Book Review: Verbs of Transference by Paul Danove – Part I

Danove, Paul. A Grammatical and Exegetical Study of New Testament Verbs of Transference. Library of New Testament Studies 329. Studies in New Testament Greek 13. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2009.

Many thanks for Continuum/T & T Clark for a review copy – and for the benefit of full disclosure, the link above is through the Amazon Associates program.

Chapters  1-2 of this impressive book provide a general introduction to Danove’s methodology & presuppositions.

In his words, “Case frame analysis is concerned with the description of ‘predicators’, defined as words that license the presence of other elements in a phrase” (1). While his book focuses on verbs, Danove rightly recognizes that a much larger number of elements can be termed predicators (e.g. prepositions, nouns, and other lexical items that require/permit adjuncts & arguments within their constituent). Verbs are the most clear representative of this with their requirement of at least a Subject constituent (intransitive clauses).

In terms of representation of arguments & adjuncts, Case frame analysis uses a form a valence descriptions, which contain between one and three columns, one for each potential argument, representing intransitive, monotransitive, and ditransitive clauses, respectively. The descriptions also contain three rows: the first is for the number of arguments required by a predicator, the middle for marking the syntactic & semantic functions as well as the lexical realization of each argument, and the third for clarifying, “features that describe the conceptualization of the event designated by a verb” (3). An example is provided below (adapted from Danove, 6):

παραφέρω
1 2 3
Agent Theme Source
[N]* N P/ἀπό
Take this cup from me (Mk 14.36)
παρένεγκε τὸ ποτήριον τοῦτο ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ

*The brackets denote that the Agent of this imperative clause is null, as is common with imperatives.

Semantic Features

In addition to the basic valence descriptions provided by Danove, the analyses of the 104 verbs themselves are distinguished in usage by means of semantic features. These are semantic features distinct from semantic roles such as Agent and Theme. While semantic roles define the semantics of the arguments required by the verb, Danove’s semantic features define the predicators themselves.

He defines the following semantic features for verbal predicators:

Subject Affectedness:

Danove rightly bases his description of active, middle, & passive voice alternations on the recent work of Rutgar Allan’s The Middle Voice in Ancient Greek: A Study in Polysemy (ASCP 11; Amsterdam: Gieben, 2003), where the fundamental semantic feature involved in Subject Affectedness. Unfortunately, I was disappointed that Danove did not follow Allan’s position that the passive is a sub-function of the Middle Voice.

Danove marks Active usages as –Subject Affectedness and Middle & Passive usages as +Subject Affectedness (like Allan, Danove acknowledges that unmarked usages can potentially have an affected subject).

Impetus:

In transference verbs, the Agent of a clause can either provide, “an initial discrete impetus,” where the theme is set in motion, or “a continuous impetus” that not only sets the Theme in motion, but also maintains that motion all the way to its goal through the whole transference event (24). Thus, for Danove, βάλλω in Matt 13:50 is marked by discrete impetus: “They will cast them into the furnace of fire.” Here the Agent initiates the motion of the Theme “them” into the fire, but has no influence over the Theme after that initial causation. Likewise, ἄγω, in Luke 4:9, is marked by continuous impetus: “He led them to Jerusalem.” In this case, the Agent not only initiates the motion of the Theme, but also sustains its motion through to the end of the event to Jerusalem.

Danove marks Discrete Impetus as –Impetus and Continuous Impetus as +Impetus (24-25).

Perspective:

The Transference Event requires four entities: Source, Agent, Theme, and Goal. But the limits of both Greek verbs, as well as English verbs for marking participants and their relationships in a clause is limited to three entities. The result of this is that often with verbs of transference there are usages where the Source = Agent or where the Goal = Agent. Thus in Mark 8:26, “[Jesus] sent him [from Jesus] to his house,” The Agent of the motion (Jesus) also functions as the Source of motion. Likewise, in Mark 14:36, “[You] take this cup from me [to yourself],” the Agent of the motion (You/God) also functions as the Goal where the motion will end (to yourself/God).

Danove marks Source = Agent perspectives with S=A and Goal = Agent with G=A (25). Where one of these semantic entities (Source, Goal, or Agent) is merely implied by context, they are placed in brackets [ ] (25-27).

Focus:

For Danove, Focus is not dealing directly with the information structure and pragmatics, though there is a relationship between his Focus in valence description and Focus in the sense that a speaker uses Danove’s Focus as one way for structuring the information of a given clause. In valence description, Focus deals with the conceptualization of the event and the overt status of required arguments. That is, in some cases, all four entities of the Transference Event (Source, Agent, Theme Goal) are explicitly marked in a clause, as in Luke 7:20, “John the Baptist sent us to you.” This, Danove defines as the Primary Focus Usage because it permits direct retrieval of all four entities. Conversely, in John 1:6, “a human being, sent from God,” it is impossible for the audience to directly retrieve the Goal from the clause only. Danove defines this usage where an element cannot be directly retrieved from a clause the Secondary Focus Usage. In both these examples, the verb has the same Perspective (in this case Source = Agent), but they differ in that the Goal cannot be retrieved directly.

“Valence descriptions note secondary usages by placing the unrealized and irretrievable entity in parentheses, ( ), and primary usages by placing the unrealized but retrievable entity in brackets, [ ]” (28).

