be based, can be drawn between any two of them:— “Οὔτοι σ᾽ Ἀχαιῶν, οἶδα, μή τις ὑβρίσῃ,” “no one of the Achaeans, I am sure, will insult you.” SOPH. Aj. 560. Οὔ σοι μὴ μεθέψομαί ποτε, “I never will follow you.” Id. El. 1052. “Κοὐχὶ μὴ παύσησθε,” “and you will not cease.” AR. Lys. 704. Ἀλλ᾽ οὔ ποτ᾽ ἐξ ἐμοῦ γε μὴ πάθῃς τόδε, “but you shall never suffer this from me.” SOPH. El. 1029. Οὐ μή ποτ᾽ ἐς τὴν Σκῦρον ἐκπλεύσῃς, “you shall never sail off to Scyros.” Id. Ph. 381. “Οὐ μὴ σκώψῃς . . . ἀλλ᾽ εὐφήμει,” “do not jeer (i.e. you shall not jeer), but hold your tongue.” AR. Nub. 296 (this cannot be interrogative). Οὐ μὴ προσοίσεις χεῖρα μηδ ἅψει πέπλων, do not bring your hand near me, nor touch my garments. EUR. Hipp. 606 (generally made interrogative). It should be made a first requisite of any theory that it shall explain all these cases on the same general principle. A preliminary question to be settled, if possible, is whether οὐ and μή merely combine to make a single strong negative, or whether οὐ as an independent adverb negatives μή and the verb taken together. The difficulty either of conceiving οὐ and μή as forming a single strong negative, as οὐ and οὐδέν or μή and μηδέν often do, or of understanding how μὴ γένηται, which by itself cannot mean it will not happen, can be strengthened by οὐ into an expression with this very meaning, has made it impossible to defend the former view on any recognised principle, even when it was adopted for want of something better, as in the earlier editions of the present work. The supposed analogy of μὴ οὐ forming a single negative with the infinitive will hardly hold as a support of this; for, while we cannot have a sentence like οὐχ ὅσιόν ἐστι μὴ οὐ βοηθεῖν continued by an infinitive with οὐδέ (e.g. by οὐδὲ ἀμύνεσθαι), we frequently have sentences like οὐ μὴ καλεῖς με μηδὲ κατερεῖς τοὔνομα, where μηδέ continues the prohibition without repeating οὐ, showing the distinct force of each part of this double negative. But this only brings out more emphatically the perplexing question that lies at the basis of the whole discussion. If οὐ is an independent negative, as by every principle of Greek negatives it should be, what does it negative? It is clear that there is only one active negative in οὐ μὴ γένηται, it will not happen; and οὐ μὴ σκώψῃς, do not jeer, surely does not have one more active negative than μὴ σκώψῃς.2 It seems obvious, therefore, that if οὐ is an independent negative in οὐ μὴ γένηται, the negative force of the μή must in some way be in abeyance, as otherwise the two simple negatives would make the sentence as a whole positive. We may naturally turn for a suggestion here to the principal form of expression in which the negative force of μή seems to be in abeyance,—to Plato's favourite subjunctive with μή as a form of cautious assertion, as μὴ φαυλὸν ᾖ, I think it will prove to be bad, Crat. 425 B. (See § 264 and the examples.) Such expressions are, practically, cautious affirmative statements, the fear that something may prove true having by usage softened into a suspicion, and this again into an idea of probability or possibility, so that μὴ φαῦλον ᾖ, which originally meant may it not prove bad (as I fear it may), has come to mean I suspect it may prove bad, and finally, I think it will prove bad or it will probably prove bad. The expression, however, always retains at least the implication that the fact thus stated is an object of apprehension to some one, though it has lost all of its original reference to such apprehension on the part of the speaker.3 If now a writer wished to express the negative of one of these cautious assertions, in which