13 Apr 2009

Stoic Logic and Semantics. " Parts of Speech," Ch 5.5.3 of Luhtala, On the Origin of Syntactical Description in Stoic Logic

Anneli Luhtala

On the Origin of Syntactical Description in Stoic Logic

Chapter 5: The Stoics

5.5.3 Parts of Speech

The stoics designate five parts of speech.
1) proper noun (όνομα, onoma),
2) common noun (προσηγορία, prosegoria),
3) verb (ρημα, rema),
4) conjunction (σύνδεσμοσ, syndesmos), and
5) pronoun (άρθρον, arthron).

Because the Stoics distinguished proper nouns, common nouns, and pronouns, they were able in propositional analysis to "distinguish between more and less highly referential subjects and, consequently, different kinds of propositions in terms of their varying degrees of definiteness." (79a)

The common noun signifies a common quality, for example, 'man' or 'horse.'
A proper noun or name designates an individual quality, for example, Diogenes or Socrates.
A verb signifies a simple predicate or "an uninflected element of a sentence signifying something that can be attached to one or more (subjects), for example, 'I write' or 'I speak'.
A conjunction unites the other parts of speech. [See Mates detailed distinctions for further explanation.]

There are two definitions for a verb.
1) The first identifies the verb (ρημα, rema) as a simple predicate (ασύνθετον κατηγόρημα, asyntheton kategorema).
2) According to the second definition, "the verb signifies something that can be construed with one or more subjects." This definition
can be associated with the definition of the predicate according to which the predicate signifies a state of affairs (πραγμα, pragma) which occurs in a construction about one or more subjects. (80b)
Thus we define the verbs in terms of their syntactical roles, unlike the nominals, which we define in ontological terms. (80bc)

So nominals and verbs signify ontologically different items.
Nouns and pronouns are related to bodies (σώματα, somata) in the material world, whereas there is nothing in the material world that corresponds to the contents of the verb. According to Stoic physics, only bodies really exist; both substances and qualities were understood by the Stoics as corporeal. What the verb stands for pertains solely to th3 sphere of thinking and speaking, that is to the component of meaning (σημαινόμενον, semainomenon; λεκτόν, lekton). The essence of the verb is its syntactico-semantic role, which is to say something about bodies. The distinction between the nominal parts of speech and the verb would seem to reflect the division of Stoic ontology so that the nominal parts of speech stand for corporeality (σώματα, somata) in the ontological scheme, while the verb stands for the incorporeal items (ασώματα, asomata). The sayable is one of the four incorporeals posited by the Stoics. (81a-b)
Substance and quality belong to the Stoic's four categories or genera:
1) substance (or substrate)
2) quality (or qualified)
3) disposition (or disposed), and
4) relative disposition. [see chart below for Greek.]
These categories classify the metaphysical aspects we use use to view a body.

If we consider a body under the first category of substance, primary matter, or substrate (ουσια, ousia; ύποκείμενον, hypokeimenon), then we attribute existence to the body without mentioning its qualities. But substances must mix with qualities, which are corporeal, so they may affect the substance causally. "Qualities were generally understood by the Stoics as currents of air shaping the substance. A qualified substance is, for instance, a prudent individual." (81c-d) So individuals consist of two substrates: substance and quality, which are both corporeal.

There are two stages for a qualified substance: commonly and peculiarly qualified. Common nouns signify what is 'commonly qualified.' Proper nouns signify what is 'peculiarly qualified,' and pronouns express pure substance. (81a-b) Substance and quality cannot exist apart, but they can be linguistically differentiated.

[click on image for an enlargement]

Luhtala, Anneli. On the Origin of Syntactical Description in Stoic Logic. Münster: Nodus Publikationen, 2000.

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