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  • Communication in Pindar's Deictic Acts
  • Anna Bonifazi

Anna Bonifazi examines the obstacles a critic faces in trying to reconstruct a first-performance climate or context. In the course of her linguistic exploration of place and person deixis in Pindaric epinicia, she proposes a classification of deictic practices according to the pragmatic acts that underlie them. Deixis, even in its hidden forms, such as definite articles or relative pronouns related to the past, is seen as a strong linguistic component of Pindar's poetic power. Using a cognitive approach, Bonifazi seeks to assess the degree of communication that takes place despite the erasure of the original setting. Modern readers, she argues, miss an important part of the performance, namely the non-verbal and the verbally implicit. Nevertheless, from this radical aporia comes something positive: a recognition that the actual goal of epinician deixis is not to refer unequivocally to something or somebody, but rather to create ambiguity and inclusiveness. This contributes to enargeia on the part of the reader: absence triggers hard work and thus engagement.

Epinician performance, like every communicative act, relies on general conditions that allow it to work, to be successful.1 In the first place, communication is intentional; without intentionality there is no communication.2 Its two modalities are linguistic and extralinguistic;3 paralinguistic features can modify both linguistic and extralinguistic acts.4 Furthermore, communicative activity involves all participants; meaning is constructed within their relationship.5 With their inferential activity, the participants activate a cognitive comprehension of signals, either through an extralinguistic or a linguistic [End Page 391] medium.6 Pragmatics is the study of this inferential activity that is oriented toward the non-explicit elements of linguistic communication;7 it aims to explain and classify inferences required by communicative linguistic activity.

Readers of or listeners to a literary text8 experience comprehension as a linguistic processing of explicit as well as implicit meanings in the text. The interaction between who composes (or composed) and who enjoys a literary text can be understood in terms of the co-production of meaning.9 Whatever the conditions of reception—subjective or intersubjective—and whatever the spatial and/or temporal distance between the literary object and its recipients, a literary text is a communicative act. The interactive relationship between what the text communicates and what is understood as being communicated conforms to the general conditions of communication outlined above. In the case of Pindaric texts, how do these principles operate differently for twenty-first-century recipients and for the original audiences?

Pindaric Epinician Communication

From the point of view of the original listeners, Pindaric epinician communication—through the performance10—was processed both linguistically and extralinguistically. In other words, it included both the realization and the comprehension of the song at these two complementary levels. Two kinds of external data enabled extralinguistic processing: 1) external text realization (rhythm, music, dance, gestures), and 2) external occasional or [End Page 392] situational circumstances (the place, the moment, the kind of feast, the official vs. private range of listeners)—that is the extralinguistic context. Linguistic processing, on the other hand, arose from the literal and non-literal meanings of the words, the latter coinciding with what the words implicitly conveyed. Both linguistic and extralinguistic comprehension resulted in inferences, i.e., the cognitive elaboration of signals (stimuli).11 In principle, these signals were either conventional (defined culturally) or non-conventional (defined individually). A conventional signal linguistically processed was, for example, the utterance "here" in its basic reference: "close to an 'I"'; a non-conventional one was the same "here" in a possible personalized connotation, as, for example, "I participate in this 'here.'"12 A conventional signal extralinguistically processed was, for example, the melodic pattern; a non-conventional signal was the subjective effect of that particular melodic pattern. In the epinician reception by original listeners of the first and, possibly, subsequent performances of the texts, all these comprehension elements were operative.

At which level can we (as Greek scholars who study Pindaric texts) access these elements of comprehension? Which ones are somehow lost to us? We have to remember at each moment of our reading that we have in our hands just the...


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pp. 391-414
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