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Classical Greek Online

Lesson 9

Winfred P. Lehmann and Jonathan Slocum

Aristotle was born in Macedonia in 384 BC. In 367 BC he went to Athens to study with Plato. Plato had a high regard for him, calling him the "intellect of his school." He stayed in Athens until the death of Plato in 347 BC, and after several residences elsewhere he was invited in 342 BC by Philip of Macedonia to instruct his son, Alexander, who was then 13. In 335 BC Aristotle returned to Athens where the state gave him the Lyceum. In the walks surrounding it he gave lectures on philosophy to many scholars while walking up and down, for which the school was named Peripatetic. He remained head of the school until 323 BC, when he left Athens for Euboea, where he died in 322 BC. His treatises and lectures on philosophy have always been highly regarded.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The Poetics is the last work of Aristotle. It is not as widely cited as his Metaphysics, nor his Nicomachean Ethics, but was selected here to illustrate his interest also in the arts. He is considered to be the first literary critic. For him, the arts represent essential truths apprehended by the mind. He proceeds to analyze works of literature, as for their style and for the construction of their plot. Style of poetry is to be judged by the employment of meter and selection of vocabulary. For a plot, unity is essential, and among other things the type of hero. In his first sentence Aristotle states the aim for the treatise as depicting the essence of poetry, its various types, and the requirements for successful plots. Among the types are epic poetry, tragedy and comedy, and dithyrambic poetry as well as most flute- and harp-playing. For all of these he demands mimesis, or imitation of life. And he accounts for interest in them because humans have an instinct for representation and because they enjoy representations. The Poetics is relatively short, but also very compact, as the selection here illustrates. The selection below is from book IV: 22-26.

ʼΑρχὴ μὲν οʼυ̂ν καὶ οʼι̂ον ψυχὴ ὁ μυ̂θος τη̂ς τραγῳδίας, δεύτερον δὲ τὰ ʼήθη.

  • ἀρχὴ -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <ἀρχή> beginning, first principle -- first principle
  • μὲν -- particle; <μέν> on the one hand -- on the one hand
  • οʼυ̂ν -- adverb; <οʼυ̂ν> indeed -- truly
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • οʼι̂ον -- adverb; <οʼι̂ον> so to say -- so to say
  • ψυχὴ -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <ψυχή> soul -- the soul
  • ὁ -- article; nominative singular masculine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • μυ̂θος -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <μυ̂θος> speech, plot -- plot
  • τη̂ς -- article; genitive singular feminine of <ὁ> the -- of ...
  • τραγῳδίας -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <τραγῳδία> tragedy -- tragedy
  • δεύτερον -- adverb; <δεύτερον> second -- the second
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- on the other hand
  • τὰ -- article; nominative plural neuter of <ὁ> the -- ta
  • ʼήθη -- noun, neuter; nominative plural of <ʼη̂θος> custom, character -- character

παραπλήσιον γάρ ἐστιν καὶ ἐπὶ τη̂ς γραφικη̂ς.

  • παραπλήσιον -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <παραπλήσιος> such-like -- the same
  • γάρ -- conjunction; <γάρ> for -- indeed
  • ἐστιν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- it is
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- also
  • ἐπὶ -- preposition; <ἐπί> on, about -- in
  • τη̂ς -- article; genitive singular feminine of <ὁ> the -- ...
  • γραφικη̂ς -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <γραφικη̂> painting -- painting

εἰ γάρ τις ἐναλείψειε τοι̂ς καλλίστοις φαρμάκοις χύδην, οὐκ ʼὰν ὁμοίως εὐφράνειεν καὶ λευκογραφήσας εἰκόνα.

  • εἰ -- conjunction; <εἰ> if -- if
  • γάρ -- conjunction; <γάρ> for -- for
  • τις -- indefinite pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <τις> someone, something -- someone
  • ἐναλείψειε -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist optative of <ἐναλείψω> paint, smear -- painted
  • τοι̂ς -- article; dative plural neuter of <ὁ> the -- with the
  • καλλίστοις -- adjective; dative plural neuter of superlative of <καλός> good, beautiful -- best
  • φαρμάκοις -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <φάρμακον> paint, color -- colors
  • χύδην -- adverb; <χύδην> at random, promiscuously -- at random
  • οὐκ -- particle; <οὐκ> not -- not
  • ʼὰν -- particle; <ʼάν> if -- ...
  • ὁμοίως -- adverb; <ὁμοίως> similarly -- as much
  • εὐφράνειεν -- verb; 3rd person singular optative aorist of <εὐφραίνω> delight, please -- it would ...delight
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- as
  • λευκογραφήσας -- verb; nominative singular masculine of aorist participle of <λευκο-γραφέω> paint in white on a black background -- painting . . . in white on a black background
  • εἰκόνα -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <εἰκών> image, portrait -- an image

ʼέστιν τε μίμησις πράξεως καὶ διὰ ταύτην μάλιστα τω̂ν πραττόντων.

