Evidence for the Greek Verb Phrase

Since I wrote this post, I have actually retracted everything in it. There is no evidence for the Greek Verb Phrase. The occurrence of this particular verse in my first reference disproves the possibility:

μέχρι καταντήσωμεν *οἱ πάντες* εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον, εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ

Notice that the NP subject occurs between the verb and the PP. This fact is definite evidence against there being a Verb Phrase for this verb – and I am yet to find a verb that does have a clear verb phrase.

In fact the evidence for the Greek VP as presented by Michael Palmer doesn’t add up either. He posits two types of adverbs one that functions at the clause level and one that functions only within the VP:

καὶ εὐθέως ἡ λέπρα ἀπῆλθεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ

εὐθέως is a % adverb according to Palmer and thus never occurs between the V & the PP above as opposed to + adverbs, such as πάντοτε:

% ἡ λέπρα % + ἀπῆλθεν + ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ + %

Now I checked my searchable texts and Palmer’s statement rings true. No where in the GNT, LXX, Philo, or the Apostolic Fathers does εὐθέως directly follow the verb it modifies. Under typical circumstances, that would be major evidence for a Verb Phrase.

But there is a much bigger issue that calls this analysis into question. And we find this issue as early as the second occurrence of ἀπῆλθεν:

Καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἡ ἀκοὴ αὐτοῦ εἰς ὅλην τὴν Συρίαν·

What’s going on here? Specifically, where in the subject in this clause?

If you’ve noticed that it occurs between the verb and the PP, then you’ve got it. In Palmer’s analysis above, the PP functions within the VP. Thus, either the subject is functioning in the VP or there is no VP. The latter must be the case. If its functioning within the VP, it destroys the point of having a VP. The clause would then consist only of a Verb Phrase!

Worse still is the fact that there is an instance of this constituent order occurring within Palmer’s corpus of Luke-Acts & Paul:

καὶ ἀπῆλθόν τινες τῶν σὺν ἡμῖν ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον

That’s Luke 24.24 above and I’ve put the NP subject in bold. So Greek cannot have a Verb Phrase, at least for the reasons that Palmer and I had previously argued for. But that still leaves the question regarding the distribution of the adverbs. Something seems to be going on. I’ll keep digging.

Anyway, I’ve left the original post in place if you want to read it, just know that its wrong.

The Linguistic theory (Lexical-Functional Grammar), that I learned grammatical analysis under, does not assume a Verb Phrase (VP) right off the bat like some other theories do (Government & Binding?). This makes sense. Why would you want more complexity than needed for describing the language?

Because of this I’ve been apprehensive about putting VP’s in my Tree Diagrams – in spite of the fact that Michael Palmer gave good evidence for such a phrase in his book. Greek has two types of adverbs, one the functions only within the VP and another that can occur as an adjunct anywhere in the clause.

The reason for my nervousness has to do with the fact that the order of constituents – Subject, Object, Verb (Phrase) can appear in just about any order – SVO, SOV, VSO, OSV, OVS, etc. Thus even though there are Verb Phrases somewhere in that mess, I don’t know what goes in them other than the verb and certain adverbs. Based on the variety in the constituent order, I don’t see how the subject or object could be a part of the VP.

But as I put the finishing touches on my outline for Ephesians 4.11-16, I noticed something about the verb in verse 13: καταντάω. What’s so interesting about it? It always has an adjunct of some sort – most commonly εἰς, but πρὸς, ἐπὶ, ἄντικρυς, and ἕως occur with on occasion as well in the New Testament, LXX, and Apostolic Fathers. In the texts available at Perseus HERE, the pattern is maintained with another preposition: ἐν found in Euclid, Elements and PSI: Papiri greci e latini document 481.

This fact is only directly mentioned by BDAG, not L&N or LSJM. It also makes quite a bit of sense considering the meaning of καταντάω – to arrive. Obviously you need some goal or destination to which you can arrive. This goal is consistently described in the adjunct.

But more interesting is the fact that this adjunct that we consistently find with in καταντάω is also completely consistent in its positioning. The adjunct only occurs directly before or directly after the verb. This suggests to me that more likely than not, the adjunct for this verb occurs only within the Verb Phrase. I’ve only found a couple exception to this in Diodorus Siculus, Library book 13, chapter 95, section 3.

εὐθὺς οὐ̂ν παρήγγειλε τοὺς ἐν ἡλικίᾳ πάντας ἕως ἐτω̂ν τεσσαράκοντα λαβόντας ἐπισιτισμὸν ἡμερω̂ν τριάκοντα καταντα̂ν μετὰ τω̂ν ὅπλων εἰς Λεοντίνους.

In this case another adjunct comes between the verb and the destination, but this does not prove my analysis wrong necessarily. It merely shows that the verb also may take an accompaniment participating with the agent with its destination or goal.

The other exception is in Classical Greek sources such as Herodotus, The Histories book 1, chapter 148, section 1, where the dative is occasionally used rather than a preposition, but this still fits the bill for the “goal” functioning within the VP.

If this is a correct analysis, then the grammatical relations and sub-categorization of the verb is:

<Agent, Goal>
Subject, Oblique

It also suggests that the contents of the verb phrase in Greek cannot simply be assumed to be the object as in English. More likely the object reguarly does not function within the VP. The constituents of the VP must be decided on a verb by verb basis.

5 thoughts on “Evidence for the Greek Verb Phrase

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