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Studies in Greek Language & Linguistics…

Category Archives: Greek

Side comment…

Has anyone ever noticed that Daniel Wallace’s intermediate grammar uses a strangely large number of exclamation points considering its genre?

What’s up with that?

Linguistic Adequacy & BDF

Since this post is appearing far later than I had intended, I would encourage you to quickly go back and review the previous post in the series: Linguistic adequacy and Greek grammar.

I must apologize first for the fact that we’re starting with BDF (Amazon Link). It is an incredibly dense and difficult to read volume. I’ve heard it said that if you know Greek well enough to have the ability to use BDF, then you probably don’t even actually need to use BDF anyway. And perhaps there’s some truth to that. Before moving forward with our examination of this grammar, however, we should talk a bit about the context in which it was written. Grammar writing in and of itself is a communicative act and grammars are written for particular audiences who expect to use them for particular purposes. This is true even of reference grammars (or perhaps especially of reference grammars). A reference grammar written for native speakers of a language has different goals than a reference grammar written for non-native speakers, for linguists/grammarians, or, in the case of most biblical students and scholars, those who are centrally interested in reading. Moreover, there is a tendency for each of these groups to assume that the wants and needs of the other groups ought to be identical to their own. These groups are interested in different questions when they pull the grammar off the bookshelf. BDF seems to fit primarily within the final two groups, perhaps with some greater emphasis on the last one. It’s also notable in that the grammar functions primarily as a supplement to Classical Greek—much of the discussion is framed in terms of how the Koine diverges from the classical standard.

I chose the following section from BDF primarily because it was something I read recently. It is probably worth emphasizing here that I did not decide to write about linguistic adequacy because of something I read in this section. I had the thought while actually reading a different grammar in conjunction with a conversation I had with a friend. I decided, then, that I would examine and evaluate some of the more prominent reference grammars to see how they stand up to contemporary linguistic standards of adequacy.

The section before us from BDF below comes from a larger section that examines (semantic) types of subordinate clauses in relationship to the indicative and subjunctive moods.

369. Final (purpose) clauses introduced by ἵνα, ὅπως (no longer with ὡς except in A 20:24 S* [§391(1)]), μή have greatly extended their sphere in the NT because a ἵνα-clause so often serves as periphrasis for the infinitive. We are concerned here with mood only, upon which the character of ἵνα (i.e. whether it indicates purpose or not) exerted no influence. (1) The mood in the NT is generally the subjunctive. The classical ‘oblique optative’ is never used even after a secondary tense in the NT nor elsewhere in the lower Koine vernacular; cf. Knuenz 15ff. (2) The future indicative has also been introduced to a very limited degree in the very places where it would not have been permissible in classical, i.e. after ἵνα and final μή, most frequently in Rev and usually with the aorist subjunctive as variant. (3) A special case is that in which a future connected by καί follows upon ἵνα or μή with the subjunctive to designate some further consequence: Jn 15:8 ἵνα καρπὸν … φέρητε καὶ γενήσεσθε (γένησθε BDL al.) ἐμοὶ μαθηταί, where the consequence has a kind of independence: ‘and then you will become …’. It is still more easily understood when it follows an independent subjunctive: Mk 6:37 ἀγοράσωμεν καὶ δώσομεν (p45ALΔ, -σωμεν SBD, al. δῶμεν). (4) The old Attic (Meisterhans 255) combination of ὅπως and ὅπως μή with the future indicative after verbs of reflection, striving, guarding is not found in the NT. Ἵνα (negated ἵνα μή, μή) is used throughout with these verbs, and ὅπως, in so far as it appears at all (never in Rev, once in Jn, not often in Paul), is confined to the purely final sense and to combinations with verbs of asking (παρακαλεῖν etc.). (5) Furthermore, ὅπως, with the exception of a few places in Lk and a quotation from the LXX, has lost the ἄν often appended in Attic (Hermann 267f.; Knuenz 13ff., 26ff.; Rosenkranz, IF 48 [1930] 166), especially in the older inscriptions (Meisterhans 254). Ἄν could not be joined to ἵνα and μή even in Attic. (6) The present indicative after ἵνα is, of course, only a corruption of the text.—For μή (μήποτε, μήπως) expressing apprehension s.

The basic structure of BDF is to make a set of numbered statements about grammatical aspects of the language. These statements are then followed by corresponding set of numbers lists of references. These references with the briefest of commentary are intended to function as the evidence or examples for the corresponding grammatical claims. Often times, debated examples are provided with some comment as to how they should be interpreted. BDF is known for its use of actual manuscripts rather than critical editions. This substantively contributes to the value since it allows us some observation not only about the grammar of the text, but also some insight into the kinds of grammatical variation found in the manuscripts.

