Am I crazy?

Am I crazy or is this all a single Noun Phrase in Greek?

τὴν διαστολὴν ταύτην τῆς οἰκήσεως τῶν τὰ ἑκατὸν καρποφορούντων καὶ τῶν τὰ ἑξήκοντα καὶ τῶν τὰ τριάκοντα· ὧν οἱ μὲν εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς ἀναληφθήσονται, οἱ δὲ ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ διατρίψουσιν, οἱ δὲ τὴν πόλιν κατοικήσουσιν·

this distinction of the dwelling of the ones who bring forth a hundredfold, and the ones who bring forth sixtyfold, and the ones who bring forth thirtyfold: the first will be taken up into the heavens, and the second will dwell in Paradise, and the third will inhabit the city.

The Traditions of the Elders 5.2

If I’m reading the correctly, what I see is this:

Article τὴν, Head Noun διαστολὴν, Demonstrative ταύτην, Genitive modifier τῆς οἰκήσεως, Attributive Participles τῶν τὰ ἑκατὸν καρποφορούντων καὶ τῶν τὰ ἑξήκοντα καὶ τῶν τὰ τριάκοντα, Relative clause with coordination ὧν οἱ μὲν εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς ἀναληφθήσονται, οἱ δὲ ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ διατρίψουσιν, οἱ δὲ τὴν πόλιν κατοικήσουσιν.

Or did I miss something? I really, really hope that I did miss something.

25 thoughts on “Am I crazy?

  1. You missed something all right – your bedtime. Don’t you have exams to be studying for or something?🙂 I’m exhausted and will have a look tomorrow if I remember.

  2. I’m not a student – my wife’s sitting in bed with all the lights on studying for her final in Syntax & Semantics (yes, we’re two peas in a pod). I can’t sleep with her studying like that!

  3. I’d really need to see a larger context and know something more about the document in question, but my initial reaction is that the ὧν οἱ μὲν … κτλ. sequence is practically a new sentence wherein ὧν is practically equivalent to a demonstrative like τούτων, an English “Of these … ” Such a usage (demonstrative function of a relative pronoun) is certainly very common in Latin — and I’m one of those who think that later Hellenistic Greek was indeed influenced by Latin usage. To my mind, this sequence is far, far more intelligible and reasonable than the wretched sequence of relative clauses and participial phrases in Ephesians 1:3-14.

  4. Carl, I was going to suggest, but more tentatively, just what you said (apart from the Latin part). So I’m glad for the confirmation that I’m not crazy – even if it means Mike is!😉

  5. Actually of course there are far longer noun phrases in the Bible. Not Ephesians 1, but the record is probably held by Deuteronomy 1:6-26:19, a single noun phrase which is the object of le’mor in 1:5. Or try Matthew 5:3-7:27 which may or may not be the longest noun phrase in the New Testament.

  6. Carl & Peter: Thanks for the independent confirmation. I’ll be digging through my wife’s Latin grammars later today.

    Peter: I’ll have to take your word for it on Deuteronomy since I don’t know Hebrew, but, Wow.

    Matthew: You had to say it, didn’t you?

  7. Mike, if you didn’t get the point, syntactically an entire discourse in direct speech is the object of the introductory (or in some languages, closing) verb of saying. But even if you don’t accept these as genuine noun phrases, you probably need to accept Luke 3:23-38 (starting with huios) as one long noun phrase.

  8. Ah, I see what you’re saying.

    I didn’t look it up to check what the specific instance was even in English, though I wouldn’t syntactically consider it an NP, but a Complement Clause.

    I would definitely accept Luke 3.23-38, as I would Ephesians 1.3-14. I think that they are syntactically quite clear as length NP.

    For me…

    Clause = a constituent headed by a verb (and thus also requires arguments and subcategorization).
    Phrase = a constituent not headed by a verb (whether by a noun, preposition, determiner, [Quantifiers in Russian? Potentially?], etc.).

