The Suffix -μα in Aristophanes

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The Suffix -μα in Aristophanes (1916)
by Charles William Peppler
2524128The Suffix -μα in Aristophanes1916Charles William Peppler


A familiar source of laughter in comedy and elsewhere in the lighter forms of literature and conversation is the substitution of an unexpected ending for the usual ending of a word. This shift of termination for the comic effect is well-known to readers of Aristophanes. Two previous investigations[1] were devoted to the study of those diminutives, character names, and patronymics, and those adjectives in -ικός in Aristophanes in which the comic element lies in the ending; the present article deals with a small group of nouns in -μα, in so far as the suffix contributes anything comic to these words.

The suffix -μα, -ματ- (Lat. -men-, -men-to-, Eng. -ment) added to verbal stems makes nomina actionis which denote in most cases the result of the action of the verb. These derivative nouns occur in great abundance in tragedy, they are found to the number of one hundred in Herodotus, and are used with uncommon frequency by Hippocrates.[2] For this reason they are generally thought to be of Ionic origin, though Fraenkel finds their source in old Attic. They became extremely common in the later language, the Koine.[3] It is, however, in tragedy that they are most familiar to the student of classical Greek. Here they are extensively used, and often take the place of Common words, e. g. δάκρυμα for δάκρυον, πύλωμα for πύλη, ἄλγημα for ἄλγος, αἰτίαμα for αἰτία, τέκνωμα for τέκνον. Some of the reasons for their popularity with the tragic poets are their greater length giving greater dignity to the style, the suitability of their inflected forms as a verse-close in many meters, especially the iambic trimeter, the variety of meanings in which they could be used, and the readiness and ease with which they could be formed from any verb. Furthermore, it is true in many cases that these derivatives in -μα express in the form of a noun a thought which might be expressed very naturally by some form of the verb,[4] and nouns both give greater elevation to style and admit of more precise modification than verbs.[5] Aeschylus employs 218 substantives in -μα,[6] Sophocles 188, and Euripides 302. Euripides' use of them is in some respects the most remarkable. Schirlitz,[7] who counted only 250 of these words in Euripides, believed that more than 80 of this number originated with him, one half being found in Euripides only, the other half in Euripides and later writers. As regards their meaning, derivatives in -μα as a rule signify the result of an action, and those derived from transitive verbs usually have a passive force, but Euripides, and to a less degree Aeschylus, took great liberties with them and used them with a variety of meanings. Compare, for example, κάθαρμα (= κάθαρσις) Eur. I. T. 1316, σπάραγμα (= σπαραγμός) Bacch. 739, cf. 735, λόχευμα (= λοχεία) El. 1124, θάκημα (= θᾶκος) Ion 492, δούλευμα (= δουλεία) Or. 221, (= δοῦλαι) Ion 748, ὀρφάνευμα (= ὀρφανία) H. F. 546, λύσσημα (= λύσσα) Or. 270, cf. 254, (συγκοίμημα (= συγκοιμήτρια) Andr. 1273, κήδευμα (= κηδεστής) Or. 477, ὕβρισμα (= ὑβρισταί) H. F. 181, cf. Soph. Tr. 1096.

In comedy, when these nouns in -μα are used of persons by metonymy, abstracts taking the place of the related concretes, it is natural that they should have a reproachful or contemptuous force,[8] and the neuter gender contributes something to the depreciatory tone. Examples follow:

τρῖμμα Nub. 260 for τρίβων (Nub. 869) or τριπτός as in ἐπίτριπτος (Ach. 557, Pac. 1236, Pl. 275, 619, Soph. Aj. 103, Andoc. 1, 99). See the scholiast, and Dieterich in Rhein. Mus. 48, 278 f.

περίτριμμα Nub. 447 (= περίτριπτος). Cf. Bekk. Anecd. 59, 32. Like περίτριμμα δικῶν here is περίτριμμα ἀγορᾶς in Dem. 18, 127.