the original force of μή has practically disappeared, he would say, for example, οὐ μὴ φαῦλον ᾖ, it will not prove to be bad. We thus have a simple explanation of such sentences as οὐ μὴ οἷός τ᾽ ᾖς, you will not be able, PLAT. Rep. 341 B, and οὐ μὴ δυνατὸς ὦ, I shall not be able, Id. Phil. 48 D, the former being the negative of μὴ οἷός τ᾽ ᾖς, I suspect you will be able, the latter of μὴ δυνατὸς ὦ, I suspect that I shall be able. So, by prefixing οὐ to μὴ ἀναγκαῖον ᾖ, it may be necessary, we have οὐ μὴ ἀναγκαῖον ἦ, it will not be necessary. (See footnote, p. 394.) This use of μή with the independent subjunctive in Plato, is, however, confined to the present subjunctive, and generally to ᾖ (or ἔχῃ with an adverb), while οὐ μή generally has the aorist subjunctive or the future indicative, and only rarely the present subjunctive, even in Plato. (See examples in § 295.) Still, the successful application of the principle to the few present subjunctives which are like those above quoted indicates that we are on the right track. The independent subjunctive with μή is by no means confined to the Platonic construction above mentioned, although this is its chief representative in Attic Greek. It is familiar in Homer in expressions of apprehension combined with a desire to avert the object of fear; as μὴ δὴ νῆας ἕλωσι, may they not seize the ships (as I fear they may), Il. xvi. 128. (See § 261.) In such expressions sometimes the fear itself and sometimes the desire to avert the danger is more prominent; see Od. v. 415: μή πώς μ᾽ ἐκβαίνοντα βάλῃ λίθακι προτὶ πέτρῃ κῦμα μέγ᾽ ἁρπάξαν, μελέη δέ μοι ἔσσεται ὁρμή, i.e. I fear that some wave may dash me upon a rock as I am emerging from the sea, and my effort will (then) be in vain (the clause of fear being merged in a direct statement). See also Il. ii. 195, Il. xviii. 8; Od. v. 356, Od. xvi. 255.Between Homer and Plato, we find only eight cases of independent μή (or μὴ οὐ) with the subjunctive;4 but in these we can see the transition from Homer's clause of apprehension to Plato's cautious assertion. (See § 264.) In four of these cases, the speaker expresses fear and a desire to avert its object. These are EUR. Alc. 315, μὴ σοὺς διαφθείρῃ γάμους,— EUR. Or. 776, “μὴ λάβωσί σ᾽ ἄσμενοι” ,— H. F. 1399, “ἀλλ᾽ αἷμα μὴ σοῖς ἐξομόρξωμαι πέπλοις” ,—Rhes. 115, μὴ οὐ μόλῃς πόλιν. In the other four we see either the cautious assertion found in Plato or a near approach to it. In HDT. v. 79, we have ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον μὴ οὐ τοῦτο ᾖ τὸ μαντήιον, but I suspect rather that this will prove not to be the meaning of the oracle (precisely Plato's usage). Cases of μὴ οὐ of course illustrate this use of μή with the subjunctive equally with those of the simple μή. In EUR. Tro. 982, Hecuba says to Helen, μὴ οὐ πείσῃς σοφούς, I suspect you will not convince wise people, with the same sarcastic tone which is in Plato's μὴ οὐκ ᾖ διδακτὸν ἀρετή, I suspect it will prove that virtue is not a thing to be taught, Men. 94E (said by Socrates, who is arguing that virtue is οὐ διδακτόν). In AR. Eccl. 795, most editions have μὴ γὰρ οὐ λάβῃς ὅποι (sc. ταῦτα καταθῇς, where the Mss. give an impossible λάβοις), I suspect you will not find a place to put them down, with the same affectation of anxiety as in the two preceding examples. In XEN. Mem. iv. 2, 12 , we have one of the rare interrogative forms of the subjunctive with μή, in which Euthydemus says to Socrates, μὴ οὖν οὐ δύνωμαι (v. l. δύναμαι) ἐγὼ τὰ τῆς δικαιοσύνης ἔργα διηγήσασθαι; do you suspect that I shall be (or am) unable to explain the works of Justice? He adds, καὶ νὴ Δἴ ἔγωγε τὰ τῆς ἀδικίας, I assure you, I can explain those of Injustice. Here the spirit of the expression is the same as in the other cases. Compare the similar interrogatives in Plato: Phaed. 