Interested in Greek Grammatical Analysis?

Does inductive study of Greek (or any language) interest you? Or perhaps the idea of studying Greek afresh without using your grammar as a crutch is attractive to you.

Some of the best linguistically informed introductions to grammar and syntax, in my opinion, are:

Kroeger, Paul R. Analyzing Grammar: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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This is the book I used in my intro to grammatical analysis class. Its a well written and helpful guide. Some of the content was a challenge and there were a few chapters I had to reread to process complex content, but it has and continues to serve me well as a reference to summaries of various grammatical phenomena, though (as all introductions are) it is too short and small to cover everything you might encounter in a language – whether Greek or any language. Its greatest strengths are its clear writing, explanations, its use of a variety of languages other than English, and the fact that it assumes no previous linguistic training or knowledge. Thus it works rather hard to define terms and provides a helpful glossary in the back.

In general, its a helpful book and I will continue to use it along with my more advanced books on grammar & syntax. The author, Paul Kroeger, is the head of the linguistics department at GIAL where I did my study, though he was in the South Pacific while I was attending the school.

—. Analyzing Syntax: A Lexical-Functional Approach. Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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This is Dr. Kroeger’s other introduction. Its slightly more advanced, covering some of the same issues, but building on them. This book does assume linguistic background and actually makes good reading as a follow up to his other book above. Analyzing Syntax is also more theory specific when it comes to syntax, while the previous one was rather neutral. But Lexical-Functional Grammar is a good theoretical framework. Its claims regarding language structure, in general, are fair. That is to say, claims are driven by the evidence rather than the expectations of the theory. Thus, you don’t make the assumption that certain structures or phrase types exist in a language unless you have evidence. This is different than some other theories which assumes that every language has a verb phrase (simply because English does).

It also shares a number of strengths with the book above as well. It is clearly written (even when the content is complex), depends on data from a large variety of languages and does well to build on the previous book.

Valin, Jr, Robert D. van. An Introduction to Syntax. 1st ed. Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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This book is excellent. You might notice a theme in the publisher. Cambridge publishes a lot of linguistics books in general. And unlike other publishers, they’re well priced. I haven’t used this in a class, but I read it during a Saturday in the library at GIAL.

Van Valin works within the theoretic framework of Role and Reference Grammar, a framework that is relatively unique compared to others in terms of how it represents syntax diagrammatically. With that said, Van Valin stays surprisingly theory neutral throughout the majority of the book. The majority of the information deals with basic syntactic information similar to what’s in the two books above. His examples are excellent and like Kroeger, he does well to provide information from different languages. One of its most helpful points is that it provides a discussion of several different linguistic frameworks at the end. Of course Van Valin’s is most favorable to RRG, but when you’re the one who originated a theory, you’re going to prefer it.

Payne, Thomas E. Describing Morphosyntax: A Guide for Field Linguists. Cambridge University Press, 1997.

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I used this book as a reference in my Field Methods class when I was studying Russian. Unlike the other books, I have not read it cover to cover, but regularly refer to it in my studies. The focus of this book is more on the documentation of unknown language more than anything else, but the content is always helpful for known languages too. Probably most helpful is that this book has a helpful introduction of morphology, something, which of the books listed here, only Analyzing Grammar discusses as well. The is especially unique is its discussions of pragmatics and pragmatically marked structures, such as negation and topicalization and speech acts, which it covers in more detail than the books above.

Concluding Thoughts:

There are other books at an introductory level, but these are the ones I’m most familiar with and have enjoyed reading and referencing. I should also warn you that if you decided to pick up one or all of these books, grammatical analysis is not for the faint of heart. While all of these books are well written, the subject matter and the content can be very challenging and somewhat foreign at times. But they’re worth reading and rereading until subjects are mastered – or at least understood.

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