  • ʼέστιν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- it is
  • τε -- conjunction; <τε> and -- and
  • μίμησις -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <μίμησις> representation -- a representation
  • πράξεως -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <πράξις> action in actual life -- of action in actual life
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • διὰ -- preposition; <διά> through, by -- because of
  • ταύτην -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular feminine of <οʽυ̂τος> this -- that
  • μάλιστα -- adverb; superlative of <μάλα> very -- most of all
  • τω̂ν -- article; genitive plural masculine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • πραττόντων -- verb; genitive plural masculine of present participle of <πράττω> achieve, manage -- of those in action

Τρίτον δὲ ἡ διάνοια.

  • τρίτον -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <τρίτος> third -- the third (element)
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- and
  • ἡ -- article; nominative singular feminine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • διάνοια -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <διάνοια> thought, mind -- thought

του̂το δέ ἐστιν τὸ λέγειν δύνασθαι τὰ ἐνόντα καὶ τὰ ἁρμόττοντα.

  • του̂το -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <οʽυ̂τος> this -- this
  • δέ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- and
  • ἐστιν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- is
  • τὸ -- article; accusative singular neuter of <ὁ> the -- the
  • λέγειν -- verb; infinitive of <λέγω> say -- to say
  • δύνασθαι -- deponent verb; infinitive of <δύναμαι> be able -- the ability
  • τὰ -- article; accusative plural neuter of <ὁ> the -- (the) what is
  • ἐνόντα -- verb; accusative plural neuter of participle of <ʼένειμι> to be in, to be possible -- possible
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • τὰ -- article; accusative plural neuter of <ὁ> the -- (the) what is
  • ἁρμόττοντα -- verb; accusative plural neuter of present participle of <ἁρμόττω> fit together -- fitting

ʽόπερ ἐπὶ τω̂ν λόγων τη̂ς πολιτικη̂ς καὶ τη̂ς ῥητορικη̂ς ʼέργον ἐστίν.

  • ʽόπερ -- relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <ʽόσπερ> it -- it
  • ἐπὶ -- preposition; <ἐπί> on, about -- in
  • τω̂ν -- article; genitive plural masculine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • λόγων -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <λόγος> word, reason -- the words
  • τη̂ς -- article; genitive singular feminine of <ὁ> the -- of the
  • πολιτικη̂ς -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <πολιτική> politics -- politics
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • τη̂ς -- article; genitive singular feminine of <ὁ> the -- of the
  • ῥητορικη̂ς -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <ῥητορική> rhetoric -- rhetorician
  • ʼέργον -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <ʼέργον> work, deed -- (in the) activities
  • ἐστίν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- is (provided)

οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἀρχαι̂οι πολιτικω̂ς ἐποίουν λέγοντας, οἱ δὲ νυ̂ν ῥητορικω̂ς.

  • οἱ -- article; nominative plural masculine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • μὲν -- particle; <μέν> on the one hand -- on the one hand
  • γὰρ -- conjunction; <γάρ> for -- indeed
  • ἀρχαι̂οι -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <ἀρχαιος> old -- old (writers)
  • πολιτικω̂ς -- adverb; <πολιτικω̂ς> like statesmen -- like statesmen
  • ἐποίουν -- verb; 3rd person plural imperfect of <ποιέω> make, do -- made
  • λέγοντας -- verb; accusative plural masculine of present participle of <λέγω> say -- (those speaking) the characters speak
  • οἱ -- article; nominative plural masculine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- on the other hand
  • νυ̂ν -- adverb; <νυ̂ν> now -- current (writers)
  • ῥητορικω̂ς -- adverb; <ῥητορικω̂ς> like rhetoricians -- like rhetoricians

ʼΈστιν δὲ ʼη̂θος μὲν τὸ τοιου̂τον ʽὸ δηλοι̂ τὴν προαίρεσιν, ὁποι̂ά τις ἐν οʽι̂ς οὐκ ʼέστι δη̂λον ʼή προαιρει̂ται ʼή φεύγει.