64C, Rep. 603 C, Parm. 163 D, Sisyph. 387 C. But for the eight cases of independent μή that have been quoted, we should never know that the construction existed between Homer and Plato. We have good ground for believing that it remained as a colloquial idiom in the language, though it seldom appeared in literature until Plato revived it and restored it to common use as a half-sarcastic form of expressing mildly a disagreeable truth. In Plato, the construction is not confined to this peculiar sense, for we find cases in which honest apprehension is expressed as in the older use. Weber quotes Euthyd. 272 C, μὴ τοῖν ξένοιν τις ταὐτὸ τοῦτο ὀνειδίσῃ, I am afraid some one may insult the two strangers in this same way (or let no one insult them, as I fear some one may); also Symp. 193B, καὶ μή μοι ὑπολάβῃ, I hope he will not answer me; and Leg. 861 E, μὴ τοίνυν τις οἴηται. It appears, therefore, that the independent subjunctive with μή was in good use in the fifth century B.C. in the two senses illustrated by EUR. Or. 776, “μὴ λάβωσί σε” , I fear they may seize you, and by EUR. Tro. 982, μὴ οὐ πείσης σοφούς, I suspect you will fail to convince wise people. From the persistence of the original meaning, even in Plato, we may probably assume that the expression more frequently included the idea of apprehension which is essential to it in Homer. But the other examples show that μὴ λάβωσί σε must have been in equally good use in the sense I suspect they will seize you (implying no apprehension). If now we suppose οὐ to be prefixed to μὴ λάβωσί σε, we shall have οὐ μὴ λάβωσί σε, which could be said with the meaning I am not afraid that they will seize you, and equally well with the meaning they shall not seize you. The former sense agrees precisely with that of some of the older uses of οὐ μή with the subjunctive. If the strange example from Parmenides (vs. 121) is genuine, we have οὐ μή ποτέ τίς σε βροτῶν γνώμῃ παρελάσσῃ, there is no danger that any mortal will surpass you in wisdom. In Sept. 38 (one of the oldest cases, Sept. 467B.C.), οὔ τι μὴ ληφθῶ δόλῳ, I have no fear of being caught by any trick, we can easily understand οὐ μὴ ληφθῶ as the negative of μὴ ληφθῶ, I fear I may be caught. So in Parmenides we have the negative of μή τίς σε παρελάσσῃ, I fear some one may surpass you. Οὐ μή τις ὀνειδίσῃ would be a natural negative of μή τις ὀνειδίσῃ, I fear some one may insult, in PLAT. Euthyd. 272 C. So, where there is no denial of apprehension, οὐ μὴ πάθῃς τόδε, you shall not suffer this, SOPH. El. 1029, may be the negative of μὴ πάθῃς τόδε, I suspect you will suffer this; and οὐ μὴ ἐκπλεύσῃς, Id. Phil. 381, may be the negative of μὴ ἐκπλεύσῃς, I suspect you will sail away. So οὐ μὴ ναῦς ἀφορμίσῃ (Kirchoff, -σῃς) χθονὸς, πρὶν ἄν, etc., you shall not move your ships from the shore, until, etc., I. T. EUR. 18, will be the negative of μὴ ναῦς ἀφορμίσῃ, I suspect you will move your ships. These expressions with οὐ μή were always colloquial, as were also (at least in Attic Greek) the expressions with μή and the subjunctive from which they are here supposed to have sprung.5 If it is thought that the limited number of cases of independent μή with the subjunctive not implying apprehension do not justify the assumptions which have been based on them, it is easy to see how the change from the denial of an apprehension to the denial of a suspicion might have taken place within the οὐ μή construction itself. If we suppose such expressions as οὐ μὴ ληφθῶ and οὐ μή