previous next

514. The function of the article, which was originally a demonstrative, and always has more or less demonstrative force, is to fix a floating adjective or substantive. In the earlier stages of the language “ἵππος” means ‘the horse’ (literally ‘the swift one’)1 as well as ‘a horse,’ and we have an implicit article as well as an explicit article (“, , τό”). This implicit article served at first as particular or generic. Afterwards the particular use required the reinforcement of the explicit article, but in the generic use the employment of the explicit article was optional. Particular: (“ἄνθρωπος”), “ ἄνθρωπος”, the man; generic: “ἄνθρωπος, ἄνθρωπος”, man.

Proper names being in their nature particular do not require the explicit article, and when the article is used with them, it retains much of its original demonstrative force.

It is impossible to draw a sharp line of demarcation between the uses of the attributive article at different stages. The Homeric demonstrative use passes over into the articular use, and the Attic articular use approaches the Homeric demonstrative use. In the one case we have the germ of a new life; in the other, the survival of the old. To the Attic the Homeric “ γέρων” could hardly have been distinguishable from the everyday “ γέρων” of prose. Much depends on the position in the verse. Sometimes there may be apposition, sometimes the article may be used for contrast. When Pindar said “ἄριστον μὲν ὕδωρ, δὲ χρυσός”, the verse brings out the pause, the feeling of antithesis. We say that there is no articular infinitive in Homer, because in the only apparent example, Od. 20.52: “ἀνίη καὶ τὸ φυλάσσειν”, the appositional explanation brings the passage in line with the use elsewhere (Od. 1.370; 11.358-9) and with the later use of “τοῦτο”, which is the demonstrative article ‘writ large’ (PLATO, Gorg. 449C).

In the older language and in the higher poetry that follows the older norm the article proper is not so much used as in Attic prose and as in comic poetry, which approaches the language of everyday life. Homer gives the norm, which is followed closely by Pindar. The lyric parts of tragedy are more anarthrous than the dialogue. The dialogue of comedy differs decidedly from that of tragedy in this respect. Old phrases, especially prepositional phrases, retain in the heyday of Attic their anarthrous forms. Dialects vary, and the Doric is said to have affected the hearty homely article. See the Lacedaemonian chorus in the Lysistrate. Authors vary, and whereas some eschew the article with proper names or use it gingerly, others, like Plato , are exceedingly free with it. On the other hand, the familiar use of the article has led to exactness and finesse, and the subtle variations in the employment of it add a special charm to Attic prose.2

The substantive use of the article is in Attic prose a survival, and is found chiefly in fixed phrases and certain old-fashioned turns of expression.

1 But cf. A. J. P. xxiii (1902), 22. Oertel, Study of Language, p. 306.

2 Cf. A. J. P. xxiii (1902), 121.

Creative Commons License
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.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: