Aprakos.

I recently ran across the extremely obscure word aprakos (so obscure it’s not in the OED); here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Aprakos is a kind of Gospel or Acts of the Apostles book, otherwise known as weekly or service Gospel (Acts). In aprakoses, the text is organized not in the natural order of books, but along with the weekly church readings starting from the Holy (Easter) Week as used in the Eastern Orthodox Church. In particular, the text of Aprakos-Gospels begins with the first chapter of Gospel according to John (In the beginning was the Word…), whereas regular Gospels (Tetra-Gospels) begin with the Gospel according to Matthew (The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David…). Many of the oldest Slavic manuscripts are aprakoses, like Codex Assemanius or Ostromir Gospels.

It gives me a combination of heartburn and a warm, fuzzy feeling to see the phrases “Codex Assemanius” and “Ostromir Gospels” (grad school memories), but never mind that: what kind of word is it? It looks Greek, and if we go to Russian Wikipedia we find that it’s from Greek ἄπρακτος ‘not doing/acting, idle’; Vasmer tells us it’s from the phrase ἄπρακτοι ἡμέραι ‘idle days, holidays.’ All well and good, but where did the -t- go? This isn’t a popular word, where all sorts of things can happen in oral transmission, but a learned word that presumably got copied straight from Byzantine manuscripts into Slavic ones; did some copyist omit the tau and nobody noticed? If it had been borrowed normally as apraktos I might be tempted to complain about the plural in –es in Wikipedia, but since aprakos isn’t Greek, it would be silly to coin a pseudo-Greek plural aprakoi. I don’t know why I’m bothering you with this trivia, except that you’re presumably taking the week off like sensible people, and hardly a soul will be affronted by it.

Comments

  1. I don’t know why I’m bothering you with this trivia, except that you’re presumably taking the week off like sensible people, and hardly a soul will be affronted by it.

    Really? You are throwing in a word that’s not in the OED, with a conspicuous gap in its etymology, and you’re expecting people to yawn and move on?

    I suppose the word is rare in English because the Western term evangeliary is used in its place.

  2. Y: The term I’m more familiar with is lectionary; I suppose evangeliary would be a subset of lectionaries that concentrates on the gospels.

  3. Good memories for me as well (I wrote my Masters Thesis about the periphrastic future tenses in the OCS Gospel texts). At that time, I just thought aprakos to be a Greek term and didn’t even look up its origin – shame on me! My only excuse is that if I’d looked up the etymology of every Greek word I learnt back then, I’d never finished my thesis… Part of the task was comparison of the future tense usage in OCS against the Greek original, and so I really started to get into Ancient Greek only when I did that thesis.

  4. Could it be a hybrid form, a cross between ἄπρακτος and ἄπραγος?

  5. Perhaps it just a weird coincidence, but the Slavic term for Sunday (Нєдѣлꙗ – literally ‘no-work’) looks like calque from Greek ‘ἄπρακτος’

    And in Russian, the Slavic term for Sunday came to mean “week”, so the ‘aprakos’ can be translated (re-translated, re-interpreted, I don’t know the exact term for it) as ‘weekly[reading]’

  6. Vasmer says it’s probably calqued from Latin feria, dies feriata rather than Greek, given its presence in West Slavic languages.

  7. Really? You are throwing in a word that’s not in the OED, with a conspicuous gap in its etymology, and you’re expecting people to yawn and move on?

    Just riffing; I actually expected hard-core LH habitués to be as interested as I was.

  8. This isn’t a popular word, where all sorts of things can happen in oral transmission…

    I wouldn’t be so sure. The Church Slavic variant опракосъ exhibits some more “vernacularisation”. By the way, недѣля ‘Sunday, week’ was a calque of ἄπρακτος.

  9. By the way, недѣля ‘Sunday, week’ was a calque of ἄπρακτος.

    Not necessarily! See my earlier comment. But опракосъ does suggest oral transmission.

  10. Oops, some people beat me to it (Sunday).

    Early West Slavic absorbed quite a lot of Church Slavic influence. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sunday word were part of it.

  11. Well, but why, given that both the Greek and Latin forms are possible sources, do you prefer the former?

  12. Because Slavic nedelya consists of ne- and -delo which look like and mean exactly like ἄ- and -πρακτος in Greek.

    That’s what makes it a calque.

    Borrowing from Latin ‘feria’ would be simple translation, not a calque.

  13. Fair enough.

  14. SFReader has answered for me. ἄ-πρακτος means literally ‘not + carried out’, hence the day when no business is to be done — exactly like ne-dělja.

  15. J.W. Brewer says:

    One of the reasons the word may be so rare in English is that while Anglophone Eastern Orthodox certainly have a weakness for loanwords in preference to calques or synonyms drawn from pre-existing English lexicon, the relevant object seems in my experience to be overwhelmingly called merely a “Gospel Book” in English, whether arranged in “regular” order or arranged pericope by pericope in the order of the liturgical year. If your parish needs a fancy new golden set of covers for your gospel book (which can run you a thousand dollars or more, probably much much more if you’re interested), the specialized merchants dealing with Byzantine-style ecclesiastical goods will just describe the item in their online catalog as “gospel book covers” or “gospel covers.” Even the reasonably transparent “evangelion” is not much used by the Greeks when they’re speaking English ; which is slightly odd because “apostol” (stress on the final syllable, at least the way I say it, which may be unreliable) as the word for the parallel book with the epistle lessons does enjoy reasonably wide currency in Anglophone Orthodox circles.

  16. Hans and Piotr, thank you. Hans, because I ‘taught’ this for years and never fussed too much about ‘aprakos – and I know ‘Ostromir’ by heart. Piotr, I reckon you’re right, whatever ‘right’ means in such a situation.

    My next bit of amusement: ‘Assemanius’ or, as I have always thought, ‘Assemianus’. It may well be the former, but so interesting how things get set in everyone’s minds.

  17. @Piotr
    Early West Slavic absorbed quite a lot of Church Slavic influence.

    Shouldn’t that be the reverse? Church Slavic was developed under Early West Slavic and fostered under Early South Slavic.

  18. David Marjanović says:

    Old Church Slavic is unmistakably an eastern South Slavic language (various nationalists have called it “Old Bulgarian” or “Old Macedonian”…), not surprising given where Cyrill & Method were from. Some of the earliest missions were to Greater Moravia, a West Slavic place.

  19. Actually, Cyril and Method learnt “Slavic” near what’s today Saloniki, and this would clearly have been a South Slavic variety. As for where Greater Moravia was located, there are theories that put its center farther South (Pannonia) than the traditional view. I don’t know how good these alternative theories are, but in any case the first mission in Greater Moravia was relatively short and Methodius spent most of his mission in Pannonia, where it seems based on place names that a Southern Slavic variety closer to Bulgarian was spoken before the Hungarian invasion (e.g. pešt “oven” in Budapest. That means that Cyril and Method not just brought a South-Eastern Slavic varety with them, but that it also was to a big part identical to the language actually spoken by their flock, and it seems likely that the Christina terminology radiated from here to the Western Slavs.

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