τίς σε ὑβρίσῃ to have been established as the negatives of μὴ ληφθῶ, I fear I may be caught, and μή τίς σε ὑβρίσῃ, I fear some one may insult you, they must soon have fallen out of this relation to the parent forms, and have been felt in use to be mere future negative assertions, so that they could not long be restricted to sentences in which apprehension was implied. Thus, οὐ μὴ ναῦς ἀφορμίσῃ χθονός would soon become as natural to those who used these forms as the older οὐ μή τίς σε ὑβρίσῃ. According to this view, οὐ μή with the subjunctive would come into the language in the sense of a denial of an apprehension, which is essentially the same general sense as that supposed by the theory of an ellipsis of δέος ἐστίν. But there is a great advantage in dispensing with this troublesome and improbable ellipsis, and deriving the meaning from the sentence as it stands. There is surely no more ground for assuming this ellipsis here than in the independent subjunctive with μή, which is an older construction than the dependent subjunctive with μή. And if we accept μή τίς σε ὑβρίσῃ as a complete construction, without the help of δέος ἐστίν, it is absurd to invent an ellipsis to explain οὐ μή τίς σε ὑβρίσῃ as a shorter form for οὐ δέος ἐστὶ μή τίς σε ὑβρίσῃ. In fact, dispensing with this ellipsis removes the most fatal objection to the view of the sentence on which the old theory was based. In whichever of the two ways above suggested the subjunctive with οὐ μή came to express a simple future denial, it was only natural that the Attic Greek should soon begin to use the future indicative in place of the subjunctive in the same sense. Thus we have in SOPH. El. 1052, “οὔ σοι μὴ μεθέψομαί ποτε” , and in AR. Ran. 508, “οὐ μή σ᾽ ἐγὼ περιόψομαι” , both expressing denial. At this stage all recollection of the original clause with μή and the subjunctive must have been lost, as there was no corresponding clause with μή and the future indicative in common use, of which οὐ μή with the future could be the negative. A most striking proof of the entire loss of this tradition is given by examples of indirect quotation of οὐ μή with the future. In SOPH. Ph. 611 we have τά τ᾽ ἄλλα τάντ᾽ ἐθέσπισεν, καὶ τἀπὶ Τροίας πέργαμ᾽ ὡς οὐ μή ποτε πέρσοιεν εἰ μὴ τόνδε ἄγοιντο, the direct form being οὐ μή ποτε πέρσετε ἐὰν μὴ τόνδε ἄγησθε. In XEN. Hell. i. 6, 32, “εἶπεν ὅτι ἡ Σπάρτη οὐδὲν μὴ κάκιον οἰκιεῖται αὐτοῦ ἀποθανόντος” , the future indicative is retained in an otherwise similar construction. In EUR. Ph. 1590, we find εἶπε Τειρεσίας οὐ μή ποτε, σοῦ τήνδε γῆν οἰκοῦντος, εὖ πράξειν τόλιν, representing οὐ μή ποτε εὖ πράξει. We could not explain οὐ μὴ πράξειν as an independent expression on any theory, either with or without an ellipsis. Such forms show the advanced stage within the construction of οὐ μή had reached. (See § 296.) We find in the Roman comic poets a few cases of neque with haud in the same clause, forming a single negative. Such are PLAUT. Bacch. 1037, “Neque ego haud committam ut, si mid peccatum siet, fecisse dicas de mea sententia” ; and TER. Andr. 205, “Neque tu haud dices tibi non praedictum” . Neque haud may fairly be supposed to be a translation of οὐδὲ μή in a Greek original. If it is, it shows that the Roman poet understood οὐ μή with the subjunctive or the future indicative as a simple expression of denial. When οὐ μή with the future indicative had been established as a regular form of future denial, the second person singular probably began to be used as a form of prohibition. As the future could be used in positive commands in an imperative sense, as in “πάντως δὲ τοῦτο δράσεις,” “but by all means do