Differentiating fictive and biological kinship

Grammar questions which are not related to any specific text.

Re: Differentiating fictive and biological kinship

Postby Michael Christensen » July 29th, 2011, 5:29 am

1) So somebody tried to implement a phonetic system in the 1920's. However, it still hasn't caught on, so most likely the disadvantages of the system outweighed the benefits.

2) China doesn't seems to be doing quite well in respect to literacy rates at the moment (and historically, some centuries ago, it was even better than Europe!) – which suggests that the problem of illiteracy earlier in the 20th century was due to political and economical causes rather than the writing system. Besides, Taiwanese childrens books print the phonetic script alongside the Chinese characters to aid learning (I've used them too), wheras adult books don't use the phonetic script except in the case of rare and exotic characters. This shows that most adults have no trouble whatsoever with reading – otherwise there would be a greater demand for books that print the phonetic script.

3) To attempt to return to the topic of this forum, which is, in a wider sense, the Greek language, I have created a new topic here: http://ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=549&sid=ea6e611c6ae7180f9a22790f16102f20
Michael Christensen
 
Posts: 24
Joined: June 18th, 2011, 9:56 am

Re: Differentiating fictive and biological kinship

Postby Jonathan_Burke » July 29th, 2011, 10:48 am

Michael Christensen wrote:1) So somebody tried to implement a phonetic system in the 1920's. However, it still hasn't caught on, so most likely the disadvantages of the system outweighed the benefits.


Actually it was massively successful, and caught on so much so that it remains in official use today.

2) China doesn't seems to be doing quite well in respect to literacy rates at the moment (and historically, some centuries ago, it was even better than Europe!) – which suggests that the problem of illiteracy earlier in the 20th century was due to political and economical causes rather than the writing system.


I'm not sure how the chain of reasoning here reaches the conclusion, but China is doing very well with respect to literacy rates at the moment (over 95%); they've improved dramatically over the last 60 years (prior to 1949, literacy was at around 20%). I'd like to see comparisons of historic literacy with those of Europe. Regardless, the role of the phonetic system in improving literacy (and the subsequent simplification of the character set much later), is well documented by the Chinese themselves. There was resistance, but predictably it came from the higher echelons of society, those who decried the simplification of the language to the point that mere peasants would be able to learn it, and who resisted the idea that universal literacy was of greater value than the fossilization of a character set which had already undergone dramatic revisions and evolutions several times over the last 2,000 years.

The fact is that every time the language makes another change, there's always a group of people making the same arguments about why it's impossible, as were used the last time the language was changed. Do you know there are people in Taiwan who still believe that traditional characters are so special that it is impossible to read or write Chinese in simplified characters? They're completely oblivious of the historical fact that their own 'traditional' characters are a Johnny-come-lately which are in fact radically simplified in comparison to earlier scripts. They're also in incredible denial of the fact that just to the north of Taiwan there's a country of 1.3 billion people, almost all of whom who are doing every day what they claim is impossible.

You try to tell them this, and they just refuse to believe it; 'You can't simplify Chinese characters, it doesn't work, you won't be able to understand them, the meaning will be lost, the cultural significance is too great, the etymology is vital, you'll render the language incomprehensible, no one will ever be able to read the classics ever again, the resulting ambiguity will defeat you, it would make reading impossible, you can't read and write Chinese using characters other than the ones we already use'. This, from people who learned a phonetic alphabet when they were children, a living demonstration that all their arguments are completely spurious. There's no reasoning here, it's just plain denial in the face of indisputable facts. It's massive cultural inertia, nothing more. There's nothing rational about it.

Besides, Taiwanese childrens books print the phonetic script alongside the Chinese characters to aid learning (I've used them too), wheras adult books don't use the phonetic script except in the case of rare and exotic characters. This shows that most adults have no trouble whatsoever with reading – otherwise there would be a greater demand for books that print the phonetic script.


Of course most adults in Taiwan don't have trouble reading; they've spent 15 years learning how to read, so of course there's no massive demand for books in the phonetic script. The state pedagogy forces children to abandon the phonetic script at a certain point. Development (or non-development), of the language is controlled by the government in the very manner to which you have previously expressed objection. The point is that learning a phonetic script, people wouldn't have to spend 15 years learning to read. Try and offer people the choice of 15 years of reading to obtain functional literacy or five years, and see how many people choose 15 years over 5.

3) To attempt to return to the topic of this forum, which is, in a wider sense, the Greek language, I have created a new topic here: http://ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=549&sid=ea6e611c6ae7180f9a22790f16102f20


Thanks, I'll join you there.
Jonathan_Burke
 
Posts: 11
Joined: July 27th, 2011, 10:09 am

Re: Differentiating fictive and biological kinship

Postby Michael Christensen » July 29th, 2011, 1:27 pm

Jonathan_Burke wrote:
Michael Christensen wrote:2) China doesn't seems to be doing quite well in respect to literacy rates at the moment (and historically, some centuries ago, it was even better than Europe!) – which suggests that the problem of illiteracy earlier in the 20th century was due to political and economical causes rather than the writing system.