  • ʼέστιν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- is
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- and
  • ʼη̂θος -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <ʼη̂θος> custom, character -- character
  • μὲν -- particle; <μέν> on the one hand -- and
  • τὸ -- article; accusative singular neuter of <ὁ> the -- the
  • τοιου̂τον -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <τοιου̂τος> such -- that
  • ʽὸ -- relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <ʽός> who, which -- which
  • δηλοι̂ -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <δηλόω> be clear, reveal -- reveals
  • τὴν -- article; accusative singular feminine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • προαίρεσιν -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <προαίρεσις> choice -- choice
  • ὁποι̂ά -- interrogative pronoun; accusative plural neuter of <ὁπος> what sort of -- what sort of thing
  • τις -- indefinite pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <τις> someone, something -- one
  • ἐν -- preposition; <ἐν> in -- among
  • οʽι̂ς -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural neuter of <ʽός> this, that, he, she, it -- those where
  • οὐκ -- particle; <οὐκ> not -- not
  • ʼέστι -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- it is
  • δη̂λον -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <δη̂λος> clear, obvious -- clear
  • ʼή -- conjunction; <ʼή> or, than -- or
  • προαιρει̂ται -- verb; 3rd person singular present middle of <προαιρέω> choose -- chooses
  • ʼή -- conjunction; <ʼή> or, than -- or
  • φεύγει -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <φεύγω> escape, flee -- avoids

διόπερ οὐκ ʼέχουσιν ʼη̂θος τω̂ν λόγων ἐν οʽίς μηδ' ʽόλως ʼέστιν ʽό τι προαιρει̂ται ʼὴ φεύγει ὁ λέγων.

  • διόπερ -- adverb; <διόπερ> therefore, so -- so
  • οὐκ -- particle; <οὐκ> not -- not
  • ʼέχουσιν -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <ʼέχω> have -- (those) ... have
  • ʼη̂θος -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <ʼη̂θος> custom, character -- character
  • τω̂ν -- article; genitive plural masculine of <ὁ> the -- (in) the
  • λόγων -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <λόγος> word, reason -- words
  • ἐν -- preposition; <ἐν> in -- in
  • οʽίς -- relative pronoun; dative plural masculine of <ʽός> who, which -- which
  • μηδ' -- particle; <μηδέ> and not -- not
  • ʽόλως -- adverb; <ʽόλως> wholly -- wholly
  • ʼέστιν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- it is ... (clear)
  • ʽό -- relative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <ʽός> who, which -- what
  • τι -- indefinite pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <τις> someone, something -- ...
  • προαιρει̂ται -- verb; 3rd person singular present middle of <προαιρέω> choose -- chooses
  • ʼὴ -- conjunction; <ʼή> or, than -- or
  • φεύγει -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <φεύγω> escape, flee -- avoids
  • ὁ -- article; nominative singular masculine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • λέγων -- participle used as substantive; nominative singular masculine of present participle of <λέγω> say -- (speaking one) speaker

Τέταρτον δὲ τω̂ν ἐν λόγῳ ἡ λέξις.

  • τέταρτον -- adverb; of <τέταρτος> fourth -- fourth
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- and
  • τω̂ν -- article used as pronoun; genitive plural neuter of <ὁ> the -- of the (elements)
  • ἐν -- preposition; <ἐν> in -- in
  • λόγῳ -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <λόγος> word, reason -- the literary items
  • ἡ -- article; nominative singular feminine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • λέξις -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <λέξις> style -- style

λέγω δὲ, ʽώσπερ πρότερον εʼίρεται, λέξιν τὴν διὰ τη̂ς ὀνομασίαν ἑρμηνείαν.

  • λέγω -- verb; 1st person singular present of <λέγω> say -- I mean (that)
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- and
  • ʽώσπερ -- conjunction; <ʽώσπερ> as -- as
  • πρότερον -- adverb; <πρότερον> earlier, before -- earlier
  • εʼίρεται -- verb; 3rd person singular present passive of <εʼίρω> speak, say -- has been said
  • λέξιν -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <λέξις> style -- style
  • τὴν -- article; accusative singular feminine of <ὁ> the -- (is) the
  • διὰ -- preposition; <διά> through, by -- by means of
  • τη̂ς -- article; genitive singular feminine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • ὀνομασίαν -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <ὀνομασία> language -- language
  • ἑρμηνείαν -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <ἑρμηνεία> interpretation -- interpretation

ʽό καὶ ἐπὶ τω̂ν ἐμμέτρων καὶ ἐπὶ τω̂ν λόγων ʼέχει τὴν αὐτὴν δύναμιν.

