Reflections on Opentext.org

I retract all of my criticisms of the Opentext.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament. From this point on, I view Opentext.org as an excellent database.

Why the change of heart?

Well, today it hit me what Opentext.org is and what it is not.

As for what it is not, well, simply put, it is not a Syntactic Analysis; at least generally speaking. And regarding what it is, Opentext.org is a semantic database.

That is not to say that there isn’t syntax in the database. There is. Specifically, following Opentext.org’s definitions, the labels Clause,  Conjunction, Word Group, Head Term, and Connective are the syntactically conceived labels. But they are the only such labels in the database. Every other label used in Opentext.org is a semantic label, not syntactic. This includes terms like, “Subject” and “Complement,” which rightly according to Opentext are “functional unit[s]” (a good number of linguistic frameworks call them “grammatical relations” or grammatical functions”). Subjects, Objects, Complements, and Predicates are all semantic labels.

Now all of this doesn’t mean that I think Opentext is a satisfactory database. Its not. What it does, it does quite well and that is why I call it excellent above.

But.

By placing so much focus on semantics and so little on syntax, pragmatics, or other components of grammar, they’ve missed too much information for Opentext to be a satisfactory database. This is also why breakthroughs in the study of Greek word order from Opentext.org have essentially be nonexistent. The database asks the wrong questions for dealing with word order.

Now, with that said, its possible to use Opentext for studying word order. The fact that phrases/word groups are divided out is incredibly helpful, but we’re then left with a whole lot of sorting through the information and reanalyzing it using different criteria than what Opentext provides.

6 thoughts on “Reflections on Opentext.org

  1. Mike, Subject, Object, and Complement are actually syntactic categories. Semantic categories include Patient, Actor, Instrument. I know it’s confusing, since not all syntax and semantics courses have maintained clarity of definitions and categorization over the decades. I suspect that there can be different kinds of syntactic labels, including those who are more relational than others. But they are all syntactic until we get to categories such as Patient and Actor. A good book on all this is the Cambridge volume by Tom Payne.

    1. I know, but Opentext’s definitions as well as its practice have nothing to do with syntax, particularly since they treat them as completely separate from phrase structure. Thus in John 12:18, they treat

      ἤκουσαν τοῦτο αὐτὸν πεποιηκέναι τὸ σημεῖον (they heard he had performed this sign)as a single grammatical relation, while syntactically, τοῦτο is a separate phrase from τὸ σημεῖον.

      Perhaps I should have said, “phrase structure” rather than “syntax.” I often think of them as the same.

      And by the way, I love Payne’s book.

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