The main problem with the initial set of grammatical observations is essentially that they are very little than that: observations. Here they are in a list format, with my own comments about what I view to be lacking, primarily framed in terms of questions that remain unanswered from the statements themselves:

  • (1) The mood in the NT is generally the subjunctive. The classical ‘oblique optative’ is never used even after a secondary tense in the NT nor elsewhere in the lower Koine vernacular; cf. Knuenz 15ff.

These statements are certainly true, but we are left wondering what motivated the disappearance of the ‘oblique optative.’ Does the dominance of the subjunctive in the NT and surrounding literature find it’s motivation in the language simplification processes that take place via koineization? Or should we be looking for some form of analogical leveling? Perhaps both? Does Knuenz 15ff. provide answers to these questions or does he simply contribute more data for this unmotivated observation?

  • (2) The future indicative has also been introduced to a very limited degree in the very places where it would not have been permissible in classical, i.e. after ἵνα and final μή, most frequently in Rev and usually with the aorist subjunctive as variant.

What motivates this introduction of the future indicative? Does it involve some particular aspect of final purpose clauses? Or it is primarily motivated by the nature of the future indicative as a semi-modal form to begin with? Is it limited to a specific semantic class of verbs (as with [4] below)? Surely such a change from Classical Greek to the the New Testament suggests at least some kind of semantic shift in order to motivate this new usage.

Also , when you say that the aorist subjunctive is usually a variant, why do you think that is? Is it primarily because of the morphological similarities between the aorist subjunctive and the future indicative? Can we attribute some semantic significance to the alternation of these variants?

  • (3) A special case is that in which a future connected by καί follows upon ἵνα or μή with the subjunctive to designate some further consequence: Jn 15:8 ἵνα καρπὸν … φέρητε καὶ γενήσεσθε (γένησθε BDL al.) ἐμοὶ μαθηταί, where the consequence has a kind of independence: ‘and then you will become …’. It is still more easily understood when it follows an independent subjunctive: Mk 6:37 ἀγοράσωμεν καὶ δώσομεν (p45ALΔ, -σωμεν SBD, al. δῶμεν).

This is probably the best statement we have so far. Here we have a data point: future connect by καἰ follows upon ἵνα or μή with the subjunctive” and then also a statement of the meaning of the construction. Unfortunately, what motivates the construction still is unstated. Why does this happen rather than merely add another subjunctive (which is what happens in BDF’s variant reading, which also happens to be the reading of the NA27)?

  • (4) The old Attic (Meisterhans 255) combination of ὅπως and ὅπως μή with the future indicative after verbs of reflection, striving, guarding is not found in the NT. Ἵνα (negated ἵνα μή, μή) is used throughout with these verbs, and ὅπως, in so far as it appears at all (never in Rev, once in Jn, not often in Paul), is confined to the purely final sense and to combinations with verbs of asking (παρακαλεῖν etc.).

Like statement (3), this is also more useful, BDF against connect structure and meaning together. We have an old construction with its meaning (and lexical condition) followed by the new Koine conjunction and its  meaning. We are still left with the question of motivation that keeps re-occurring with each of these.

  • (5) Furthermore, ὅπως, with the exception of a few places in Lk and a quotation from the LXX, has lost the ἄν often appended in Attic (Hermann 267f.; Knuenz 13ff., 26ff.; Rosenkranz, IF 48 [1930] 166), especially in the older inscriptions (Meisterhans 254). Ἄν could not be joined to ἵνα and μή even in Attic.

Okay. But what is it about the semantic nature of ἄν that prevents its collocation with ἵνα and μή? The fact that it doesn’t happen is certainly interesting, but surely the reason why would be even more interesting.

  • (6) The present indicative after ἵνα is, of course, only a corruption of the text.—For μή (μήποτε, μήπως) expressing apprehension s. §370.

This is useful, however, could there not also be an alternative explanation that an author simply made a production error? The use of μή to express apprehension, quite interesting. That would come pretty close to functioning as a communicative motivation for a grammatical structure.

But what we see as a whole is very plenty of observational statements of fact with no explanation of them. There is no principled account of why the data is the way it is. So the question then is: Is this observational account useful. Well, yes. It is to an extent. To the extent that the factoids collected here are accurate, they could function as an essential foundation for creating a principled account of why the data is the way it is. The fact of the matter is that BDF feels like the beginning of a grammar. All the data is collected and initial observations made, but there are no connections between the dots at all. Just data points floating around in space unrelated and without purpose.

