Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Looking at the Cratylus; was: nomothete

From:Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Date:Tuesday, December 7, 2004, 6:40
----- Original Message -----
From: "Muke Tever" <hotblack@...>

> On Mon, 6 Dec 2004 19:13:07 -0500, Sally Caves <scaves@...> > wrote:
>> Is Eco using the word incorrectly? I've always understood this to mean >> nomos + theticos. Is there any context outside of Eco's use of it here >> where this word means "giving the name"? > > Yes. In Plato's dialogue "Cratylus" it is used it this way. > > << Socrates: > Perhaps, then, one artisan of names will be good, and another bad? > Cratylus: > Yes. > Socrates: > The name of such an artisan was lawgiver? [nomoqeths] > Cratylus: > Yes. >> > > I seem to remember a detailed discussion in there of how the nomothete, > if a good one, will assign good sounds to the right words, (e.g., "rho", > a flowing sound, will go in words that pertain to fluid motion) but I'm > not sure where exactly it is right now.
Okay, I've had a look at this. With great good fortune, I found my Loeb Classic Cratylus, and I have transliterated the Greek (probably badly) so the rest of you can see it (who need transliterations, as I do, for clarity). And I see here that he uses three compounds: nomothetus (for "lawgiver"), onomatourgon, for "name-giver or crafter," and onoma thesthai, "to give or bestow names." Here's the Greek with Fowler's translation: Sorry for the lack of diacritical marks; perhaps Greek experts can correct me: Socrates: Ar ouchi o nomos dokei soi o paradidous aura? "And do you not think it is the law (nomos) that gives them to us?" Hermogenes: "Very likely." Socrates: Nomothetou ara ergo chresetai o didaskalikos, otan onomati chrestai? "Then the teacher, when he uses a name, will be using the work (ergo) of a lawgiver (nomothetou)?" (i.e., "lawgiver's work (acc) would use a teacher (nom), when he uses a name"??) Hermogenes: "I think so." Socrates: Nomothetus de soi dokei pas einai aner e o ten techne echon? "Do you think every man is a lawgiver, or only he who has the skill?" (I don't know how this sentence is structured, except that Nomothetus is nominative. What is dokei?) Hermogenes: "He who has the skill." Socrates: Ouk ara pantos andros, O Ermogenes, onoma thesthai, alla tinos onomatourgon outos d'estin, os eolken, o nomothetus, os de ton demiourgon spaniotatos en anthropois gignetai. "Then it is not for every man, Hermogenes, to give names (onoma thesthai), but for him who may be called the name-maker (onomatourgon); and he, it appears, is the lawgiver (nomothetus), who is of all the artisans among men the rarest." (This seems like an argument for prescriptive grammarians!) What this tells me is that the Greek word for lawgiver has become conflated or confused with onomatourgon, simply because of the identification of the lawgiver with the namegiver. But technically, nomothete is "law-giver" and "onomatothete" or "onomatourge" is "namegiver." My question is this: should I follow Eco in this identification or should I challenge him? Do you know of any others besides Eco that use nomothete as "namegiver" or is he alone in this identification? Is it European? Is it a "Greek" thing? a "Plato" thing? I see in the following pages that "lawgiver" has now supplanted the term "name creator": "Then, my dear friend, must not the lawgiver also know how to embody in the sounds and syllables that name which is fitted by nature for each object?" etc. etc. "Must he not make and give all his names with his eye fixed upon the absolute or ideal name, if he is to an authoritative giver of names? (onomaton thetes)" No, I guess I'm wrong. But the identification is certainly there. Any others want to weigh in on this? Wow, this is a fabulous text for the conlanger. I've been silly to overlook it
> But it seems that you're not the only one to think it a mistake, as > apparently "onomatothete" [onomatoqeths] was often written as a correction > of this word.
Technically, the correctors are right, though. Look at the text. Sally


Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
Muke Tever <hotblack@...>