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398. It is impossible to discuss intelligently the origin of the conditional sentence until the etymology and original meaning of the particles εἰ, αἰ, ἄν, and κέ are determined. On these questions we have as yet little or no real knowledge. The theory of εἰ or αἰ which identifies it with the pronominal stem sva (σϝε), Oscan svai, and Latin si, is perhaps the most common. By this the original meaning of εἰ, or rather of one of its remote ancestors in some primitive language, would be at a certain time (or place), in a certain way.1 But, even on this theory, we can hardly imagine any form of εἰ as existing in the Greek language until the word had passed at least into the relative stage, with the force of at which time (or place), in which way, under which circumstances. It cannot be denied that the strong analogy between conditional and relative sentences and the identity of most of their forms give great support to any theory by which the conditional sentence is explained as an outgrowth of the relative, so that the conditional relative sentence is made the original conditional construction. Thus εἰ ἦλθεν might at some time have meant in the case in which he went, and εἰ ἔλθῃ, in the case in which he shall go (or in case he shall go), etc. But here we are on purely theoretical ground; and we must content ourselves practically with the fact, that in the earliest Greek known to us εἰ was fully established in its conditional sense, like our if and Latin si.

1 See Delbrück, Conj. und Opt., pp. 70, 71, who terms this a wahrscheinliche positive Vermuthung.

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