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Particles in Greek and Hittite as Expression of Mood and Modality

Project description

The particulars of particles in Greek and Hittite texts

In the earliest Greek texts (Mycenae, inscriptions, epic and lyric poetry) the particles án and ken are used. The EU-funded PaGHEMMo project will investigate the original functions and etymology of these particles in the ancient Greek tradition preceding the Attic prose. It will also examine the uses of the particles man, -san and -kan in Old-Hittite texts (1650-1450 BCE) and compare them with those of the Greek particles. In the Greek texts, the particles could be combined with a mood (optative or subjunctive) while in Hittite these moods are not attested; instead, the bare particles expressed the modality. Project findings will show the diachronic path of expressing modality and the possibility to reconstruct this category for the Indo-European Protolanguage.


This proposal investigates the original meaning and uses of the particles án and ken in the earliest Greek texts (epic and lyric poetry and inscriptions, VIII-VI BC, there are no examples in Mycenaean, XIII BC) and their interaction with mood and modality, the use of the particles man, san and kan in the Old-Hittite texts (1650-1450 BC) and the comparison between the particles in Greek and Hittite, and to what extent the subordination plays a role in the use of the Greek particles. The use of the modal particle án with the different moods is strictly regulated in Classical Greek (V-IV BC), but epic and lyric Greek, and other dialects án, use ken or ka, and the rules seem less rigid. So far no study addressed the use of these particles in the oldest Greek texts. I gather the data, determine if they are secured by the metre, tag and catalogue them per tense, mood, type of sentence (negative, affirmative, main clause, subordinate and type of subordinate clause) and type of text (narrative, speech) and analyse the use(s). While Greek has a rich system of moods and particles, Hittite has only two moods and conveys the non-realis meaning through the particle man, but also san and kan can specify the verb. Kan is said to be related to ken and becomes the default particle in later texts replacing san, but in Old-Hittite texts san is more common. The original meaning of san and kan is debated. I gather the instances of kan and san, catalogue them per text and sentence type, and investigate the meaning. Then I compare the use of these particles with verbs to Greek ken. Finally, I investigate the link between the Greek particles and subordination. The particles are attested more in subordinate than in main clauses and in some subordinate clauses they are used more often than in others. There are two questions: were the particles used as subordination markers or can the paratactic origin of the subordinate constructions explain their use.


Net EU contribution
€ 171 473,28
37129 Verona

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Nord-Est Veneto Verona
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 171 473,28