Section §370. which follows at the end of this point for reference, functions as providing the specific examples that BDF views as relevant as evidence of their statements. This approach is as perplexing as it is interesting. In some sense, this becomes useful to commentary writers and those doing exegesis/general reading of Greek. The problem is that the way BDF is used and cited in commentaries isn’t useful at all. Consider Revelation 22:14

Μακάριοι οἱ πλύνοντες τὰς στολὰς αὐτῶν, ἵνα ἔσται ἡ ἐξουσία αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον τῆς ζωῆς καὶ τοῖς πυλῶσιν εἰσέλθωσιν εἰς τὴν πόλιν.

WBC on this verse makes the following statement (Amazon):

ἵνα can be construed several ways (see Notes 14:13.f. and 16:15.c.): (1) as introducing a final or purpose clause, i.e., “in order that they will have access to the tree of life” (BDF §369[2]; Turner, Syntax, 102), (2) as introducing a causal clause, “because they will have access to the tree of life” (i.e., ἵνα = ὅτι, as the ἵνα in Mark 4:12 = Luke 8:10 becomes ὅτι in Matt 13:13), a usage that is also found in 14:13 and 16:15, or (3) as the imper use of ἵνα: e.g., “may their right be to the tree of life”.

Aune, Revelation 1198.

It is interesting here that only Aune’s option (1) actually reference citation support. But what I wonder is just how helpful the citation is. All BDF §369(2) says is that the future indicative with ἵνα is used to mark final purpose clauses. You cannot use BDF §369(2) to make a judgment about a particular instance because BDF makes no statement about why a particular construction that can be used to mark that meaning as opposed to another meaning. Once again we are back to the problem of having no principled account.

With BDF, the question never answered is: Why?

Will another, perhaps less terse, traditional grammars do better? We’ll see in the coming weeks.

 

Examples of Final purpose clauses from BDF

§370.

Pap. ὡς (ὡς ἄν) iii BC 4 times, ii–i BC 18 times; Mayser II 1, 258–61. Cf. Rob. 982. D. Buzy, Les sentences finales des paraboles évangéliques (RB 40 [1931] 321–44). On ὅπως- and ἵνα-clauses in the Apocr. Gospels Ghedini, Vang. ap. 474–8. Kalinka, WSt 55 (1937) 91–4 (compendium of the results of the work of Knuenz).

(1) The alleged opt. δῴη E 1:17 is subj. (§95(2); B correctly δῷ). Τίς δώῃ = מִי יִתֵּן is frequent in the LXX and is an unmistakable subj. The subj. with ὅπως is aor. except ὅπως ᾖ Mt 6:4 and ὅπως μὴ δύνωνται Lk 16:26. Mayser II 1, 240ff. (subj.), 295 (opt.).