this,” AR. Nub. 1352 , it could also take the simple οὐ in prohibitions, as in “χειρὶ δ᾽ οὐψαύσεις ποτε,” “you shall not touch me with your hand, or do not touch me.” EUR. Med. 1320. (See § 69.) The dramatists soon introduced the form with οὐ μή into such prohibitions, generally with the future indicative, but occasionally with the more primitive subjunctive. Thus οὐ μὴ καταβήσει had the sense of do not come down, derived from you shall not come down, as οὐ ψαύσεις (above) from meaning you shall not touch came to mean do not touch. One of the strongest objections to the older views of the forms with οὐ μή is that they generally require a distinct explanation of this prohibitory construction. Elmsley's theory of a question with two negatives, explaining οὐ μὴ καταβήσει; as will you NOT NOT come down? hence do not come down, was stated in the Quarterly Review for June 1812, and in his note to EUR. Med. 1120 (1151 Dind.). Many who do not adopt Elmsley's theory in full still accept the interrogative form, and these sentences are now generally printed as questions. Long before Elmsley, the famous “Canon Davesianus” had proscribed all sigmatic aorist subjunctives with οὐ μή as well as with ὅπως μή. This edict removed nearly or quite all the troublesome subjunctives that would have opposed Elmsley's view, and left only the future indicative in his doubly-negatived questions, which of course required an indicative. This again set up an artificial distinction in form between the prohibitory construction allowing only the future indicative, and the other construction allowing both subjunctive and future indicative. But it has been more and more evident in later years that this distinction in form between the two constructions cannot be maintained. It was seen by Brunck, before Elmsley's interrogative theory appeared, that it would be absurd to distinguish sentences like “ταῦτα οὐ μή ποτ᾽ ἐς τὴν Σκῦρον ἐκπλεύσῃς ἔχων” “you shall never sail away to Scyros with these arms,” SOPH. Ph. 381 , from “οὐ μὴ καταβήσει” “you shall not come down,” AR. Vesp. 397 . He therefore wrote ἐκπλεύσεις in the former, with the note “soloece vulgo legitur ἐκπλεύσῃς.” But ἐκπλεύσεις proved to be even a greater solecism than ἐκπλεύσῃς was thought to be, for the only classic future of πλέω is the middle πλεύσομαι or πλευσοῦμαι, and ἐκπλεύσει will not suit the verse. So ἐκπλεύσῃς had to be restored. Again, while almost all the sentences containing a prohibition with οὐ μή, followed by a positive command with ἀλλά or δέ, could admit of Elmsley's punctuation and interpretation,—as “οὐ μὴ λαλήσεις ἀλλ᾽ ἀκολουθήσεις ἐμοί;” AR. Nub. 505 , explained as won't you not talk nonsense and follow me? — another passage of the Clouds resisted both of these and also the prescribed form. In 296, the Mss. have οὐ μὴ σκώψῃς μηδὲ ποιήσῃς ἅπερ οἱ τρυγοδαίμονες οὗτοι: ἀλλ᾽ εὐφήμει. Brunck emended this without hesitation to οὐ μὴ σκώψεις μηδὲ ποιήσεις, with the note “ soloece vulgo σκώψῃς . . . ποιήσῃς.” But there was no place for Elmsley's interrogative mark, which could not stand after the imperative, and could not be inserted after οὗτοι without implying that the other sentences (like AR. Nub. 505 above) were wrongly punctuated. The emendation σκώψεις was as unfortunate as ἐκπλεύσεις, as the future of σκώπτω is σκώψομαι, not σκώψω, so that a further emendation to σκώψει was needed. In this battered condition, and with no interrogative mark to help the interpretation, the passage usually appears, even in the latest editions. (See §§ 298, 300, 301.) So long as it is proposed to explain these prohibitions and the ordinary denials with οὐ μή on entirely different