Musing on Prepositions

Greek Grammars draw a distinction between “proper” and “improper” prepositions–and some grammars refuse to deal with those so-called “improper” ones.

Pedagogically, is this really helpful? Or does it simply make something relatively simple more complex than necessary. Beyond age, is there really any difference between them?

6 thoughts on “Musing on Prepositions

  1. Typically the distinction between proper and improper prepositions is based on the availability of the preposition for combination as a prefix to a verb. Those classified as “proper” can do this, while those classified as “improper” are not used in this way.

    So, the distinction does have real syntactic consequences. Whether the terms are adequate or helpful is another question.

    1. Moreover, it’s really best to consult BDAG for prepositions anyway, so I find these classifications pedantic outside of morphological considerations which Michael mentioned above.

    2. Coming back to this (I don’t know if you’ll see this comment):

      If the difference is that proper prepositions combine with verbs and for the most part (e.g. not προς) take an accented pronoun, shouldn’t we be viewing the difference between “proper” and “improper” as a difference in phonology?

      The “proper” prepositions:

      Combine with verbs as preverbs/derivational affixes.
      Require a non-clitic pronoun

      This suggests to me that the “proper” prepositions are themselves proclitics (i.e. prosodically deficient).

  2. An interesting case is ἱνατί sometimes spelled as a single word, like French ‘pourquoi’, sometimes as two words ἵνα τί. I’m a little skeptical of BDAG and BDF, as regards any claim that a γένηται or γέγονεν is to be understood with it. I think rather that most likely ἵνα was originally a relative/interrogative adverb equivalent to ποῖ or ὅποι: “to what end” or “to which end” and came to be used as a preposition with τί. I can’t prove this, but it’s a powerful suspicion.

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