The Structure of Greek Noun Phrases

I continue to struggle with the relationship between postnominal modifiers and their head noun.

When we have the ordering: D(eterminer) N(oun) D A(djective), what exactly is going on? Is it:

[DN[DA]] [τὴν πόλιν [τὴν μεγάλην]]

where the modifying DA phrase is a sister to the Noun?

Or is the structure:

[DN][DA] [τὴν πόλιν] [τὴν μεγάλην]

where the modifying DA phrase is a sister to the DN phrase.

Does the repeated article suggest the second structure more than the first? Or are both structures possible depending on semantic and/or pragmatic factors?

Any ideas anyone?

5 thoughts on “The Structure of Greek Noun Phrases

  1. Excuse me for my lack of knowledge on the subject…

    Maybe there are other Determiners that would change things, but whenever I see Article-Noun-Article-Adjective, I parse that as the second attributive, where the noun takes emphasis and the adjective is more of an afterthought. Is that in keeping with one of the patterns you suggested above? I’m afraid my formal linguistic education is nil, so I am working completely off of my knowledge of Greek grammar.

    Can you give a rendering that would give me some idea of the difference in meaning implied by the structural difference you are identifying?

  2. That’s the thing. If its one or the other, then there’s no specific meaning difference. If that’s the case, syntactically speaking evidence for the second structure (which is still attributive, by the way) would be the repetition of the article. Such repetition could be viewed as evidence that post-nominal adjectives are less integrated into the noun phrase, where as prenominal adjectives would be more integrated, being sister constituents directly with the noun: [D [[A] N]].

    What throws me threw a loop is genitive modifiers. They’re the ones that either suggest both structures are possible or that only the first structure is possible – since they allow the article to appear in the emphatic prenominal position: [D [[Dgen Ngen] N]].

    Or perhaps genitive modifiers can have either structure, while Adjectival modifiers cannot.

    I’m just not sure…

  3. I would suggest asking Tony Pope of SIL about this. Much of the ordering is based on natural information flow, with the restrictive modifier following the generic noun when the entity is not discourse active. It would probably be easier to begin with information structuring within the clause than within the phrase, IMO.

  4. I would recommend you continue to struggle with it – all night if required. You might end up with a dislocated hip but you will have the answer, or at least be blessed for trying!

  5. Steve: I’m not sure if this is necessarily a information structuring issue since the main question is the structural relationship of a single position, namely postnominal. I’ve found a sort of constituency/distribution test for determining which structure it is, though I need to wade through some search hits before I can say anything for sure.

    In a sense this is a different animal than information structure (as I understand it). I’m looking for syntactic structural explanations for which word orders are allow. Information structure is asking what are the meanings of those structures in relation to the rest of the phrase, clause, or discourse.

    Thomas: I’ve already done the hip thing back when I was a snowboard instructor. Not doin’ that one again. I’ve done enough damage to my body already, though if I had the money, I’d still be on the slopes – without the young recklessness of the past.

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