X. - Augustine - De Dialectica - - vuzlib.su
- : 64


Now let us take up the equivoca, in which the perplexity of ambiguity grows like wild flowers into infinity. I shall try to divide them into certain genera. Whether my faculties are sufficient to the attempt, you shall judge. There are first three types of ambiguity which come from equivocation: 1. by art, 2. by use, 3. by both. I say art for the sake of the names which are imposed upon words in the discipline of words. What is equivocal is defined one way by the grammarian, another by the dialectician. The single utterance which I make, Tullius (Cicero), is a name and a dactylic foot and an equivocal. And if someone presses me to define what Tullius is, I shall answer with an explanation of any of these notions. For I can say correctly: "Tullius is a name by which a man is signified, a great orator who as a consul suppressed the Catiline Conspiracy." Watch closely now as I define the name. If I could point out that very Tullius, if he were living, with my finger, and if I then had to define him, I would not say: "Tullius is a name which signifies a man"; I would rather say: "That man is Tullius", and then I would add the other things. I can also answer in this way: "Tullius is a dactylic foot consisting of these letters ... (for what need is there to enumerate the letters?)" Perhaps one might say: "Tullius is a word by which all those things mentioned above are equivocal and any other similar ones you can make up." Since I then have to define Tullius in so many ways according to the terminology of the arts, how can we doubt that this type of ambiguity comes from equivocation, which is properly said to occur by art. For we say that those things are equivocal which can be contained in one name and not one definition. Now look at the next type, which, as you remember, comes from usage. We call that usage through which we know words. For who seeks out and collects words for the sake of words? Let someone hear something who knows nothing of the parts of speech nor is interested in meter or any kind of verbal discipline. Nevertheless, he can be disturbed by the ambiguity of equivocation when Tullius is said, for by this name the great orator and his picture or statue and the codex in which his letters are contained and whatever is left of his body in the tomb may be signified. For we say in diverse sentences: "Tullius saved the fatherland from ruin" "A golden Tullius stands in the Capitol" "All of Tullius is to be read" "Tullius is buried in this place". For the name is one, but all these are to be explained in different definitions. For this is the type of equivocation in which the ambiguity does not originate from the discipline of words, but from the very things which are signified. But if it either confounds the hearer or the reader, if it is either from art or usage that it comes, what happened to the third type which was named? Its example will appear more clearly in a sentence: "Many wrote in the dactylic meter, e. g. Tullius." Here it is uncertain as to whether Tullius is cited as an example of a dactylic foot or a dactylic poet, of which the first is perceived by art, the second by usage. But in simple words it happens when the teacher pronounces the word to his students, as we have shown above.

These three types differ among themselves by manifest reasons. The first is again divided into two parts. Whatever makes an ambiguity through the art of words can partly be an example and partly not. When I define what a noun is, I can cite (supponere) it itself as an example (idempotency, Tr.). For the nomen (noun) which I pronounce is itself a noun, and is so inflected, when we say: nomen, nominis, nomini, etc. Likewise when I define what a dactylus is, it itself can be an example. For when we say dactylus, we pronounce one long syllable and then two short ones. But when we say what adverb means, we cannot cite it as an example. When we say adverb this very enunciation is a noun. Thus, according to one way of understanding it is adverb and a noun is a noun, according to another adverb is not an adverb, since it is noun. Also creticus (a type of foot), when we define it, cannot be given as an example (of itself). When we pronounce it, creticus consists of one long syllable followed by two short ones, but what it signifies is a long, a short, and a long. Thus, according to one way of understanding creticus is nothing other than a creticus, according to another, it is not a creticus, because it is a dactylus.