(2) Fut.: Rev 22:14 ἵνα ἔσται … καὶ εἰσέλθωσιν (ἵνα here = ‘because’ ὅτι, as in 14:13), therefore both forms thought of as equivalent (? s. infra). In Paul: 1 C 9:15 ἵνα τις (οὐδείς is incorrect) κενώσει, 18 ἵνα θήσω, 13:3 παραδῶ ἵνα καυθήσομαι (incorrect -σωμαι CK, καυχήσωμαι p46SAB), G 2:4 καταδουλώσουσιν (SAB*CDE), Ph 2:11 ACD al. Further: 1 P 3:1 κερδηθήσονται; Jn 7:3 θεωρήσουσιν (-σωσι B3X al.), 17:2 δώσει (-ῃ ScACG al., δώσω S*, δῷς W, ἔχῃ D); Lk 14:10 ἐρεῖ (ADW al. εἴπῃ), 20:10 δώσουσιν (CDW al. δῶσιν); Mt 12:10 κατηγορήσουσιν DWX. After μή: C 2:8 βλέπετε μὴ … ἔσται, H 3:12 βλέπετε μήποτε ἔσται, Mt 7:6 μήποτε καταπατήσουσιν (-σωσιν SEG al.) … καὶ ῥήξωσιν. Cf. also Gregory 124. Rev 3:9 ἵνα ἥξουσιν (-ωσι 046) καὶ προσκυνήσουσιν (-σωσιν 046) … καὶ γνῶσιν (S γνώσῃ is not good); 8:3 δώσει (-ῃ P 046), 13:16 (written ΔΩΣΙ from which the wrong reading δωσι(ν) in all majuscules arose); 6:4, 11, 9:4, 5, 20, 13:12, 14:13 (ὅτι p47). 1 Th 5:10 ἵνα ζήσομεν (A; ζῶμεν D*E; the aor. is correct S etc. ‘live again’, i.e. at the parousia); ἄν is also omitted in the intervening clause εἴτε γρηγορῶμεν εἴτε καθεύδωμεν (cf. Ph 1:27 ἵνα εἴτε … ἀκού(σ)ω [subj.], Homil Clem 9:22 ἵνʼ ….ὅτε θελήσωσιν, ἀνέλωσιν). Interchange of fut. indic. and aor. subj. (cf. §363): Reinhold 106; Raderm.2 173f.; Melcher 90; Vogeser 34f.; Knuenz 23ff., 39.—On ‘causal’ ἵνα (Rev 22:14) s. Jannaris §1741; Hesseling and Pernot, Neophilologus 12 (1927) 41–6; Pernot, Études 90–5; Windisch, ZNW 26 (1927) 203–9; Robertson, Studies in Early Christianity, ed. by S. J. Case (N.Y. and London, 1928) 51–7. Of the NT exx. adduced by Hesseling and Pernot, Rev 22:14 at the best stands the test if μακάριοι … ἵνα = μακάριοι … ὅτι of Mt 5:3ff.; but ‘in order that’ (dependent on πλύοντες) is also possible; likewise Rev 16:15. 14:13 ἵνα (p47 ὅτι!) ἀναπαήσονται is a main clause ‘they shall rest’ (§387(3)). Mk 4:12 = Lk 8:10 ἵνα is final (theory that some arire incapable of repentance), softened by Mt 13:13 to causal ὅτι (διὰ τοῦτο in answer to διὰ τί 10). Ed. Schweizer, ThZ 8 (1952) 153f. accepts ἵνα in 1 P 4:6 as causal. Literature on causal ἵνα also in Zerwick, Graec. bibl. 95 n. The LXX is also ruled out: Gen 22:14 ἵνα ‘so that’ (§391(5)), likewise Epict.: 3.4.10 ἵνα is final, cf. θέλω in 11. But still there remain the grammarians (e.g. Apollonius Dysc., Synt. 3.28 [Gramm. Gr. ii 2, 382.2] explains ἵνα φιλολογήσω παρεγενήθη Τρύφων as identical with διότι ἐφιλολόγησα π. Τ.), the Church Fathers and late papyri (e.g. BGU IV 1081.3 [ii/iii AD] ἐχάρην ἵνα σε ἀσπάζομαι [however cf. §392(1a)]; Ghedini, Aegyptus 15 [1935] 236).

(3) A 21:24 ἵνα ξυρήσωνται (-σονται SB*D*E al.) … καὶ γνώσονται, E 6:3 OT ἵνα … γένηται καὶ ἔσῃ, R 3:4 OT ὅπως ἂν δικαιωθῇς … καὶ νικήσεις (SADE), Lk 22:30 (many vv.ll.), 12:58 (μήποτε), Mt 5:25 (likewise), Mk 5:23 (acc. to A), Mt 13:5 = Jn 12:40 = A 28:27 (μήποτε or ἵνα μή) OT (Is 6:10); Mt 20:28 add. D μήποτε … ἐπέλθῃ … καὶ καταισχυνθήσῃ; Barn 4.3 ἵνα ταχύνῃ καὶ ἥξει (S for -ῃ), Herm Man 6.2.10, Sim 9.7.6, 28.5; Raderm.2 216. Following an impera.: Herm Vis 2.1.3 λάβε καὶ ἀποδώσεις μοι, Man 2.1 ἄκακος γίνου καὶ ἔσῃ (Lat. esto) ὡς … (Lk 22:10 ἀκολουθήσατε … καὶ ἐρεῖτε); Raderm.2 216f.

(4) The one instance in Jn is 11:57 where ὅπως is evidently used for the sake of variety since ἵνα has just preceded; the same thing applies to Paul in 1 C 1:29, 2 C 8:14, 2 Th 1:12 (not 2 C 8:11, G 1:4, Phm 6; ἵνα … ἵνα G 4:5, 1 C 4:6). Further Epict. 4.5.5, Tatian 41.8 Schwartz. For the expression of purpose Jn uses hardly anything but ἵνα and does not care for the final inf. at all. On the retreat of ὅπως in the Hell. period cf. Reinhold 106; Knuenz 9ff., 28, 34ff.; Schwyzer II 673. However, in the Ptol. pap. ὅπως is almost as frequent as ἵνα but four-fifths of the exx. are in official documents (Mayser II 1, 247–52, 256, 257, 261). Ἵνα in final object clauses: ibid. 242ff.; II 3, 51. Ὅπως and ἵνα often interchange (ibid. II 1, 245; cf. Diog. Oen. 60.1.8 οὐχ ἵνα … ἀλλʼ ὅπως, 1 Clem 65.1 ὅπως … εἰς τό with inf.). The fut. also appears infrequently with ὅπως in the pap. (ibid. 251).

