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  Philologica 5 (1998)  
   
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A. I. ZAJCEV

CONCERNING E. A. KRASNOPEVCEV’S ARTICLE ON THE PHONICS AND SEMANTICS OF THE EPIC HEXAMETER

 
 
 



 

Summary

E. A. Krasnopevcev’s article is substantiated by an interesting statistical examination of the distribution of different phonemes, stresses and words with various meanings within the Homeric hexameter. Even so, the proposed explanation does not convince us.

The scholar considers the two hemistichs of the hexameter to be semantically independent parts which correspond to the later and the earlier periods of cultural development. But the way in which the concepts are distributed among the tripodies barely correlates with this scheme. Thus, the names of Greek gods and heroes are concentrated in the second hemistich; they are of relatively late origins. We cannot say that they fix the earlier cultural type than the numerals and personal pronouns do (which predominate in the first hemistich), for the latter belong to the Indo-European legacy.

According to Krasnopevcev, dental, labial and velar consonants are bound up with the “upper”, “middle” and “lower” worlds, and the roots of this acoustic symbolism have been traced back to earliest antiquity. In fact, however, there are no grounds on which one could maintain that the Indo-Europeans perceived the world as consisting of three levels. Moreover, in the Mycenaean epoch (when the heroic folklore songs had developed which became the source for Homer’s poems) there existed four local types of obstruent consonants, and not three: labials, dentals, velars and labial-velars. How can these four types be associated with three worlds?

Krasnopevcev postulates the connection between the front vowels (η, ι) and the “upper” realm of the universe, whereas most η-sounds of Homer’s text transformed into front vowels shortly before or even after the creation of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Therefore, the author’s phonological calculations do not reflect the epoch whose poetic laws he is trying to reveal.

Many scholars who paint a vivid picture of ancient religious life are moved by natural disappointment in the contemporary forms of human existence. But these psychological mechanisms will not help us to find out how things were in reality.

 



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