I'm working on learning Homeric vocabulary, and for this purpose I've written a script using CLTK to search for forms of a particular word through the Iliad and Odyssey. The idea is that I don't want to waste time memorizing a form that doesn't actually occur in Homer, or memorize something that's incorrect. The script takes a word as an input, converts it into a more basic form, and then searches for forms of that word. For example, if I tell it to search on κύνεσσιν, it first figures out that that's a form of κύων, and then it searches for any form of that, so it will find things like κύνες as well. For each hit, it prints out CLTK's grammatical analysis of the part of speech (POS), as well as a little bit of context.

I searched on the word προσώπατα, which I had thought was a common way to refer to the face in Homer (idiomatically plural, rather than singular as in modern Greek). Here's what I got:

$ ./search_by_lemma.py προσώπατα
searching for πρόσωπον <- προσώπατα
iliad 7, sentence 53, word 10: προσώπασι noun pl. neut. dat.    ̓Αχαιῶν μειδιόων βλοσυροῖσι προσώπασι νέρθε δὲ ποσσὶν
iliad 18, sentence 6, word 21: πρόσωπον noun sing. neut. acc.    χαρίεν δ ᾔσχυνε πρόσωπον νεκταρέῳ δὲ χιτῶνι
iliad 18, sentence 99, word 19: πρόσωπα noun pl. neut. acc.    σπόγγῳ δ ἀμφὶ πρόσωπα καὶ ἄμφω χεῖρ
iliad 19, sentence 80, word 29: πρόσωπα noun pl. neut. acc.    δειρὴν ἰδὲ καλὰ
odyssey 8, sentence 28, word 20: πρόσωπα noun pl. neut. acc.    κάλυψε δὲ καλὰ πρόσωπα αἴδετο γὰρ Φαίηκας
odyssey 15, sentence 108, word 20: πρόσωπα noun pl. neut. acc.    κεφαλὰς καὶ καλὰ πρόσωπα οἵ σφιν ὑποδρώωσιν
odyssey 18, sentence 61, word 20: πρόσωπα noun pl. neut. acc.    δακρύοισι πεφυρμένη ἀμφὶ πρόσωπα ἔρχευ ἐπεὶ κάκιον
odyssey 18, sentence 67, word 5: προσώπατα noun pl. neut. acc.    μέν οἱ πρῶτα προσώπατα καλὰ κάθηρεν ἀμβροσίῳ
odyssey 19, sentence 101, word 8: πρόσωπα noun pl. neut. acc.    δὲ κατέσχετο χερσὶ πρόσωπα δάκρυα δ ἔκβαλε
1 προσώπασι
1 προσώπατα
6 πρόσωπα
1 πρόσωπον

So if CLTK's POS analysis is correct, the nominative never shows up in Homer, and the word does almost always occur in the plural, but there seem to be two forms of the plural accusative, προσώπατα and πρόσωπα, with the latter being far more common. Can anyone clarify what's going on here? Are there just two forms, from which Homer picks because he wants the meter to work? Is there a difference in meaning?

The one sentence in which προσώπατα occurs is Odyssey 18.192-196:

κάλλεϊ μέν οἱ πρῶτα προσώπατα καλὰ κάθηρεν ἀμβροσίῳ, οἵῳ
περ ἐϋστέφανος Κυθέρεια χρίεται, εὖτ' ἂν ἴῃ Χαρίτων
χορὸν ἱμερόεντα: καί μιν μακροτέρην καὶ πάσσονα θῆκεν
ἰδέσθαι, λευκοτέρην δ' ἄρα μιν θῆκε πριστοῦ ἐλέφαντος.

My Homeric Greek is almost nonexistent so far, but it seems that here Athena is restoring the beauty to Penelope's face, which has been worn by worry.

I'm also confused by προσώπασι. Why is it not προσώποις? Is this just a regular inflection that I don't know about? Something specific to Homer as opposed to the Attic dialect?

  • Perseus has a word-search tool, where you can click on a word in the text, and it will tell you what form(s) it is. You can then also search for forms of that word in the corpus, I believe. // As to προσώπασι: just like προσώπατα, this would be a regular formation from a singular neuter προσώπα (where the mu has disappeared?), stem προσώπατ- (consonantal declension). – Cerberus Feb 23 at 3:21

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