Spatial representations of the future in Homeric Greek

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The aim of this paper is to investigate the space-time mapping of the future in Homeric Greek. It is widely accepted that the spatial adverbs πρόσσω ‘in front’ and ὀπίσσω ‘behind’ in the Homeric poems are used to portray temporal events located in a sequence of aligned entities that follow one after the other on the same path (Dunkel 1983: 66). In such a temporal sequence, or Time-RP model, those adverbs are associated respectively to past and future events in a dichotomous spatial representation of time, without involving a deictic ego-experiencer. After analyzing data from the Homeric poems in a cognitive linguistic perspective, it is found that some temporal uses of the preposition πρό ‘in front’ also refer to a space-time mapping in which the observer appears to be in-tandem aligned with temporal entities that are still related to each other in a deictically neutral field-based frame of reference (Moore 2011). Thus, (s)he imposes his/her vantage point to the sequence of occurring events which (s)he is aligned with, mapping the future events (τὰ τ’ἐσσόμενα) as being located in front (πρό) of the present (τὰ τ’ἐόντα) (see also Hill 1978: 528; Vandeloise 1991: 122; Haspelmath 1997: 59; Evans, 2003: 228; Dewell 2007: 295). In this peculiar Time-RP construal, which is also attested in non-Indo-European languages, the future is the farther event that is statically seen in front of (or before) the present, thus contrasting to the more common Time-RP construal in which a later event is said to be after another event. Furthermore, Homeric Greek πρό ‘in front’ is associated to a representation of the future that is common not only to ancient Indo-European languages, like Old Avestan, but also to non-Indo-European languages, like, among others, Malagasy (Dahl 1995: 199) and Tamazight (see Cardona 1985: 72). Specifically, the future is conceptualized as made of a hendiadyc structure, consisting of both distant future events and imminent future events. The major corpus resources used in this study include the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG 2000) as digital corpus of Homeric Greek texts (Iliad and Odyssey).ReferencesCardona, G. R. 1985. I sei lati del mondo. Linguaggio ed esperienza, Roma-Bari, Laterza 1985.Chantraine, P. 1953. Grammaire homérique: Tome 2. Syntaxe. Paris, Klincksieck. Dahl, Ø. 1995. When the future comes from behind: Malagasy and other time concepts and some consequences for communication. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 19 (2), 197-209.Dewell, R.B. 2007. Why Monday comes before Tuesday: the role of a non-deictic conceptualizer. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 25(3), 291-301Dunkel, G. E. 1983. Πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω. Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung 96 (1982/83), 66-87. Evans, V. 2003. The Structure of Time. Language, meaning and temporal cognition. Amsterdam Philadelphia, John Benjamins.Haspelmath, M. 1997. From Space to Time. Temporal Adverbials in the World’s Languages, München-Newcastle, Lincom Europa.Hill, C. A. 1978. Linguistic Representation of Spatial and Temporal Orientation. Proceedings of the 4th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society. Berkeley, Berkeley Press, 524-538.Humbach, H., Elfenbein J., Skjærvø, P.O. 1991. The Gāthās of Zarathushtra and the other old Avestan texts. Heidelberg, Winter.Moore, K. E. 2011. Ego-perspective and field-based frames of reference: Temporal meanings of FRONT in Japanese, Wolof, and Aymara. Journal of Pragmatics 43 (3), 759–776.TLG 2000. Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, A Digital Library of Greek Literature, Irvine, CA, Universit
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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