Re: More on Constituent Order

Micheal Palmer (
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 07:46:28 -0800 (PST)

At 9:39 PM -0600 1/26/97, Carl W. Conrad wrote in response to my question
about the effect of a variant reading in Mark 1:4:

>It seems to me that the fundamental feature here is the enhanced
>highlighting of EN THi ERHMWi in the variant. I think it was Willi Marxsen
>who first noted that this phrase, carried over from the passage from 2nd
>Isaiah cited in v. 3, is what makes the intended link between JBpt and the
>eschatological Elijah clear. I can't speak to the probabilities governing
>the likelihood of this variant being original, but it does seem to me that
>(a) this reading produces a rhetorically more effective word-order, and . . .

Thanks, Carl. This is exactly the kind of reflection I need. Your
observation about the rhetorical connection with verse 3 is particularly
significant for the issue I am examining. I suspect (as several linguists
have suggested) that fronting of a constituent (placing it earlier in the
clause than it would be in the unmarked order) tends to highten the
cohesion of the text (the way its various parts hold together--the
rhetorical connections, etc.). Or, perhaps more accurately stated, it tends
to cause the reader to EXPECT a tighter cohesion.

Really, fronting in itself may not be the issue. Choosing a marked order,
whether by fronting or by some other means, may be enough to bring about
this expectation.

Micheal Palmer