The second type, which pertains not to verbal discipline, but to usage, has two forms. Equivoca are either of the same origin or of different origins. I mention those of the same origin which are contained in one name (designation), but not one definition, but derive as it were from one source, e.g. when Tullius can be understood as a man and a statue and a codex and a cadaver. For these cannot be contained in one definition, but they have one single source, i.e. the real man himself, whose statue, books, cadaver they are. But when we say nepos, it signifies from a quite diverse origin, both the son of the son and the spendthrift (Tr.: According to Isidore nepos (spendthrift) comes from a kind of scorpion). Let us keep this distinct and look at that type which I call of the same origin, which is again divided. It is divided into two, one of which occurs in translatio (usual Latin word for metaphor; the examples given are of metonymy, Tr.), the other in inflection. I call that translatio when either because of similitude one name is give to many things, e.g. Tullius means both a great orator and his statue -- or when the part is called by the whole, e.g. when his body is called Tullius -- or the whole by one of its part, e.g. when a house is called roof -- or a species by a genus. Words are in general all things spoken, but those things are properly called verba (words, verbs) which we inflect for mood or tense -- or the genus by the species: scholasticus (schoolboy, scholar) was not only properly but first applied to those who were in school, but this name is now corrupted for all who live by letters -- or the effect from the cause, as Cicero for Ciceros work -- or the person causing it from the effect, e. g. terror for the person who causes terror -- or the thing contained from the container, e.g. house for those who are in the house -- or vice versa, e.g. when we call the tree a chestnut -- or anything else of a like kind which you can find called from the same origin by a kind of transfer. You see, I think, what an ambiguity it brings about in words. Things of the same origin, but ambiguous because of inflection are like this: Let someone give this as an example: pluit (it rains), and let it be diversely defined. Likewise if someone says scribere (write) it is uncertain as to whether it is an active infinitive or a passive imperative. homo (man), though it is one noun and one utterance, is either the nominative or the vocative, like doctus (learned) and docte (O learned one), where the utterance is different. doctius (more learned) is different when we say doctius mancipium (a more sensible contract or when we say doctius illo iste disputavit (this one argued more learnedly than that one). The ambiguity arose thus from inflection. We call that inflection which occurs either by voice or signification in inflecting a word. hic doctus (this learned man) and o docte (O learned man!) are inflected by the voice, hic homo and o homo solely by meaning. But to follow this type of ambiguity minutely is almost infinite. It is sufficient for you to note this section for now, especially for your mind. Now look at those which come from diverse origins. They are also divided into two principal forms, one of which comes about because of the diversity of languages, e.g. if we say tu it means one thing to the Greeks (gen. sg. masc. article), another to us (you, 2d sg. pers. pron.). This type should have been taken into consideration a great deal; it is not prescribed for anyone, however, how many languages he knows or in how many languages he might argue. Another form is that which makes ambiguities in the same language, but of diverse origin; they are signified by one term, similar to what we said above concerning nepos. Again, this is divided into two: 1. it is either the same part of speech - - nepos is a noun when it means son of a son and when it means spendthrift -- or under different ones: for it is not only different when we say qui (rel. pron. & interrogative), as it is said (Ter. Andr. III, 3, 33) qui scis ergo istuc nisi periculum feceris (how can you tell if you dont make the trial?), for that is a pronoun, this is an adverb.

By both, i.e. by art and usage, which we have set up as a third type of equivoca, as many forms of ambiguity may exist as we have named in these two.

There remains the type of ambiguity which is found in writing alone, of which there are three types. Such an ambiguity is made either by the length of a syllable or by its accent, or by both, e.g. when venit (comes, came) appears, its length is uncertain because of the unknown nature of the first syllable; by accent, as when pone (place, behind) is written either from pono (I put) or as is said (Virgil Georg.IV, 487): pone sequens namque hanc dederat Proserpina legem (following behind, for Proserpina had imposed that condition), where it is uncertain because of the hidden place of the accent, or it happens because of both, e.g. as we mentioned above in the case of lepore, for not only is the penultimate syllable of this word to be lengthened, but also to be accented if it is derived from lepos (charm), not from lepus (hare).

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