  9. I understand the distinction between a clause and a phrase. But surely clauses can be embedded in phrases, in the kind of grammatical analysis you are using. Certainly relative clauses are like this e.g. “the man who crossed the road” is a noun phrase with an embedded clause. I would parse “He said ‘I am hungry'” with “‘I am hungry'” being the noun phrase object of “said” into which the clause “I am hungry” is embedded (note careful use of quotation marks). Similarly in “He said that he was hungry”, “that he was hungry” is the noun phrase object of “said” with the embedded clause “he was hungry”. Isn’t this standard grammar?

  10. Ok – forgive this Greek neophyte for the question I am about to ask. I follow this blog because I am fascinated with the Greek language and appreciate your discussion. Here’s the question. What is the significance of whether or not this is a noun phrase – theologically I mean? (I’ll pause for laughter) Seriously though, I consider you and the commenters to be far more learned than I in both Greek and language itself so I am truly interested in gaining understanding.

  11. Peter:

    I was taught to parse sentences like “He said ‘I am hungry’” as:

    [S: [NPsubj: He] [VP: [V: said] [Scomp: I am hungry.]]]

    Where “said” takes the grammatical relations:

    Likewise, “He said that he was hungry” would be:

    [S: [NPsubj: He] [VP: [V: said] [S’comp [C: that] [S: he was hungry]

    I’m not saying you’re wrong. I just didn’t learn it that way. And actually, I can see the benefit of such analysis. Your analysis results in the simplicity of only having one Sub-Cat for the verb “said”

    <Subj/Agent, Obj/Theme, Obl/Recipient>

    by assuming a null headed NP for the subordinate clause.

    The analysis that I learned seeks to simplify the Constituent structure but results in two separate Sub-Cats:

    <Subj/Agent, Obj/Theme, Obl/Recipient>
    <Subj/Agent, Comp/Theme, Obl/Recipient>

    since there are also instances where “said” takes a simple NPobj as in, “He said many other things to the crowd.”

  12. Douglas: The answer about the theological significance is “it depends.” For this text in particular? Probably not much, unless you believe the Apostolic Fathers are inspired.

    More generally, there is huge significance. Because I place a high value on “authorial intent,” understanding the structural organization of Greek syntax is highly important to me. Meaning implies structure. If I can develop any sort of understanding of the organization of Greek that native speakers had intuitively, then I’ll be closer to being able to accurately understand the original text in the original language, hopefully in a manner similarly to the first audience. This kind of question, “How does Greek structure it’s Noun Phrases?” is just one step in that process.

    The other goal is having a good enough understanding of how phrases are built in Greek for being able to read better as well.

    I hope that answers your question.

  13. Thanks for the explanation. I did some study on noun phrases and want to make sure I am understanding your question. If it is a single noun phrase then the following information is specific to the identified head noun. Which could have profound implications on interpretation due to inductive reasoning based on not knowing the subject of the sentence.

    Am I getting close?

  14. Yes and no. Not all of the words following the head noun modify it – at least not directly.

    Directly, only ταύτην τῆς οἰκήσεως actually modify the head.

    The following attributive participles modify οἰκήσεως. And if we assume that the relative pronoun is functioning as a relative (Carl says its better to see it as a demonstrative), then the following relative clause modifies the participles.

    But to be honest, the main reason I brought up this example is more because it was long than anything else. What is structurally significant about it is that this is only one of two places in the New Testament, Josephus, Philo, and the Apostolic Fathers where a demonstrative (ταύτην) separates a genitive NP τῆς οἰκήσεως from its head noun. Its that fact that makes this phrase significant because in this case and in the other one. The genitive NP receives its own modifications.

    This fact tells us two things about Greek: 1) Genitive NPs will always occur beside their head nouns except under very special circumstances and 2) Genitive NPs tend to be structurally deeper within the main noun phrase than demonstratives, adjectives, and the like.

    But yes you’re correct about my question. If we know how Greek structures it’s phrases, then there are profound implications for interpretation. There is the potential for constructions that seem ambiguous to us to show themselves in reality to be unambiguous (and potentially visa versa, unfortunately).

    You’ve got the main thrust of things.

