Re: Greek Word Order

Micheal Palmer (
Sat, 25 Jan 1997 19:48:29 -0800 (PST)

At 8:23 AM -0500 1/24/97, Rod Decker wrote in response to my comments on

>I'd be interested in any good discussions of markedness in this regard.
>There is a helpful article in Encyl. of Linguistics, but I don't remember
>quite this emphasis (i.e., on markedness not necessarily being the most
>common form/pattern). Any suggestions for determining what is marked if it
>is not frequency? (Or is that to variable to establish general principles?)
>I'm more interested in markedness as applied to verb forms (aka, 'tenses')
>than word order, but I'd assume some commonality in principle here.

Frequency IS one factor, but it cannot be the only factor in determining
the unmarked order in biblical Greek simply because we have an incomplete
data set. If we could tape native speakers, make judgments based on the
frequency of the orders they use, then ASK THEM for their reactions to
sentences which we perceived to be marked, then we could use order with
more confidence. Obviously, however, we have no native speakers, so we have
to proceed with caution. Frequency can give us a good starting point, but
we must examine particular contexts to see what good readers of the text
have understood to be marked (emphatic?) and compare this to our judgments
based on frequency. If texts which clearly appear to be marked, emphatic,
etc. turn out to be very frequent, this COULD mean that our previous
judgments were wrong, but it could also be due to the type of text we are
dealing with. An argumentative text (such as many of Paul's letters) should
be expected to have a high percentage of marked constructions, for example.

In practical terms this just means that finetuning what we know about
markedness in biblical Greek (and we know a good bit based on the judgments
of the traditional grammarians) means hard work. It can be facilitated by
computerized tools which can do rapid counts, but they cannot do the entire
job for us.

>Re. word order I think I remember correctly that Bruce Terry's dissertation
>on 1 Cor. (now published by SIL/U.TX Arlington) dealt extensively with one
>aspect of this question.

I have not seen Bruce's dissertation. Do you have the publication data?

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College