(5) Ὅπως ἄν: Lk 2:35, A 3:20, 15:17 OT (from Amos 9:12, where our text does not have ἄν [Ziegler except in A as a back-reading]); in quotation also R 3:4 = Ps 50 (51): 6 (R 9:17 OT acc. p 188 to FG; from Ex 9:16, where our text is without ἄν). Mayser II 1, 254–7 (ὅπως ἄν very often in the pap., predominantly in official texts); II 3, 50. An uncertain ex. of ἵνα ἄν may be found in Mayser II 1, 246.

(6) Jn 5:20 SL, G 6:12 p46ACF al., T 2:4 S*AF al., E 1:18 FG ἵνα οἴδατε, etc. Cf. Gregory 125; Reinhold 106. Φυσιοῦσθε 1 C 4:6 and ζηλοῦτε G 4:17 are subjunctives, s. §91. Jn 17:24 θεωροῦσιν W, -ῶσιν W2, Rev 16:15 βλέπουσιν p47 minusc. IEph 4.2 ἵνα … ᾄδετε and ἵνα … μετέχετε (Reinhold 107). Only inferior orthography in the Ptol. pap. (Mayser II 1, 244d 1).—On the whole Rob. 980–7; Moule 138f.

Tributes to Rod Decker

The Baptist Bulletin, the online magazine of the denomination Rod was a part of, has published its obituary for this great gentleman and scholar.

Remembering Rod Decker

Similarly, a variety of people who knew and loved Rod have written their own tributes, also published by the magazine.

Rod Decker Tributes

My own relationship with Rod began as interaction between this blog and his own blog, primarily in the comments. He was one who encouraged and challenged my thinking and motivated me to stay focused on Koine Greek as a specialization rather than moving into some other realm of linguistics. I always appreciate his push back on proposals and ideas. Eventually, we e-mailed privately a dozen or so times discussing primarily to discuss Greek. It was a great pleasure to meet and interact with him personally at SBL over the years. I will greatly miss dialoging and interacting with him.

Linguistic adequacy and Greek grammars

It has only been in the past couple years that I have realized that for the most part, the vast majority of Greek reference grammars have a significant lack in terms of the claims they make. This is especially true of grammars written after the reign of the neo-grammarians. I would say most grammatical works that appeared before and during the time of the neo-grammarians are slight better on this front (depending, of course, on which grammar you’re looking, Kuhner is better in my opinion, particularly before it was revised by Blass & Gerth).

But what do I mean by this?

Well, in linguistics, going as far back as Chomsky’s 1965 monogragh, Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, we find this concept of levels of linguistic adequacy (pages 18-27 are most relevant, though the entirety of chapter one is very much worth reading. Chomsky lays out three levels of adequacy that grammatical theory should strive form: observational adequacy, descriptive adequacy, and explanatory adequacy. I phrase these below in a manner slightly different than how Chomsky himself did. This is partially because while the concepts are still significantly relevant for the our goals in grammar, a number of frameworks (including the ones that I like most) have moved away from the conception of language as a rule-based system and view language as an emergent, bio-adaptive system (that’s a mix of Bybee 2010, Givón 1999, and Hopper 1988).

Observational adequacy is the lowest level and least sufficient for a grammar. Within the realm of observational adequacy, it is sufficient to collect all the relevant data points and give them label. And there is really no way to talk about a theory of grammar as being observationally adequate at all, at least not in a practical sense. Observational adequancy, ‘observes the data correctly’ (Chomsky 1964, 29); it doesn’t not, however, attempt to account for the linguistic intuitions of the native speaker or provide a principled account for why the data is the way it is.

Descriptive adequacy is the next level up. For a grammar to be descriptively adequate, not only collects the data and categorizes them, but also constructions a principled account of why the data is the way it is. What are the rules of grammar? What are the motivations for the structure of the language? Descriptive adequacy must address these questions. A theory of grammar that is descriptively adequate  should sufficiently account for all of the grammars that satisfy descriptive adequacy (at least in theory).

Explanatory adequacy is the highest level of adequacy and functions are the primary goal of linguistic theory in Chomsky’s conception. This marked a major shift in how linguists approached their craft before Chomsky. Explanatory adequacy seeks to provide a principled account of competing grammatical descriptions. As Chomsky himself explained it: “A linguistic theory that aims for explanatory adequacy is concerned with the internal structure of the device [i.e. grammar]; that is, it aims to provide a principled basis, independent of any particular language, for the selection of the descriptively adequate grammar of each language” (Chomsky 1965, 63).

