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Headword: Ὀξὺ
Adler number: omicron,420
Translated headword: sharp
Vetting Status: high
[Sharp] and heavy were named by way of acoustical metaphor; for when it comes to materials there is both the sharp and the heavy.[1] For the term 'sharp' is used for that which produces action quickly, as in "the knife is sharp," because it pricks quickly, whereas 'dull' is that which produces action slowly, the sort of thing that does not prick but shoves, like the pestle. For when we want to make things suitable for pricking we make them sharp-edged, but for shoving, dull-edged. Likewise in the case of sounds, we use the term 'sharp' for the one that presents itself quickly to the senses and quickly comes to a halt,[2] but the 'heavy' is the counterpart to the dull; it presents itself slowly to the senses and quickly comes to a halt. As with strings that are stretched more, like the lowest[3] gives off tones that are sharper than those that are stretched to a lesser degree, such as the highest. For the lowest, when it is plucked, strikes the air more quickly than the others on account of the tension and makes the tone the sharpest. And it did this in a brief time, but preserved [it] to a great extent.
But the sharp and the dull [exist] in separate types and not in the same category, in voice, in flavor, in a knife.[4]
Greek Original:
Ὀξὺ καὶ βαρὺ κατὰ μεταφορὰν ἐκλήθησαν ἐπὶ τῆς ἀκουστικῆς: ἐν ὄγκοις γάρ εἰσι τό τε ὀξὺ καὶ τὸ βαρύ. ὀξὺ γὰρ λέγεται ἐπὶ τῆς ἁφῆς τὸ ταχέως ἐνεργοῦν, οἷον τὸ μαχαίριον ὀξύ, ὅτι ταχέως κεντεῖ, ἀμβλὺ δὲ τὸ βραδέως ἐνεργοῦν καὶ οἷον οὐ κεντοῦν, ἀλλ' ὠθοῦν, ὡς τὸ ὕπερον. ὅσα μὲν γὰρ ἐπιτήδεια εἰς τὸ κεντεῖν ποιῆσαι βουλόμεθα, ὀξυγώνια αὐτὰ ποιοῦμεν: ὅσα δὲ εἰς τὸ ὠθεῖν, ἀμβλυγώνια. οὕτως οὖν καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ψόφων ὀξὺν μὲν λέγομεν τὸν ταχέως παραγινόμενον ἐπὶ τὴν αἴσθησιν καὶ ταχέως ἀποπαυόμενον, βαρὺν δὲ τὸν ἀνάλογον τῷ ἀμβλεῖ, τὸν βραδέως παραγινόμενον ἐπὶ τὴν αἴσθησιν καὶ ταχέως ἀποπαυόμενον. ὥσπερ αἱ τεταμέναι μᾶλλον νευραὶ οἷον ἡ νεάτη τῶν ἐπ' ἔλαττον τεταμένων, οἷον τῆς ὑπάτης, ὀξυτέρους τοὺς φθόγγους ἀποδιδοῦσιν. ἡ γὰρ νεάτη τῶν ἄλλων μᾶλλον ἐν τῷ κρούεσθαι διὰ τὴν τάσιν ταχέως πλήττουσα τὸν ἀέρα ὀξύτατον ποιεῖ τὸν φθόγγον. καὶ ἐν ὀλίγῳ μὲν χρόνῳ ἐποίησε τοῦτο, ἐπὶ πολὺ δὲ ἐφύλαξε. τὸ δὲ ὀξὺ καὶ τὸ ἀμβλὺ ἐν διαφόροις γένεσίν εἰσι καὶ οὐχ ὑπ' ἀλλήλοις, ἐν φωνῇ, ἐν χυμῷ, ἐν μαχαίρᾳ.
All but the last sentence (on which see n. 4 below) is a close approximation to Philoponus, Commentary on Aristotle's De Anima 15.373. Only major discrepancies are noted here.
[1] This sentence is garbled. Philoponus says: "Sharp and heavy, which refer to differences in sounds, arise by way of metaphor, [Aristotle] says, from the realm of tangible objects. For when it comes to materials that are strictly speaking tangible, there is the sharp and the heavy, from which phenomena in the realm of sounds take their names by way of metaphor."
[2] "Quickly comes to a halt" is copied from the subsequent description of the 'heavy'. In this place Philoponus has 'persists' (ἐπιμένοντα ).
[3] In what follows "lowest" and "highest" refer to the positions of strings on a lyre, not to their pitch.
[4] Obtuse paraphrase of Alexander of Aphrodisias, Commentary on Aristotle's Topica 108. The sense of the original is that 'sharp' and 'dull' have distinct meanings when applied to different types of thing, and those meanings are not directly related to one another.
Keywords: definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; imagery; meter and music; philosophy; science and technology
Translated by: William Hutton on 8 February 2010@07:45:33.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (another keyword; tweaks and cosmetics) on 8 February 2010@08:06:38.
David Whitehead (restored original translation at one point) on 9 February 2010@02:55:02.
David Whitehead on 4 July 2013@07:03:41.


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