Fightin’ words

May 16th, 2005 by Ross Scaife

Jeff Rydberg-Cox (University of Missouri-Kansas City) has a new study out in Literary and Linguistic Computing, “Talking About Violence: Clustered Participles in the Speeches of Lysias.”

This paper explores the Greek participle and its use in the works of Lysias. I will argue that in Lysias’ works, narrative descriptions of violence are characterized by the unusually frequent use of the participle. I will further show that the association of high participle density and narratives about violence are a subset of a larger pattern relating to use of the participle in Lysias’ works. In this pattern, Lysias uses unusually large numbers of participles: (1) only within the narrative and argumentative sections of the speeches; (2) to structure the work and mark the conclusion of narrative arcs and lines of argument; (3) in their role as a structuring device, these passages also provide immediacy and momentum to the argument or narrative descriptions of events; and (4) to mark a return in subject matter to the case at hand and to focus the attention of the jury on the question that is before them.

Professor Rydberg-Cox makes use of morphological analysis from the Perseus Digital Library and combines the statistical approach of corpus linguistics with social and cultural studies of Athenian rhetoric “to study the question of stylized language and the narrations of violence in Athenian legal works.”

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