This last level is essentially where all debate in the field of linguistics exists. Different linguistic frameworks assume this when they argue why their approach to the nature of human language should be preferred over some other approach–often with different fundamental assumptions behind those frameworks. For example, where mainstream generative theory takes as a basic assumption that meaning is derivative from structure (interpretive semantics), Systemic Functional Grammar begins from the extreme opposite perspective: language is first and foremost a social semiotic and as such meaning is logically prior to structure. This fact is one of the reasons why so much linguistic work feels so foreign to many people–the ivory tower of linguistics, as Carl Conrad has called it a few times. The issue is that if you’re primarily interested in the grammatical structure of a language, you’re looking thinking about observational and descriptive adequacy, while large portions of the linguistic literature do not concern themselves with those things. Many times when a piece of linguistic research deals with language data or a descriptive analysis, they’re seeking to arguing a point about explanatory adequacy. This, in turn, can make seeing the relevance of the research for the grammar of the individual language more difficult.

Why is this relevant to individual grammars of Ancient Greek? Well, one question that needs to be dealt with as we look toward the production of a new full reference grammar of the Hellenistic & Early Roman Koine, is this: what is the goal of such a volume? What degree of adequacy should we be aiming for? Most existing grammars do little more than observational adequacy. Is that sufficient for us and what we do with Greek? Perhaps it is or perhaps it isn’t.

In the next couple posts, we will be examining  grammatical discussions taken from a variety of grammars new and old: BDF, Robertson & Wallace. In each case, we will evaluate the level of adequacy achieved by each grammar (whether consistently or inconsistently).

Don’t worry, I wrote the other posts before I published this one so that I wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting to get the following posts up, too. I had originally planned on this being one post, but then it got too large so I split it up. Even still, I’m going to stagger these posts over the next couple weeks simply for spacing reasons. It’s been so long since I’ve written substantive content that I want to ease back into things.

In the meantime, I would be interested in any thoughts from whatever audience I still have left on this blog in terms of what sorts of research questions a fresh reference grammar of the Hellenistic and Early Roman Koine should be aiming to answer.

Works cited:

Bybee, Joan. 2010. Language, Usage and Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chomsky, Noam (1964). Current issues in linguistic theory. The Hague: Mouton.

Chomsky, Noam (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Hopper, Paul (1988). “Emergent Grammar and the A Priori Grammar Postulate.” Pages 117-134. In Linguistics in Context, ed. Deborah Tannen.

Francis T. Gignac (1933 – 2014)

Christopher Skinner over at Crux Sola has reported news that Francis Gignac has passed away at the age of 81. He will be greatly missed as a scholar and teacher by many. For myself, I consider his grammar of the Greek papyri of the Roman and Byzantine periods to be one of the most important grammatical works on the Greek language of the 20th century. It was a grand contribution. There are very few who could produce a dissertation of such magnitude so successfully.

The remembrance of him at Crux Sola is beautiful.

Francis T. Gignac, S.J. (1933 – 2014) (Skinner)

 So far, this is shaping up to be a year of loss for Ancient Greek grammar.

 

Brill’s Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics

This goes in the category of absolutely (likely, anyway) excellent reference works that nobody can afford, but everybody should have. Brill is publishing their Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics very soon. It’ll be available in July at the very low price of $1100; though Amazon is already ahead of the gram with a $55 discounted pre-order price. So, I guess if you have any swing with an academic library’s purchasing plans, maybe make a recommendation and hope that your library still has the semblance of a budget.

There’s a PDF Preview available (link), too, though it looks like some of the articles have been reduced in length for the preview.

Also, at this price, Brill had really better give this set an absolutely immaculate binding.

Brill’s Product Description:

The Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics (EAGLL) brings together the latest research from across a range of disciplines contributing to our knowledge of Ancient Greek. The EAGLL offers a systematic and comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the history and study of Ancient Greek, comprising detailed descriptions of the language from Proto-Greek to koine. It addresses linguistic aspects from several perspectives, including history, structure, individual singularities, biographical references, schools of thought, technical meta-language, sociolinguistic issues, dialects, didactics, translation practices, generic issues, Greek in relation to other languages, etc., and on all levels of analysis including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon, semantics, stylistics, etc. It also includes all the necessary background information regarding the roots of Greek in Indo-European. As and when, excursions may be made to later stages of the language, e.g. Byzantine or even later. The focus, however, will predominantly be Ancient Greek. With well over 500 entries on all aspects of Ancient Greek, this new encyclopedia is the authoritative reference work for students and researchers of Ancient Greek, general linguistics, Indo-European languages, and Biblical literature.

