A reader of Elpenor’s lessons in Greek asks an important question, to which I dedicate this post.

Allow me to make a comment on the basis of the following quotation from Elpenor’s second lesson: “Α Sentence in Greek is called πρότασις. The word πρότασις is formed by the preposition πρὸ (pre, for, ahead, before, in front) and the noun τάσις (tensity). A sentence, a πρότασις, is a tensity that emerges in communication and leads ahead – not just a statement, but the disclosure of something probable, which is placed in front of those who listen, calling them to estimate it carefully and bear the consequences of this estimation. Therefore, the more primary and important a πρότασις is, the more it becomes – is meant to become – a principle, a law, an ἀρχή (=beginning, principle, ground, foundation, law, rule).” (Elpenor’s second lesson, page 9).

My own understanding of πρότασις is: προ + τάσσω (meaning, for example, “place before an audience” for consideration). I never thought that “tensity” has anything to do with “πρότασις”. Although it sounds an intriguing prospect, if I take it to mean “friction”, i.e. a kind of a dialectical/argumentative relationship between the speaker and the audience. However, I believe that the speaker’s intention is to “lay down” or “expose” (as in an exhibition or trade fair) his/her arguments, ideas, etc. before an audience which is called upon to weigh such arguments, etc. The information in the latter part of the quotation, i.e. “the more primary and important a πρότασις is, the more it becomes a principle, a law” confuses me. Are you referring to grammar/syntax or to semantics? An example would help. My sincerest congratulations on your work.

To your first question: πρότασις comes from προ-τείνω, not from προ-τάσσω. The important difference between the two is that in the second case, in the case of a πρόταγμα, something is distinguished, is given a priority, which is defined by comparison with alternative choices. In the case of a πρότασις the speaker extends his view (without, or without an essential, comparison with other views) in front of an audience. Therefore, πρότασις means radically the out-going of a person in order to communicate his view, while πρόταγμα means the priority that is given to a view among other possible views: in πρότασις what is first and most important is the communication, the release, the letting-know of others, while in πρόταγμα the importance is in the superiority of a view compared with other views. I hope this is clear, – and this leads us to your second question.

Your understanding of προτάσσω fits with προτείνω, not with προτάσσω. Προτείνω regards the other persons (to who something προ-τείνεται), προτάσσω regards other views (among which a certain one προ-τάσσεται). The more primary and important a πρότασις is, the more it becomes a principle, a law: what does this mean? Here is a πρότασις: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ᾖν ὁ Λόγος. This is not a πρόταγμα, there is no comparison with other possibilities, or such a comparison does not participate essentially right now. It is a πρότασις, i.e. the speaker, St. John the Evangelist, approaches us and προ-τείνει to us his understanding that Ἐν ἀρχῇ ᾖν ὁ Λόγος.