Not Yes and Not No: μέση ἀπόκρισις and Other Forms of “Non-Polar Response” in Ancient Greek Sources: Part II

Donna Shalev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 μέση πόκρισις 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 πόκρισις (and ρώτησις) 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)37-53
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

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). The passages adduced in the discussion, beginning with (17a), are numbered in continuation to Part I of this study, in a previous issue of Hermes.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden GmbH. All rights reserved.


  • Greek Comedy
  • Plato Gorgias
  • dialogue technique
  • non-polar response
  • polarity
  • yes-no questions
  • πόκρισις
  • alpha pi omicron kappa rho iota sigma iota sigma


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