 

Some notes on Ἐργάζομαι & Middle Voice

Ἐργάζομαι is a bit of a difficult verb to deal with in terms of voice. It’s perhaps the only verb that causes problems (at least at face value) after the rejection of deponency as a valid category for the Greek Voice System. Rutgar Allan categorizes it as an indirect middle (Allan 200, 54). That has always seemed a bit forced to me.

However, perhaps there’s some credence to it.

So here are some general notes about this particular verb:

  1. It’s primary sense “to work” is syntactically intransitive, so the traditional definition of deponency as “active in meaning middle-passive in form” is just wrong. There’s nothing “active” about intransitive verbs. Active as a label only applies to verbs that can be passivized. Intransitive verbs can’t. So from an English perspective (which is what the deponency perspective essentially is) ἐργάζομαι is has no voice.
  2. The secondary sense “to accomplish/do [something],” while transitive, is less transitive than it could be. All instances of ἐργάζομαι with an explicit object involve situations where the object is non-referential. That is, the object does not refer to a specific entity within the world of the text. So even this secondary sense that takes an object is not prototypically transitive. In line with that, when ἐργάζομαι takes an object, that object cannot be syntactically passivized and promoted to the position of subject in the clause. If ἐργάζομαι with an object ruly filled the role of “active in meaning” then that should in principle be possible, but that does not appear to be the case.
  3. When one examines the individual instances of ἐργάζομαι, its seems reasonably clear that the verb involves some the performance of an activity (this is, after all, an activity predicate) with a clear benefactive (or malafactive) sense for the subject. This is in line with the semantic category of subject affectedness that is involved in middle systems and also with the indirect middle usage for Greek.
  4. Lastly the fact that in the aorist ἐργάζομαι only allows sigmatic middle morphology rather than a θη middle suggests that it is necessarily either an indirect middle or direct middle. Those are the only middle categories in Koine Greek that still disallow θη morphology (the θη has make sporatic in roads into these two categories, but its not consistent or systematic in any way).

A few comments on grammatical terminology old and new

I know its regularly said by those whose background is in classics and the tradition of classical philology that much of linguistics today and its own set terminology creates a sort of ivory tower situation, where it is almost impossible to follow a discussion as an outsider. And I certainly do not doubt that this is true to some extant for many of the descriptive and theoretical frameworks commonly used in linguistics, particularly in the more structuralist traditions. This problem is one that I’ve tried to fight against where I can, attempting to sufficiently define terminology as often as possible and linking to accessible sources for definitions, such as the SIL glossary of linguistic terms or the Leipzig Glossing Rules and its “appendix” of category labels.

On the other hand, whenever I open up a standard Greek grammar that’s written in the classical tradition, I cannot help but recognize the exact opposite problem. For example, for a contract project I’ve been working on, I’ve spent a little time examining the difference between ού and μή, Greek’s two negative particles. Here’s an example of the kind of obtuse, generally useless description of these two:

The two principle negative adverbs are ού and μή. Οὐ is the objective negative and μή is the subjective. It is hard to say which is stronger. Ού is stronger because it is simple, straightforward and uncompromised. Μή is stronger because it has an underlying sense of passion and rejection. The fervour and unction of μή suits the tone of much expression in the literature of the Hellenistic and Roman ages. So μή tends to supplant ού in many of its uses at writing. Some irregular uses of μή in Classical times, which do not fit into the idiomatic pattern then prevailing, are doubtless to be explained by the touch of passion beginning to make μή  win out even in the earlier period. Another important facet of the meaning of μή is its appropriateness as a generic and so hypothetical negative. The idea of rejection it retains always, at least subliminally, can prevent an idea that is to say specifically, and so the suspended idea passes into the sphere of the typical or conditional.

Gary L. Cooper, Attic Greek Prose Syntax Vol  2., 1997.

The degree is nonsense in that quote is simply overwhelming. But I do not mean “nonsense” in that Cooper is wrong. No, most of the paragraph is fine, assuming one parses the actual proposition accurately (which may or may not be feasible). The nonsense is created by the sheer lack of well-defined terminology at all. What in the world does it mean for a negative to be “straightforward and uncompromised,” anyway? So much of this paragraph reads like filler solely designed to increase one’s word count. It certainly doesn’t help contribute to understanding the difference between ού and μή.