σόφισμα,[9] κύρμα, τρῖμμα, παιπάλημα[10] Av. 431. The comic force of these words arising from metonymy and homoeoteleuton is cumulative.

στώμυλμα Ran. 92 (= στωμύλος), quoted in Dion. H., Ars Rhet. 10, 18. Cf. λάλημα Soph. Ant. 320.

κάθαρμα Pl. 454, Eupol. 117, fr. ap. Suid. s. v., "scum of the earth" (Rogers).[11]

πατάγημα Menand. fr. 913 (= λάλος καὶ πανοῦργος, Phot., Suid.). Cf. παταγητικός.

βρόντημα adesp. 965 (= ὁ ἐμβρόντητος,[12] Hesych.).

In a comic context Aristophanes uses the unusual form δέημα Ach. 1059 'beseechment', 'requestment', in place of the familiar word δέησις 'request' by a shift of termination from -σις to -μα, plainly for the comic effect. δέημα is quoted from this passage by the scholiast h. l. and by Suidas s. v., and is found elsewhere only in schol.[13] Aesch. Eum. 92, and in Hesych. s. v.

Aeschylus had a great fondness for derivatives in -μα from verbs in -όω,[14] perhaps because besides having greater length they produced a grandiose effect. Euripides used nearly the same number of forms in -ωμα,[15] and some of them frequently. πέπλωμα, a more pretentious word than πέπλος, occurs in all three tragic poets, and is put in the mouth of Euripides by Aristophanes in a parody in Ach. 426 δυσπινῆ πεπλώματα[16]; cf. πέπλος in 423. A few lines farther on in the Acharnians (432) the same character, the rag-stitcher Euripides (ὁ ῥακιοσυρραπτάδης), is made to employ ῥακώματα in the same position, the end of the line, and with the same tragic swagger. He had used in succession first the poetic λακίδας πέπλων (423), then πεπλώματα, and now ῥακώματα. ῥακώματα, the poetic form of the homely word rags (ῥάκη 433, 438, ῥάκια 412, 415) has the appearance of being a comic coinage, the tragic ending being added for the sake of bombast. It occurs nowhere else in the literature.

The sphere of use of forms in -ευμα derived from verbs in -εύω and -εύομαι may be defined with more exactness. Their great frequency in Euripides and rarity in Herodotus, Thucydides, and the orators are the striking facts about them. This becomes evident if one leaves out of account βούλευμα, κέλευ(σ)μα, στράτευμα, and τόξευμα, which are common in both poetry and prose, ἐπιτήδευμα and πολίτευμα, which are common in prose, and the familiar words πνεῦμα (πνέω), ῥεῦμα (ῥέω), χεῦμα (χέω). Then it appears that Aeschylus has 12 forms in -ευμα, Sophocles 9, and Euripides 38, while on the other hand Herodotus has no example, Thucydides uses only ἱκέτευμα, νεῦμα, and σκύλευμα, and of the orators only three have examples: Isocrates and the pseudo-Demosthenes use παίδευμα, Aeschines ἀλαζόνευμα, and Demosthenes πονήρευμα. Formations of this kind that had such a large and varied use in tragedy,[17] Aristophanes felt free to take up and employ for his own purposes. He has 16 forms in -ευμα, some of them drawn from Euripides. ἵππευμα[18] Th. 1066 comes from the beginning of the prologue of Euripides' Andromeda. It is probable that δίνευμα too in Th. 122 is taken from Euripides, for an ancient commentator on κρούματα Ἀσιάδος (120) reports that Aristophanes is here parodying the Erechtheus of Euripides, and the parody in all probability extends down to the words δινεύματα[19] Χαρίτων at the end of the sentence, cf. Nauck, Eur. fr. 370. There are, besides, other passages, e. g. vss. 110, 120, in Agathon's lyric dialogue that remind one of Euripides. A similar expression, Χαρίτων κηπεύματα Av. 1100, may likewise have been drawn from some poetic source, compare Pindar's Χαρίτων κᾶπον (O. 9, 40) and Stesichorus' words Χαρίτων δαμώματα καλλικόμων quoted by Aristophanes in Pac. 798. σμίλευμα[20] found in Ran. 819 only is a direct reference to the poetry of Euripides, and, just as the long compounds ἱππολόφων, κορυθαίολα, φρενοτέκτονος, and ἱπποβάμονα (818–21) imitate the grandiose style of Aeschylus, so it is fair to assume that σμιλεύματα is meant to be an imitation of Euripidean phraseology. χόρευμα Av. 746 is a word of which Euripides[21] was fond, cf. Phoen. 655, H. F. 891, Bacch. 132, Ion 1474, El. 875, all lyric passages. On the other hand, χορεία occurs only once in Euripides, namely Phoen. 1265—the only place in tragedy, according to the Thesaurus—and here it is in iambic trimeter. Aristophanes' word is χορεία, even in choral passages, cf. Th. 956, 968, 980, 982, Ran. 336, 398, 1303. That there is parody in Av. 746 is most likely, since parodies both precede and follow, cf. Rossbach u. Westphal, Griech. Metrik3 2, 402, Nauck, Phryn. fr. 19, p. 725, and v. d. Sande Bakhuyzen, De Parod. p. 82.