Thus ἀποστέλλω has two distinct valence descriptions depending on which prepositions is used. The first parallels the valence of Luke 7:20 with the Goal is explicitly expressed by πρός and the Source is retrievable from the Agent. The second parallels John 1:6, where the Goal in brackets is both unrealized and irretrievable from the verb and its arguments.

ἀποστέλλω AΘ[S]G [S=A]
1 2 3
Agent Theme Goal
N N P/πρός
ἀποστέλλω AΘS(G) S=A
1 2 3
Agent Theme Source
N N P/παρά

(Danove, 27-30).

Functionality:

Danove defines Functionality as the feature where one semantic role functions as another semantic role. This is similar to Luraghi’s use of metaphorical transfer for semantic roles (On the Meaning Prepositions and Cases: Semantic Roles in Ancient Greek [Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004]). It essentially is a cover term for a variety of metaphors for explaining semantic role usage. For example, in Matt 26:46, “Get up, let’s go!” has the Functionality of Theme –-> Agent on the basis of the metaphor: Themes that initial transference are Agents.

The feature of Functionality, Danove also notes, is the only thing that distinguishes two usages of τίθημι:

ἔθηκαν εἰς μνημεῖον. Acts 13:29
They placed [Jesus] into a tomb.

ἔθηκαν αὐτὸ ἐν μνημείῳ. Mark 6:29
They placed him [John] in a tomb.

Danove’s valence descriptions mark the change of Functionality here of Goal –-> Location, where the metaphor is Goals are Locations (30-32).

Event Features:

The main proposal of the final section of chapter 2 examines the events expressed by verbs of transference and their derivatives. Danove’s main argument here is there are parallels between the default transference usages of his 104 verbs and their secondary senses which do not necessarily express transference. These include the “continuing applicability of impetus and the rules linking active/middle/passive base.” Such parallels suggest that all other events expressed by Danove’s 104 verbs should be viewed and treated as derivatives of transference even though the four logical entities of transference (Source, Agent, Theme, Goal) are not necessarily present. These derivative event features include Exclusion, Augmentation, and Substitution. In the current review, these will be dealt with on a more ad hoc basis than the semantic features above.

+/-Animate:

Danove proposals that the distinction between πρός constituents, N+Dative constituents, and εἰς constituents can be defined along the lines of animacy. Across his corpus of transference, the first two constituent types are consistently +animate, while the third, εἰς constituents are consistently –animate.

Conclusions for Part I:

If Danove has successfully distinguished the semantics of usage for his corpus of 104 verbs based on the features delineated above and from my reading, he has, then he is to be commended. The amount of effort and analysis he has invested into this endeavor is impressive and his semantic proposals are quite theoretically convincing for the lexical semantics of these verbs. My only disappointment is the lack of the feature of Aktionsart/Situation Aspect, which would have enriched his semantic description even more.

What will follow in part II will be a survey of chapters 3-10 which examine individual verb usages, implications, conclusions, and the complete lexicon of New Testament transference verbs.

11 thoughts on “Book Review: Verbs of Transference by Paul Danove – Part I

  1. I’m sure the academic linguists know exactly what you’re talking about, but the review illustrates a pet peeve of mine: one has to learn a new jargon when one gets into a new book in academic linguistics; reading a new book is like solving a cryptogram. I’m probably all alone with this peeve, but it’s acute.

    1. Are you saying you’re frustrated because this first part was difficult to follow or that it’s annoying that I needed to write a post of this in order to clarify terminology that Danove used so that my readers would be able to follow parts II & III?

      Or both?

      1. Certainly the first, perhaps both. Your post made me wonder whether it would even be profitable for me to try to obtain and read the book if it is as impenetrable (to me) as what you say of it.

        1. Believe it or not, I can definitely appreciate what you’re saying. What Danove is trying to do is differentiate semantic features in order to describe verbs that are generally translated quite similarly. But he’s trying to do with with as little recourse to English glosses as possible. So he’s gone to a higher level of abstraction.

          I had wanted to wait on saying this until Part III on Saturday, but if you can handle a spoiler:

          “Danove has quite successfully distinguished the meaning and usages of his 104 verb sample. As far as his own discussion shows, all the verbs are distinguished in meaning and function from the others — including near synonyms, something that even Louw & Nida failed to at times. But this level of accuracy has come at the price of simplicity. While granting that doing semantics is never simple, I fear that the majority of Danove’s work will never be fully appreciated because of the amount of mental effort required to think through this highly complex system.

          Until we are provided with a basic, more accessible introduction to case frame analysis and argument structure, there will be no advance in the application of what I consider to be a very beneficial methodology for understanding Greek verbs and their clauses.”

          That’s part of my final conclusion.

  2. Precisely why I say that academic linguistics is — at least to some extent — an Ivory Tower of Babel, where specialists speak chiefly to each other and won’t make much of an effort to communicate what they’ve found out to those who don’t live in the same wing of the Tower.

    1. We’ve really got three groups here:

      1) The uber-specialist linguists who only write for each other.
      2) The NT Greek profs who are never going to move beyond Mounce & Wallce.
      3) Those of us who are trapped in the middle and get frustrated with both.

  3. How exactly is Danove’s article “Features of the Conceptualization of Transference in the New Testament” (http://bagl.org/volume2) related to this book? Can it work as an introduction or an “abstract”? Is it easier to understand?

    1. I haven’t read it yet. It’s on my “to do” list, but I’m pressed for deadlines with thesis writing and also a article that needs to get to publication right now, so I don’t expect to get to it until later during the summer.

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