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  • «Prodige à voir» Recherches comparatives sur l’origine casuelle de l’infinitif en grec ancien by Sylvie Vanséveren
  • Andrew Miles Byrd
«Prodige à voir» Recherches comparatives sur l’origine casuelle de l’infinitif en grec ancien. By Sylvie Vanséveren. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2000. Pp. 188. ISBN: 90-429-0835-1. $19.18.

It has long been supposed that Proto-Indo-European (PIE) did not have an infinitive, and a myriad of different forms attested in the Indo-European (IE) languages seems to support this. Consequently, one may suppose that these various forms are innovations of the individual IE languages. In this book, Sylvie Vanséveren examines the forms and usages of the Greek (Gk) infinitive with respect to corresponding forms in other IE languages and attempts to create a more coherent view of the original state of affairs. By examining and thereby refuting the methodologies of past scholars, V demonstrates that the only way to create a realistic view of the situation is from both a morphological and syntactic perspective. She accomplishes this in four well-organized chapters: ‘ “Infinitif”: Esquisse méthodologique’ (11–34), ‘Perspective morphologique’ (35–73), ‘Perspective syntaxique’ (74–133), and ‘Conclusions’ (134–46).

As she examines the possible morphological origins of the Greek infinitive, V attempts to show that many of the current theories are ad hoc. For example, it is frequently assumed that the origins of infinitives such as -ein (< *-e-hen [*ser/n]), -men (*mer/n) lie in a case designated by many as a ‘locatif sans désinence’ (this type is seen in Gk he≃mar ‘by day’, Sanskrit udán ‘in water’, and Hittite dagan ‘on the earth’). V has great difficulty in understanding how an infinitive may have arisen in a locative form, but one need look no further than the usage of ‘in understanding’ in my last clause to see how it may have come about. V maintains her opposition to a locatival source, but never establishes a satisfactory argument against it. To dispel this notion even further, one should note that Vedic Sanskrit possesses a number of clear instances of locative infinitives (e.g. forms in -sani).

Possibly the most interesting aspect of V’s research involves the imperatival usage of the infinitive in Greek and in other dialects. In some IE languages, it is only found in the oldest texts (e.g. Vedic); in others, it occurs only in very restricted contexts (e.g. Latin, where its use is limited to certain technical texts), and in some languages it does not occur at all (e.g. Armenian). The use of the infinitive as a singular second person future imperative is quite common in Greek, whereas a noninfinitival form in *-tōd is more usually found in languages such as Sanskrit and Latin. This archaic usage of the infinitive as an imperative in some of the older IE dialects provides another sort of evidence that the infinitive did indeed exist at a certain state of PIE.

Following her discussion, V has included tables of the frequency and the locations of infinitival usages in the Homeric epics as well as indices of sources, key terms, and modern authors. By paying close attention to both morphology and syntax, V has made a great contribution not only to the study of the Greek infinitive, but also to Indo-European linguistics as a whole.



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