There is something of tragic bombast in the long trailing words βωμολοχεύματα, ἀλαζονεύματα, τερατεύματα, and κοβαλικεύματα, none of them high, dignified, or serious words in meaning. They are all used in the plural by Aristophanes. The last occurs in Eq. 332 preceded by πανουργίᾳ and θράσει. To these words κοβαλείᾳ (Dinarchus) would have corresponded in form; but, if a less abstract word with the meaning 'knavish deeds' had been desired, then κόβαλα (Eq. 417) or κόβαλα ἔργα (Pherecr. 162) would have answered the purpose. The comic poet, however, preferred κοβαλικεύματα, a good verse-close, a word of imposing sound and length and formed with the suffix -μα, familiar in tragedy, to give it additional pretentiousness. βωμολόχευμα (Eq. 902, Pac. 748, cf. Eq. 1194), τεράτευμα (Lys. 762, cf. Nub. 318), and ἀλαζόνευμα (Ach. 63, 87, cf. Eq. 290, 903) are less common in the literature than the formations in -ια from these same stems,[22] and, in general, more derivatives in -ια than in -μα are formed from the verbs in -εύω and -εύομαι of this class that denote the possession of some quality. It would be difficult to show the influence of Euripides upon the comic poet in the use of these four words or to give any evidence that Aristophanes even had him in mind when he used them. For, after all, nouns in -μα were not new—witness the three score and more of them in Homer, nearly as many in Pindar, and the goodly number found in inscriptions of the seventh, sixth, and following centuries—and, besides, they were perfectly natural and easily made formations. It must be remembered too that most verbs in -εύω are of late origin, and that derivatives in -μα from these verbs would in consequence be slower to emerge. Yet the remarkable thing about Euripides' usage is that he employed substantives in -μα in a variety of meanings and in very great numbers, thus anticipating the development of the Greek language in a later age, as seen in the Koine; that he apparently created new words in -μα. (Schirlitz implies that there were as many as 80 of these); that his free use of forms in -ευμα stands in striking contrast to their paucity in Herodotus, Thucydides, and the orators; and that the ratio of the number of nouns in -ευμα in Euripides to the number of verbs in -εύω and -εύομαι that he employs is very much greater than this ratio is in other Greek authors. The most that can be said, however, about the word βωμολόχευμα and the rest is that they are extended forms made after the Euripidean fashion, for Aristophanes himself acknowledged the influence of Euripides when he confessed that he borrowed the tragic poet's terseness or condensation of speech;[23] but whether in the present instance this imitation was intentional or not is open to question.

