Homer’s Text and Language

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6. The Name of Achilles: Questions of Etymology and “Folk-Etymology”*

6§7 Holland’s second objection raises a more important question, which is central to this presentation: how to distinguish an etymology from a “folk-etymology.” The latter term is misleading, I suggest, if it leads to the assumption that the only “genuine” etymology in comparative linguistics is one where a given reconstructed form can be traced all the way back to the parent language of the given languages being compared. According to such an assumption, a reconstruction like *Akhí-lāu̯os would be a “false” etymology if it cannot be traced back to “proto-Indo-European.”

6§9 In the case of a form like Ἀχιλ(λ)εύς, the question is not whether it had always been connected with the forms ἄχος and λαός. What matters instead is whether this connection is “deeply rooted,” as I have described it, in the formulaic system of Homeric Dichtersprache and whether it can be traced far back enough in time to reach the remote stage when “Caland” formations were still a productive mechanism in the Greek language.

6§14 It would be preferable in this case, I suggest, to keep in mind not the diachrony of the root πένθ- but also the synchronicity of a Dichtersprache that could generate, along with a morphological and thematic parallelism of ἄχος vs. πένθος, a morphological and thematic parallelism of *Akh(es)í-lāu̯os vs. *Penth(es)í-lāu̯i̯a. These parallelisms converge in the epic tradition of a mortal combat between the male warrior Ἀχιλ(λ)εύς and the female warrior Πενθεσί-λεια, as reflected in the Aithiopis (Proclus summary p. 105.22 Allen).


[ back ] * The original version of this essay is N 1994a.

[ back ] 1. Palmer 1963a:78–79. The original formulation for this kind of compound: Caland 1893; cf. Risch 1974:218–219. On the semantics of λαός ‘host of fighting men, folk’, see now Haubold 2000, especially pp. 2–3, 16, 43–45, 48–52, 76–78.

[ back ] 2. Palmer 1963a:79. On the morphology of -εύς, as in Ἀχιλ(λ)εύς, see Palmer 1963a:78; cf. Perpillou 1973:167–299. See also in general Schindler 1976, who demonstrates that this type of suffix is not a borrowing from a non-Indo-European language and that ευ-stems are in general secondary formations derived from ο-stems. Further arguments in BA 70 par. 2n2 (cf. N 1976:209n9).

[ back ] 3. BA 69–93; for the original formulation of the argument, see N 1976a. In his commentary to Book I of the Iliad, Latacz 2000c:15 made a passing reference to this formulation (which is the only reference by Latacz 2000a/b/c to any work of mine). On the basis of this reference, it is not clear to me whether he understood my formulation.

[ back ] 4. BA 70 (cf. N 1976a:209–210).

[ back ] 5. This point, which I will reinforce in the present version of my essay, has not been understood by all readers of previous versions. See above. For a working definition of “Dichtersprache,” see p. 125n56.

[ back ] 6. BA 94 (cf. N 1976a:221).

[ back ] 7. BA 72 (cf. N 1976a:210).

[ back ] 8. BA 79.

[ back ] 9. Holland 1993:22. For the original version of the formulation paraphrased here, see N 1976a:216.

[ back ] 10. Holland 1993:22–23.

[ back ] 11. Holland 1993:23, with reference to BA 69–70.

[ back ] 12. Cf. BA 78, ‘he who has the host of fighting men grieving’.

[ back ] 13. By “diathetical neutrality,” I mean that the opposition between active and passive usage is neutralized.

[ back ] 14. BA 69–70.

[ back ] 15. Benveniste 1966:289–307. Cf. Householder and Nagy 1972:48–58.

[ back ] 16. Cf. Risch 1974:218–219.

[ back ] 17. BA 71.

[ back ] 18. BA 71. On the capacity of Homeric Dichtersprache to generate new morphological categories, see e.g. Roth 1990.

[ back ] 19. Holland 1993:24.

[ back ] 20. Holland 1993:24.

[ back ] 21. The possibility of this derivation is raised by Chantraine DELG 862.

[ back ] 22. N 1976a:210. For a similar approach to the etymology of Ἀπόλλων / Ἀπέλλων, see the following chapter.

[ back ] 23. Palmer 1979:258. Also Palmer 1980:37 and 98. Neither work is mentioned by Holland 1993.

[ back ] 24. Palmer 1979:258. For a definitive work on the μῆνις of Akhilles, see now Muellner 1996.

[ back ] 25. N 1976a:216 (see note 9 above). This article includes a thematic analysis of μῆνις in the Homeric Iliad, where I argued that “the theme of Achilles’ anger is singled out by the composition as the most central and hence most pervasive in the Iliadic tradition” (p. 211) and that the Homeric deployment of μῆνις indicates “a distinctive Iliadic association of this word with all the epic events that resulted from Achilles’ anger against Agamemnon, the most central of which is the devastation [ἄλγεα] suffered by the Achaeans” (pp. 211–212). When I rewrote my arguments about Homeric μῆνις in BA 72–74, I adduced the important etymological and thematic observations of Watkins 1977 (that article does not mention the relevant thematic observations in N 1976a:211–212, 215–217).

[ back ] 26. N 1976a:216–232. Expanded version in BA 69–93.

[ back ] 27. Benveniste 1969 II 76–77; cf. BA 79–83.

[ back ] 28. BA 83–93.

[ back ] 29. BA 83–93. Cf. also BA 94–117 on the Homeric use of ἄχος and πένθος, both meaning ‘grief’, as programmatic indicators of ritual songs of lament (especially pp. 99–100 on Odyssey iv 220).

[ back ] 30. Palmer 1979:258.

[ back ] 31. Palmer 1979:258.

[ back ] 32. Palmer 1979:258.

[ back ] 33. Palmer 1979:258.

[ back ] 34. Palmer 1977:258–259. Moreover, there is an attestation of a-ki-re-u, to be read as Akhilleus, in Knossos-tablet Vc 106.

[ back ] 35. Holland 1993:25.

[ back ] 36. I am not persuaded by Holland’s argument, p. 26, that ἄχος at Iliad XIII 86 and 417 is to be interpreted as ‘fear’, not ‘grief’.

[ back ] 37. Palmer 1963b:90–91; cf. 1963a:187.