  15. I still have problems with Ephesians 1:3-14 as a sloppy piece of writing, comparable to prayers that I’ve listened to more often than I’d like here in rural Appalachia: biblical phrases strung together on what is an almost “stream of consciousness” thread, individual items loosely associated with each other but not developing in any systematic way so much as seeking to include everything remotely relevant to how believers relate through Christ to God the Father. I’ve tried to outline it so as to clarify linkage and relationships of sub-clauses and sub-phrases, but I’ve never felt comfortable that one arrangement was more satisfactory than another or represented the “real” intent of the author (I cannot believe Paul wrote it). I am somewhat amused that the editors of the eclectic critical text start new sentences at 1:7, 1:11, and 1:13; I think that could be done with 1:14 as well: each of these clauses is introduced by a relative pronoun functioning more-or-less as a demonstrative.

    I think that part of our (I don’t think it’s just my own) problem is that English-speakers/writers do not conceive of a ‘sentence’ in a manner that corresponds to how Latin-speakers/writers conceive a ‘sententia’ or how Greek-speakers/writers conceive a περίοδος. Aristotle defined it as “λέξις ἔχουσα ἀρχὴν καὶ τελευτὴν αὐτὴ καθ’ αὑτὴν καὶ μέγεθος εὐσύνοπτον.” I think it’s that last phrase, μέγεθος εὐσύνοπτον, that constitutes the real question here. Cicero somewhere said that a ‘sententia’ should be comparable in length to three or four lines of dactylic hexameter verse — a notion pretty well reflected in the verse-structuring of Vergil’s hexameters. If we assume that the 1st and 2nd-century writings we’re talking about were intended to be read aloud to an audience, where would the reader have paused? — and how lengthy a sequential unit might a reasonably intelligent but not-overly-sophisticated audience have been expected to follow? That is one reason why I think that the relative pronoun might very well be considered as a demonstrative that refers backwards to an antecedent but nevertheless really begins a new proposition. I’ve been led repeatedly, while reading Steve Runge’s MS, to wonder what the basis might be on which the editors of NA27/USB4 punctuated the critical text of the GNT.

  16. Mike, thanks for explaining to me your view of how direct and indirect speech fit into grammar. The problem I see with your view is that the complement clause in “He said that he was hungry” cannot be understood as some characteristic of the verb “say”, an alternative to a regular object, because there also exist sentences like “That he was hungry was obvious”. Indeed “that he was hungry” can fill almost any noun phrase slot – it can follow a preposition, at least “in”, and be part of a list separated by commas or conjunctions. I also note a tendency in SOV languages for direct and indirect speech to fill the object slot in the word order, although in the language I worked on there was an alternative with long direct speeches in which the object slot was filled by a pronoun and the direct speech came at the end.

  17. Carl: while I know very little Hebrew, it seems to me that the answer for Ephesians 1:3-14 probably lies in the structure of Hebrew prayers of praise more than in anything Greek.

    Peter: I went back to my book and found that I had at least partially misrepresented what I learned (!). We were taught to assume Complement clauses to receive the grammatical relation Object. Thus my second Sub-Cat:

    is unnecessary. The basic claim is that the grammatical relations Subject and Object are not limited to NPs. This explains your sentence above with the Subject as a clause.

    But there is one caveat: sentences like, “Henry bet [his cousin] [ten dollars] [that Brazil would win the World Cup],” suggest that there is a separate “Comp” grammatical relation. I don’t see how you could replace that complement clause with an NP. On this basis there have been some who argue for a separate “COMP” grammatical relation. I would suggest that if this relation does exist, its more language specific rather than universal.

  18. “Henry bet [his cousin] [ten dollars] [that Brazil would win the World Cup], then John bet [him] [twenty dollars] [the same thing]” – or maybe not? If sentences like that are possible, there is no COMP which is not also a noun phrase.

  19. “Henry bet [his cousin] [ten dollars] [that Brazil would win the World Cup], then John bet [him] [twenty dollars] [the same thing]”

    I would have said “on the same thing” – which would make it an oblique, not an Obj, but you’re still right.

    Maybe I should e-mail Dr. Kroeger and point out your example to him (I borrowed the sentence from his book).

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