χόρδευμα, ζώμευμα, and διεντέρευμα, are plainly comic coinages. Aristophanes made up the form χόρδευμα in Eq. 315 (cf. fr. 591) in place of χορδή (Ach. 1040, 1119, Nub. 455, fr. 461), partly no doubt for the purpose of getting a word that would more nearly correspond in form with κάττυμα ('shoe-sole'—'rissole'). In like manner he formed ζωμεύματα in Eq. 279 as a substitute for ζωμός—a word that is prominent in the thought and conversation of the Sausage-seller, cf. 357, 1174, 1178—in order that it might more closely resemble ζώματα, i. e., ὑποζώματα, for which it was used παρὰ προσδοκίαν. Another word denoting a kind of food that was extended through the addition of the same ending is νωγαλεύματα (= νώγαλα) in Araros 8, cf. λίχνευμα Sophron fr. 24 (Kaibel), σιναμωπεύματα Pherecr. 230, βομβυλεύματα adesp. 960, and καρύκευμα. Again, the suffix is used in the comic formation διεντέρευμα Nub. 166 (cf. ἐντερεύω) 'gutology', 'penetrative insight into the ἔντερον of the gnat'.

Charles W. Peppler.
Trinity College, N. C.

  1. Comic Terminations in Aristophanes and the Comic Fragments. Part I: Diminutives, Character Names, Patronymics. (Baltimore, Murphy, 1902), and The Termination -κός, as Used by Aristophanes for Comic Effect, A. J. P. XXXI, 428–444.
  2. "Auch von anderen Verben hat Hippokrates, wie ich aus eigener Lektüre seiner meisten Schriften bestätigen kann, eine ungemeine Menge von -μα Bildungen." Fraenkel, Griechische Denominativa, S. 232.
  3. See Cleomedes 2, 1, p. 166 Zieg.; Buresch, Rhein. Mus. 47, 347; Glaser, De ratione, quae intercedit inter sermonem Polybii et eum, qui in titulis saeculi III, II, I apparet, pp. 52 f.; Mayser, Gram. d. griech. Pap. aus d. Ptolemäerzeit, S. 24, 433 f.
  4. τὰ ἀγγέλματα Eur. Heracl. 660, 789 = τὰ ἠγγελμένα Thuc. 8, 97. τέχνημα Soph. Ph. 36 = τετεχνημένον (passive). αἴσθημά τοι κἀν νηπίοις γε τῶν κακῶν ἐγγίγνεται Eur. I. A. 1243–4 = αἰσθέσθαι τοι κἀν νηπίοις γε τῶν κακῶν ἐγγίγνεται. ἰδὼν ἄθροισμα (τοῦ ὄχλου) Or. 874 = ἰδὼν τὸν ὄχλον ἀθροιζόμενον (or ἠθροισμένον). μηχανὴν πτερώματος Aesch. fr. 139 = μηχανὴν ἐπτερωμένην, the πτέρωμα being an ἐπτερωμένος ἄτρακτος.
  5. Cf. Gildersleeve, Essays and Studies, p. 155; A. J. P. XXI 473.
  6. A word is counted but once in an author, no matter how many times it occurs there.
  7. De sermonis tragici per Euripidem incrementis, Halis Saxonum 1865, p. 14 f.
  8. Cf. Bremi on Dem. 18, 127.
  9. Cf. ταῦτ᾽ εἶπε τὸ Θετταλὸν σόφισμα, ἤτοι ὁ ἐκ Θετταλίας σοφιστής. παίζει δ᾽ ἴσως πρὸς τὴν παροιμίαν ὁ Ἀθήναιος, Ath. 11b, and ὦ Θετταλὸν πάλαισμα Μυρτίλε, 308b. Cf. Eustath. 331, 35–40.