theories, with nothing common to the two constructions, it may not seem unreasonable to force a few examples like AR. Nub. 296 and 367 into conformity with the general usage. But on any theory which makes no distinction in construction between the prohibitions and the other negative expressions of denial or refusal (for example, between οὐ μὴ ἐκπλεύσῃς, you shall not sail away, and οὐ μὴ καταβήσει, do not come down, i.e. you shall not come down), there is no more reason for objecting to οὐ μὴ σκώψῃς than to οὐ μὴ ἐκπλεύσῃς. An occasional subjunctive, like οὐ μὴ σκώψῃς or οὐ μὴ ληρήσῃς, is indeed no more than we should naturally expect in a construction which had its origin in the subjunctive. In such expressions, further, the analogy of the equivalent μὴ σκώψῃς and μὴ ληρήσῃς would tend to make the aorist subjunctive unobjectionable and perfectly natural. A reference to the list of passages quoted on page 390 will show the inconsistencies into which every one must fall who attempts to explain the prohibitions and the clauses of denial on different theories. We cannot separate οὐ μὴ σκώψῃς from οὐ μὴ ἐκπλεύσῃς in construction, nor the latter from οὐ μὴ πάθῃς, nor this again from οὐ μή τις ὑβρίσῃ, on any consistent principle of interpretation.6 Sentences of one class have been claimed as decisive witnesses in favour of the interrogative theory. They are represented by “οὐ θᾶσσον οἴσεις, μηδ᾽ ἀπιστήσεις ἐμοί;” “will you not more quickly extend it (your hand), and not distrust me?” SOPH. Tr. 1183. These are undoubted questions, but there is no construction with οὐ μή in them. They consist of one question with οὐ, implying an affirmative answer, will you not extend your hand? and another with μή, implying a negative answer, and you will not distrust me, will you? The compound of the two has the general sense expressed in the first translation above. (See § 299 and the examples.) In conclusion, we may sum up the result of the investigation as follows. The original construction of οὐ μή with the subjunctive was developed as a negative form of the independent subjunctive with μή, which had already become an expression of apprehension with desire to avert its object, even if it had not passed into the stage of a cautious assertion; in either case, the real negative force of μή was in abeyance. The aorist subjunctive is the most common form here, the present being less frequent. This form of future denial next admitted the future indicative in the same sense as the subjunctive. The second person singular of this future with οὐ μή was used by the dramatists as a prohibition, without abandoning the sense which the future can always have in both positive and negative commands. In these prohibitions the future indicative, in which they had their origin, is generally used; but the subjunctive occasionally occurs, being analogous to the ordinary aorist subjunctive with μή in prohibitions; e.g. μὴ σκώψῃς supporting οὐ μὴ σκώψῃς.7
1 Reprinted, with a few changes, from the Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, vol. i. pp. 65-76.
2 The idea suggested rather than advocated by Gildersleeve (American Journal of Philology, iii. pp. 203, 205), that οὐ is an independent negative, nay, while μή introduces a question which expects a negative answer, was evidently held by the copyists of some of the best Mss. of Aristophanes or by their predecessors: thus, Rav. and several Paris Mss. have οὔ: μὴ σκώψῃς (or σκώψης) in Nub. 296; Ven. 474 has οὔ: μὴ ληρήσῃς in Aristoph. Nub. 367, and οὔ: μὴ λαλήσεις in 505. See the Ms. readings given in Transactions of the American Philological Association for 1869-70, p. 52.