Here’s that same paragraph again with some commentary from me in bold bracketed text:

The two principle negative adverbs are ού and μή. Οὐ is the objective negative and μή is the subjective. [This is good and helpful. Now could we get a technical definition of what these two terms mean in relationship to negation?] It is hard to say which is stronger. [Stronger in what way?] Ού is stronger because it is simple, straightforward and uncompromised. [Yeah, no idea what that means…] Μή is stronger because it has an underlying sense of passion and rejection. [Well, “rejection” is something useful, at least etymologically, but passion? Other grammarians talk about μή being used to denote caution assertion, how does that relate to “passion”?]The fervour and unction of μή suits the tone of much expression in the literature of the Hellenistic and Roman ages. [This may be the first time I’ve see language change attributed to “unction.” Nice.] So μή tends to supplant ού in many of its uses at writing. Some irregular uses of μή in Classical times, which do not fit into the idiomatic pattern then prevailing, are doubtless to be explained by the touch of passion beginning to make μή win out even in the earlier period. [Which “irregular” uses are these? They’re never explicitly marked in the following detailed discussion?] Another important facet of the meaning of μή is its appropriateness as a generic and so hypothetical negative. [The term “hypothetical,” I can understand, but “generic”?  Exactly what makes μή “generic” and does that mean that ού, by implication is *not* “generic”?]The idea of rejection it retains always, at least subliminally [Yeah, I don’t but it], can prevent an idea that is to say specifically, and so the suspended idea passes into the sphere of the typical or conditional.

I hope that gives you a sense of the kind of things that go through my head when I’m reading traditional grammars. The nearly total lack of specificity  in terminology, definitions, and explanation is incredibly frustrating.

A brief comment on telicity and boundedness

I find it difficult to accept the analysis of the Ancient Greek perfect as proposed by Gero and Stechow (2003; LINK: 2002 prepub version), aside from the fact that I think they rely too heavily on the traditional categories of the English perfect, the larger issue is that they successfully survey thousands of years of data without any reference to telicity. I’m at a complete loss how one could do that, especially with a grammatical morpheme like the Greek perfect.

Their only mention of telicity at all is made in defining perfective aspect, where they claim that perfective aspect denotes the completion of an event. And even this does not hold. In as much as the perfective aspect refers to an event as a single entity without reference to duration, or iteration, the perfective aspect is bounded, but it is not inherently telic. Consider the sentences below in terms of how the first entails (or doesn’t) the second.

(1) John was walking in the park this morning –> John walked in the park this morning.
(2) John was walking to the park this morning –/–> John walked to the park this morning.

In sentence pair (a) The imperfective predicate in entails the perfective predicate. This is possible because while the perfective predicate is bound, it is not telic. Conversely, in sentence pair (b) the imperfective predicate does not entail the perfective predicate. There is no way of knowing from the imperfective predicate whether or not John successfully arrived at the park. An endpoint in an imperfective clause is only a potential endpoint with no entailment of its achievement.

All that to say, boundedness needs to be kept distinction from telicity. Boundedness is a feature of the perfective aspect. Telicity is not.*

*To be fair, there are a number of other aspectologists** that fail to make this distinction.
**Incidentally, the correct collective noun for referring to a group of aspectuologists is: “an iteration of aspectologists.”***
***Yes, I just made that up.

A brief comment on historiographical issues surrounding aspect

I just wanted to make this passing note. A few posts back, I presented my analysis of the 1882 edition of William Moulton’s translation of Winer’s Greek grammar. In that discussion, I made the observation that Porter had treated Moulton-Winer unfairly in his criticism of how certain usages of the Greek present imperfective are explained in the grammar. I won’t go back over the question here. My analysis is available in the link above (be sure to read the comments on the post, too).

All I want to say here is that I have now come to the conclusion that this is not an intentionally misrepresentation of Moulton-Winer on Porter’s part. That was driven home for me while rereading some of the papers in the JSNTSupp volumes from the 1990s. In his critique of Fanning’s position, he writes:

Fanning presents a revisionist view of the history of verbal aspect, going to great lengths to preserve the traditional categories and terminology. He stresses his belief that the comparative philologists of the nineteenth century were in actual fact discussing verbal aspect, even if they did not call it this or recognize it as such (Porter 1993, 36).

I hope it goes without saying that it is Porter’s view of the history that I view as revisionist, rather than Fanning. But the fact that Porter views Fanning’s literature review as “revisionist” goes an incredibly long way in explaining how Porter’s reading of Moulton-Winer (1882) arose.

So on that basis I do view Porter’s discussion of that grammar as an honest one. I just view it as wrong and poorly argued…and he would like say the same about my own. At this point, our “world-views” (for lack of a better term) are just so dramatically different.

Works cite:

Porter, S. E. 1993. “In Defence of Verbal Aspect.” Page 26-45 in Biblical Greek language and linguistics: Open questions in current research. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Winer, Georg B. and William F. Moulton. 1882. A Treatise on the Grammar of New Testament Greek. 3rd ed. Edinbugh: T & T Clark.

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