  10. Cf. Aeschin 2, 40, Luc. Pseudolog. c. 32, Aeschrio ap. Ath. 335d, and ἄλημα in Soph. Aj. 381, 389.
  11. Cf. Luc. Dial. Mort. 2, 1, Jup. Trag. 52, Dem. 18, 128; 21, 185, 198.
  12. This meaning of βρόντημα is omitted in Liddell and Scott. For ἐμβρόντητος see Ar. Eccl. 793, Antiphan. 233, Philem. 44, Plat. Alc. 2 140c, Dem. 18, 243.
  13. Perhaps the desire for homoeoteleuton—σέβισμα καὶ δέημα—caused the use of the form here.
  14. Cf. ὅρκωμα (= ὅρκος) Eum. 486, 768, δόλωμα (= δόλος) Cho. 1003, σκύφωμα (= σκύφος) fr. 184, κάρπωμα (= καρπός) Suppl. 1001, δέσμωμα (= δεσμός) Pers. 745, κ. τ. λ. In some cases no verb in -όω has survived, cf. χαίτωμα (= χαίτη) Sept. 385, πλεύρωμα (= πλευρά, πλευρόν) Sept. 890, Cho. 682, κ. τ. λ.
  15. Aeschylus has 34, Sophocles 21, and Euripides 28.
  16. Cf. Nauck, Trag. graec. frag2., p. 443 and adesp. 42.
  17. Cf. θαλάμευμα (= θάλαμος) Eur. Bacch. 120, lyric passage; λάτρευμα (= λάτρις) Tro. 1106, lyr. pas.; πόρθμευμα (= πορθμός) Aesch. Ag. 1558, lyr. pas.; γαμήλευμα (= γάμος) Cho. 625, lyr. pas.; κήδευμα (= κηδεστής) Soph. O. T. 85, Eur. Or. 477; πρέσβευμα (= πρεσβευτής) Eur. Suppl. 173; κινδύνευμα (= κίνδυνος) Soph. Ant. 42, O. C. 564, Eur. I. T. 1001; νύμφευμα (= νύμφη) Eur. Tro. 420; ἅγνευμα (= ἁγνεία) Tro. 501; τύμβευμα (= τύμβος) Soph. Ant. 1220; σκώπευμα (= σκώψ) Aesch. fr. 79; θεράπευμα (= θεραπεία) Phoen. 1549, lyr. pas.; ἡγεμόνευμα (= ἡγεμών) Phoen. 1492, lyr. pas.; τύρευμα (= τυρός) El. 496, Cycl. 162.
  18. A distinctly Euripidean word, cf. I. T. 1428, fr. 114.
  19. Cf. δινεύω in Eur. Phoen. 792. Here as always in Euripides the poetic δινεύω is in a lyric passage. Of the noun δίνη he is extremely fond. δινεύματα is Bentley's generally accepted conjecture, supported by the scholiast's explanation ὀρχήματα, for διανεύματα of the MSS.
  20. σμιλεύματα ἔργων = ἐσμιλευμένα (σμιλευτὰ) ἔργα. σμίλευμα is quoted from this passage by Poll. 7, 83.
  21. It is found first in Pratin. 1, 1.
  22. A comparison of βωμολοχεύματα Eq. 902 with ἀλαζονεῖαι 903 and θωπεῖαι 890 shows that in the plural at least the forms in -μα and those in -ια have the same meaning, since "pluralizing abstract nouns makes them concrete", Gildersleeve, Syntax, § 44, cf. Kühner-Gerth, Griech. Gram. 1, p. 16 f. Of the two sets of derivatives those in -μα are by nature nearer to concrete nouns than those in -ια.
  23. τὸ στρογγύλον, Ar. fr. 471, cf. schol. Plat. Apol. 19c: Ἀριστοφάνης κωμῳδεῖτο ἐπὶ τῷ σκώπτειν μὲν Εὐριπίδην, μιμεῖσθαι δ᾽ αὐτόν.

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