[Smt-talk] a la mode

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Sat Dec 7 09:44:16 PST 2013

Dear Michele and the List,

I agree with your arguments. But, wait, did I say "arguments"!?

My point was not to prove that these words have ancient Greek roots. Every ethnic group and every historical period introduce their "roots." The word root is deceiving here, however. The arbitrary character of  sign tells about something else: that roots are not the origins, rather--random combinations of phonemes. What is not arbitrary is the work on language, evolution and creative history of making roots express something important. This process is very slow. It takes centuries, if not millennia. National language carriers are trying to adjust their dialects to the mainstream medium--the academic communication.

I am amazed by how you mentioned semiotics in the beginning of your post and then kept trying to disprove my point that our academic thinking comes from ancient Greece. I hope you do not think that semiotics was invented by Ferdinand de Saussure. Indeed, in the course of time, some variations and refinements were added, but the concepts of seme, semeion, and semainomene were established by the Greek stoics. I refer to the beautiful collection Stoicorum veterum fragmenta, by H. von Arnim (another great 19th-century expert in Greek culture). Something very important had happen then. Compare the Genesis (the Old Testament) and the "new genesis" (the New Testament). In the old, in the beginning there was God and he created everything. In the new (apparently, created some 3000 years after the Old and way after the Greek stoics), we read that in the beginning there was Logos. That changes the rules of the game. Now, we see not only the objects that we
 study but also the medium, the interface, which we use in this study. Christianity could not have happened without Greek semeiotics. And in Al Koran, the second line after B'ismilla irrakhman irrakhim mentions kalam--the Word that Allah writes.

The same applies to so-called Music Theory. In this case we deal with the art (tekhne) of Muses and we are trying to observe (horao) something, which nobody can observe (theon). If, after that, Nicholas would still insist that it is counterproductive to derive contemporary musical-theoretical concepts from Greek concepts, it will be quite dubious and far-fetched. We have been there, have seen that. In the 20th century many thinkers dared to challenge our 2500 years of heritage. All these attempts ended badly. The hubris of modernism multiplied by bouts of nationalism turned out to be very expensive for the next generation. 

The Greeks paid attention not only to what is being discussed (thesis) but also to how and in which terms and categories we do it (hypokeimenon, cata-Arogia, eidos, etc.). They psychoanalyzed the speaker and the text. In a blink of an eye, 25 centuries later, my teacher Jacques Derrida called this strategy "deconstruction." Nothing is being destroyed here, of course. We are just paying attention to some non-discoursive  premises of thought.

Best wishes,

Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory
Johns Hopkins University
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

On Wednesday, December 4, 2013 2:21 PM, Charles J. Smith <cjsmith at buffalo.edu> wrote:
Dear Michele, et al.

Indeed, it is not accurate to say about most of these words that they are of Greek origin. They all have Greek cognates, as do most words in Indo-European languages that are descendants of IE roots. But the actual ancestry of these words in English is either from Latin (either directly or through Old French) or from German (i.e. Anglo-Saxon). Specifically:

BELIEVE is an Old English word (whose spelling was influenced by French), brought over from various Old German words, and thus related to German GLAUBEN as well as English LIEF and LOVE.

SAME is an even older Anglo Saxon word (i.e. from before the 12th century), also of Germanic origins—the same origins that lead to German SAMT.

COUNTER has several different senses in English, but they mostly derive from Latin contra or computare, via Old French.

PRODUCTIVE, from PRODUCTION, is a direct descendant of Latin producere (to bring forth) and its Latin derivatives—a relatively late addition to English, probably directly from Latin, in the 15th and 16th centuries.

SENSE, first appearing in English in the 14th century, is, of course, of direct Latin origin, from sensus and the like. 

The question of ultimate sources for many Latin words is difficult. Of the last three, some of the Latin sources might well result from a borrowing from Greek (e.g. for sensus, from the same Greek sources that give us AESTHETIC), or they could have emerged more directly from IE roots (in the case of sensus, from the root *sent-). The role of Greek as an intermediary is a subject of much debate in historical linguistics. There doesn't seem to be a CONSENSUS (ahem) on this one. But even if there was some intermingling of Greek and Latin in the later centuries of the latter, the clear sources of the English words is Latin—rather than a direct borrowing from Greek, as in the case of DIATONIC, or RHYTHM. (Though historians of 16th and 17th century theory can probably qualify this borrowing as not quite as direct as it may seem...)

At any rate, all of these words have Greek cognates, i.e. Greek words of related meaning that have common ancestors with the English words (e.g. Greek HOMOS & English SAME). But most of these words also have Russian cognates, and perhaps even Sanskrit or Gaelic cognates (my Sanskrit is rusty, my Irish non-existent, sadly...), but that doesn't mean that they are of Russian, Sanskrit, or Gaelic origin.

My source is the classic C. T. Onions, Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, supplemented by the Online Etymological Dictionary.
Offered in the hope of being helpful...

Dear Ildar & all,
>Could you or others on this list please provide some 
>evidence for the claim that the words "counter," "productive," 
>"believe," "same," "sense" are of Greek origin?
>Many thanks,
>Michele Ignelzi
>m.ignelzi at tin.it
>Statale di Musica, Florence, Italy
>On Dec 3, 2013, at 5:11 PM, Ildar 
>Khannanov wrote:
>On the other hand, in the phrase that you send to me 
>seven words out of 19 are of Greek origin. These are not only the 
>words, translated from Greek (counter, productive, believe, diatonic, 
>same, sense) but a major categories, discovered by Greek thinkers. 
>Smt-talk mailing list
>Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org

Prof. Charles J. Smith
Slee Chair of Music Theory & Director of Graduate Studies
Director, Slee Institute of Tonal Harmony (420 Baird Hall)
Academic office: 410 Baird Hall
Office Phone: 716-645-0639
cjsmith at buffalo.edu
Mailing address;
Music Department, 220 Baird Hall
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260Department Fax: 716-645-3824


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