  • ʽό -- relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <ʽός> who, which -- this
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • ἐπὶ -- preposition; <ἐπί> on, about -- for
  • τω̂ν -- article; genitive plural masculine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • ἐμμέτρων -- adjective; genitive plural masculine of <ʼέμμετρος> metrical -- poetry
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • ἐπὶ -- preposition; <ἐπί> on, about -- for
  • τω̂ν -- article; genitive plural masculine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • λόγων -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <λόγος> word, reason -- (words) prose
  • ʼέχει -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <ʼέχω> have -- has
  • τὴν -- article; accusative singular feminine of <ὁ> the -- the
  • αὐτὴν -- pronoun; accusative singular feminine of <αὐτός> oneself, he -- same
  • δύναμιν -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <δύναμις> power -- force

Lesson Text

ʼΑρχὴ μὲν οʼυ̂ν καὶ οʼι̂ον ψυχὴ ὁ μυ̂θος τη̂ς τραγῳδίας, δεύτερον δὲ τὰ ʼήθη. παραπλήσιον γάρ ἐστιν καὶ ἐπὶ τη̂ς γραφικη̂ς. εἰ γάρ τις ἐναλείψειε τοι̂ς καλλίστοις φαρμάκοις χύδην, οὐκ ʼὰν ὁμοίως εὐφράνειεν καὶ λευκογραφήσας εἰκόνα. ʼέστιν τε μίμησις πράξεως καὶ διὰ ταύτην μάλιστα τω̂ν πραττόντων. Τρίτον δὲ ἡ διάνοια. του̂το δέ ἐστιν τὸ λέγειν δύνασθαι τὰ ἐνόντα καὶ τὰ ἁρμόττοντα. ʽόπερ ἐπὶ τω̂ν λόγων τη̂ς πολιτικη̂ς καὶ τη̂ς ῥητορικη̂ς ʼέργον ἐστίν. οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἀρχαι̂οι πολιτικω̂ς ἐποίουν λέγοντας, οἱ δὲ νυ̂ν ῥητορικω̂ς. ʼΈστιν δὲ ʼη̂θος μὲν τὸ τοιου̂τον ʽὸ δηλοι̂ τὴν προαίρεσιν, ὁποι̂ά τις ἐν οʽι̂ς οὐκ ʼέστι δη̂λον ʼή προαιρει̂ται ʼή φεύγει. διόπερ οὐκ ʼέχουσιν ʼη̂θος τω̂ν λόγων ἐν οʽίς μηδ' ʽόλως ʼέστιν ʽό τι προαιρει̂ται ʼὴ φεύγει ὁ λέγων. Τέταρτον δὲ τω̂ν ἐν λόγῳ ἡ λέξις. λέγω δὲ, ʽώσπερ πρότερον εʼίρεται, λέξιν τὴν διὰ τη̂ς ὀνομασίαν ἑρμηνείαν. ʽό καὶ ἐπὶ τω̂ν ἐμμέτρων καὶ ἐπὶ τω̂ν λόγων ʼέχει τὴν αὐτὴν δύναμιν.

Translation

The plot is truly the first principle and so to say the soul of tragedy; and the second is character. It is the same also in painting. For if someone painted with the best colors at random, it would not delight as much as painting an image in white on a black background. For it is a representation of action in actual life, and because of that most of all of those in action.
The third element is thought. This is the ability to say what is possible and what is fitting. It is provided in the words and the activities of the statesman and of the rhetorician. For the old writers made the characters speak like statesmen and the new writers like rhetoricians.
Now character is that which reveals choice, i.e. what sort of thing one chooses or avoids among those where it is not clear. So those have no character in the words, in which it is not wholly clear what the speaker chooses or avoids.
The fourth of the elements in the literary items is style. And I mean, as has been said earlier, that style is the means of interpretation through meaning. And this has the same force for poetry and prose.

Grammar

41. Verbs in -μι; the present and imperfect active system.

A small number of frequent verbs have different endings and formations from those of the general verbs. Among these are τίθημι 'put', ʽίημι 'send', ʽίστημι, and δίδωμι 'give'. The present forms of τίθημι are given here to illustrate their forms. The forms of the others are comparable, though δίδωμι has ο-vowels corresponding to the ε-vowels of the three other verbs.