3 I give the following passages of Plato, with Jowett's translation, to illustrate this idiom:— Ἄλλως δὲ συνείρειν μὴ φαῦλον ᾖ καὶ οὐ καθ᾽ ὁδὸν, ὦ φίλε Ἑρμόγενες, if they are not, the composition of them, my dear Hermogenes, will be a sorry piece of work, and in the wrong direction. Crat. 425 B. Ἀλλὰ μὴ ὡς ἀληθῶς, τὸ τοῦ Ἑρμογένους, γλίσχρα ᾖ ἡ ὁλκὴ αὕτη τῆς ὁμοιότητος, ἀναγκαῖον δὲ ᾖ καὶ τῷ φορτικῷ τούτῳ προσχρῆσθαι, τῇ ξυνθήκῃ, but the force of resemblance, as Hermogenes says, is a mean thing; and the mechanical aid of convention must be further employed. Ib. 435 C. Μὴ οὐδὲν ἄλλο σκεπτέον ᾖ, the only question which remains to be considered is, etc. Crit. 48 C.
4 I depend here on Weber's statistics, given in his Entwickelungsgeschichte der Absichtssä tze.
5 EUR. Itmay perhaps be urged, in opposition to the view here presented, that οὐ μὴ λάβωσί σε, they will not seize you, cannot be the negative of μὴ λάβωσί σε in its sense of I suspect they will seize you, or even in that of I fear they may seize you, because the regular negative of this is μὴ οὐ λάβωσί σε, as we may call μὴ οὐ πείσῃς σοφούς ( EUR. Tro. 982) the negative of μὴ πείσῃς σοφούς. But οὐ in μὴ οὐ πείσῃς negatives only the verb, whereas οὐ in οὐ μὴ πείσῃς would negative the whole expression μὴ πείσῃς. Μὴ οὐ πείσῃς is a cautious negative, meaning I suspect you will not convince them, corresponding in a certain way to μὴ πείσῃς, I suspect you will convince them. But οὐ μὴ πείσῃς would be the true negative of μὴ πείσῃς, denying it absolutely, in the sense there is no ground for suspicion that you will convince them, or (sometimes) there is no fear that you will convince them, i.e. you will not convince them. There is all the difference in the world between suspecting a negative (e.g. suspecting that something will not happen) and negativing a suspicion (e.g. denying that there is any suspicion that something will happen). Surely no one could understand μὴ οὐ δυνατὸς ὦ, I suspect I shall not be able, as the negative of μὴ δυνατὸς ὦ, I suspect I shall be able. The real negative is much rather οὐ μὴ δυνατὸς ὦ, there is no chance that I shall be able, in Phil. 48 The D. negative power of οὐ in negativing μὴ λάβωσί σε in its sense of I fear they may seize you is perhaps still more apparent. Whereas μὴ οὐ λάβωσί σε in this sense would mean I am afraid they may not seize you, οὐ μὴ λάβωσί σε would mean I do not fear (or there is no danger) that they will seize you, which is felt as a strong negative, they will not seize you.
7 Since this paper was written, I have seen that Kvičala, in two articles on οὐ μή in the Zeitschrift für die oesterreichischen Gymnasien for 1856, proposed an explanation of οὐ μή with the subjunctive, which at one important point came very near the view now presented. He states two (apparently theoretical) meanings which he supposes μὴ θάνῃς to have had at some period (zwei Bedeutungsentwickelungen): one, “Du wirst doch wol am Ende, trotzdem dass ich es abzuwehren suche, sterben; ” the other, “Ich fürchte, dass du doch wol (trotz meiner Abwehr) sterben werdest.” By prefixing οὐ to μὴ θάνῃς in these meanings, he arrives at two uses of οὐ μή with the subjunctive. The second meaning comes so near the independent subjunctive with μή in Homer, that it is surprising that neither this nor the equally important μή in Plato is mentioned. But no use is made of the advantage here gained in explaining οὐ μή with the future indicative, either in prohibitions or in denials. The prohibitions are made interrogative, οὐ μὴ δυσμενὴς ἔσει; being explained as “Nicht wahr?—du wirst doch nicht feindselig seyn?” The future of denial is explained simply as developed from the interrogative future, as a form of reply to this, by leaving out the interrogative element.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.