Not yes and not no: μέση ἀπόκρισις and other forms of "non-polar response" in ancient greek sources: Part I

Donna Shalev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In this paper, I investigate responses to sentence ("yes-no") questions in Greek dialogue which are neither a clear-cut 'yes' nor a 'no'. I describe, classify, and discuss a range of patterns for expressing this strategy of indirectness, beginning with an example termed in the commentary of Olympiodorus to Plato Gorgias. Ancient rhetorical sources also discuss strategies for evading clear-cut non-polar responses to sentence questions in sections on the notion of απoκρisigma;iζ (and) without a fixed terminology. The fabricated and quoted examples which these ancient sources give, serve as a point of departure for my classification of patterns in occurrences collected from literary dialogues (selections from Plato, and a corpus study of the Greek comedies of Aristophanes and Menander). The analysis of mechanisms for these non-polar responses draws on philological as well as linguistic scholarship from Greek antiquity through contemporary dialogue analysis, and refers also to contexts and conventions of characterization in Ancient Greek sources.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)388-409
Number of pages22
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Part i with deep respect and gratitude to professor gualtiero calboli, Salutations on the occasion of his 88th birthday

Funding Information:
This research is funded in part by ISF grants 1379/14 and 659/17 and enjoys partial support by “Conversation in Antiquity. Analysis of Verbal Interaction in Ancient Greek and Latin” (SI1/PJI/2019–00283).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden GmbH. All rights reserved.


  • Dialogue technique
  • Greek Comedy
  • Non-polar response
  • Plato Gorgias
  • Polarity
  • Yes-no questions
  • απoκρisigma;iζ


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