    Present   Imperfect
1 sg   τίθημι   ἐτίθην
2 sg   τίθης   ἐτίθεις
3 sg   τίθησι(ν)   ἐτίθει
         
1 pl   τίθεμεν   ἐτίθεμεν
2 pl   τίθετε   ἐτίθετε
3 pl   τιθέασι(ν)   ἐτίθεσαν

    Subjunctive   Optative   Imperative
1 sg   τιθω̂   τιθείην    
2 sg   τιθῃ̂ς   τιθείης   τίθει
3 sg   τιθῃ̂   τιθείη   τιθέτω
             
1 pl   τιθω̂μεν   τιθει̂μεν    
2 pl   τιθη̂τε   τιθει̂τε   τίθετε
3 pl   τιθω̂σι(ν)   τιθει̂εν   τιθέντων
42. Forms of the aorist active.
    Indicative   Subjunctive   Optative   Imperative
1 sg   ʼέθηκα   θω̂   θείην    
2 sg   ʼέθηκας   θῃ̂ς   θείης   θές
3 sg   ʼέθηκε(ν)   θῃ̂   θείη   θέτω
                 
1 pl   ʼέθεμεν   θω̂μεν   θει̂μεν    
2 pl   ʼέθετε   θη̂τε   θει̂ητε   θέτε
3 pl   ʼέθεσαν   θω̂σι(ν)   θει̂εν   θέντων
43. Forms of the Present and Imperfect system of εἰμί 'am'.
    Present   Imperfect
1 sg   εἰμί   ʼη̂ν
2 sg   εʼι̂   ʼη̂σθα
3 sg   ἐστί(ν)   ʼη̂ν
         
1 pl   ἐσμέν   ʼη̂μεν
2 pl   ἐστέ   ʼη̂τε
3 pl   εἰσί(ν)   ʼη̂σαν

    Subjunctive   Optative   Imperative
1 sg   ʼω̂   εʼίην    
2 sg   ʼῃ̂ς   εʼίης   ʼίσθι
3 sg   ʼῃ̂   εʼίη   ʼέστω
             
1 pl   ʼω̂μεν   εʼίημεν    
2 pl   ʼήτε   εʼίητε   ʼέστε
3 pl   ʼω̂σι(ν)   εʼίησαν   ʼέστων
44. Forms of οʼι̂δα 'I know'.

οʼι̂δα is a perfect with present meaning. It is based on a root meaning 'see', so that the perfect has developed in meaning from 'I have seen' to 'I know'. The forms representing present and past time are given here.

    Present   Past
1 sg   οʼι̂δα 'I know'   ʼῄδη 'I knew'
2 sg   οʼι̂σθα 'thou knowest'   ʼῄδησθα 'thou knewest'
3 sg   οʼι̂δε(ν) 'he/she knows'   ʼῄδει 'he/she knew'
         
1 pl   ʼίσμεν 'we know'   ʼῄδμεν 'we knew'
2 pl   ʼίστε 'you know'   ʼῄδετε 'you knew'
3 pl   ʼίσασι(ν) 'they know'   ʼῄδεσαν 'they knew'
45. Particles.

As you have noted in the texts, particles are numerous in Greek texts. Moreover, they are often left untranslated. They may modify meaning much as intonation does in English; if then translated with their meaning given in dictionaries, such as 'indeed, to be sure' and so on, the English sentence is turgid. In combinations, such as καὶ δέ, καὶ merely adds emphasis. Particles then must be treated in relation to one another and to the entire sentence.

There are two negative particles, also called adverbs, οὺ (οʼύτε, οὐκ, etc.), and μή, which is required in sentences expressing a desire and is used in conditions.

There are several interrogative particles, of which ʽη̂ and ʼα̂ρα are the most frequent. Other particles are listed here in alphabetical order.

ἀλλά 'on the other hand, but, on the contrary'
ʽάμα 'at the same time, at once'
ʼάρα 'therefore, then' (note the different accentuation from the interrogative particle)
γάρ 'for'
γέ 'indeed, certainly'
δέ 'but, however' (often used as a connective, and need not be translated)
δή 'already, now' (or used to add emphasis)
ʼη̂ 'truly, really'
ʼή 'or' (often doubled with the meanings 'either ...or')
καί 'and' or, as used for emphasis, 'even'
μέν 'indeed' (may be used with δέ to indicate a correlation, and not translated)
οὐδέ 'and not'
οʼυ̂ν 'indeed, certainly; therefore'
οʼύτε ... οʼύτε, μήτε ... μήτε 'neither ... nor'
πέρ 'even, indeed'
τέ 'and'; τέ ... τέ 'both ... and'; τέ ... καί 'not only ... but also'