I'm not sure how the chain of reasoning here reaches the conclusion, but China is doing very well with respect to literacy rates at the moment (over 95%);


Sorry, it was a misprint – I meant to say "China seems to be doing quite well now in respect to literacy rates, as opposed to earlier in the 20th century.

Jonathan_Burke wrote:Of course most adults in Taiwan don't have trouble reading; they've spent 15 years learning how to read, so of course there's no massive demand for books in the phonetic script. The state pedagogy forces children to abandon the phonetic script at a certain point. Development (or non-development), of the language is controlled by the government in the very manner to which you have previously expressed objection. The point is that learning a phonetic script, people wouldn't have to spend 15 years learning to read. Try and offer people the choice of 15 years of reading to obtain functional literacy or five years, and see how many people choose 15 years over 5.


I doubt that a person who just finished grade school could match the literacy of a college student – in any language. Sure, they could read, but would they understand a complex essay or novel, let alone be able to write on that level? Besides, I went to a German school and was "forced" to learn to read and write German for 13 years (as well as math, history and geography, English etc.). Wouldn't most children choose to spend less time and effort on learning if they weren't "forced" to?

Furthermore, just "reading" isn't enough anyway: if someone can read and pronounce a text from the Greek NT, it doesn't mean he/she will understand it: in order to understand, one will have to do a lot more study in the area of semantics and syntax – and that, I'm sure, takes quite a bit of time.

Anyway, it's too bad you don't like Chinese writing – I like it: in fact, my reading comprehension skills are considerably better than my listening comprehension skills, because the visual representation of the Chinese language happens to contain a lot more meaningful information than its sounds. But I guess the writing system suits people best that like to think in pictures and associations like me – it's not everyone's cup of tea.
Michael Christensen
 
Posts: 24
Joined: June 18th, 2011, 9:56 am

Re: Differentiating fictive and biological kinship

Postby Michael Christensen » July 31st, 2011, 4:45 am

Actually, if you take a look at the three following links, you might see that Chinese writing isn't nearly as complicated and difficult to learn as most people tend to think:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_character#Formation_of_characters
http://readchinese.nflc.org/?page=home
http://zhongwen.com/
Michael Christensen
 
Posts: 24
Joined: June 18th, 2011, 9:56 am

Re: Jonathan Burke

Postby Michael Christensen » July 31st, 2011, 11:52 am

Jonathan_Burke wrote:Try reading 三字經, a 13th century classical text which is simple enough to be used to teach school children history and moral principles, but which required considerable literary skill to compose in order to achieve the aim of the work whilst keeping within the strict circumference of the demanding 'three character phrase' literary style. It's a masterpiece of nuanced expression and understanding.


True, it is -- and writing it only phonetically without the characters would render it incomprehensible :(
Michael Christensen
 
Posts: 24
Joined: June 18th, 2011, 9:56 am

Choosing between Paul's usual use & a biological use of αδελ

Postby Sean Ingham » August 3rd, 2011, 11:34 am

Hello,

Pardon my interrupting the discussion about Chinese writing. I'm the other person in the discussion about the use of αδελφος in Gal 1:19, so I thought I might be given the opportunity to present my views.

Answering the original presentation here of an informal analysis made on another forum for a different audience concerning the problem in analysing this noun that Paul generally uses in his own idiosyncratic manner, the following answer came:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:in a word, context. The word can bear either sense. There is no separate or special word used to designate metaphorical kinship in the NT. ἀδελφός is used for both.

This is certainly true and never in contention. It is also certainly true that Paul eschews the common significance of αδελφος in all uses that we can ascribe a clear meaning to. He uses the noun over 70 times and at least 70 indicate a believer in Paul's religion. How many times can it be confirmed to indicate "biological brother(s)"? In fact there is a general absence of discussion about biological relations in talking to his communities. When Paul does talk about biological connections, on three occasions he qualifies them with a laden phrase, κατα σαρκα:

Romans 1:3
περι του υιου αυτου του γενομενου εκ σπερματος δαυιδ κατα σαρκα
concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh

Romans 4:1
...αβρααμ τον προπατορα ημων κατα σαρκα
...Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?

Romans 9:3
ηυχομην γαρ αναθεμα ειναι αυτος εγω απο του χριστου υπερ των αδελφων μου των συγγενων μου κατα σαρκα
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own brothers, my kindred according to the flesh.

One would expect Paul to stress a biological connection with κατα σαρκα, as he has done in the above examples of certain biological concern. Context is important. Paul has shown his usage of αδελφος throughout his writings and has also shown the tendency to qualify his indications of biological connections. There is a substantial case for Paul being consistent and in Gal 1:19 there are no contextual hints to suggest that he is not using αδελφος as he generally does. In fact, without his using κατα σαρκα to stress the biological link, I'd expect that he wasn't talking of a biological connection at all.

In the opening post, it was suggested that the Cartesian formula, 'X, the brother of Y', had sufficient weight such that, a priori, whatever Paul generally means by the noun, in the stricture of the formula, it must mean "brother". This is an assertion, rather than evidence. In discussion elsewhere it was suggested that "proximate literature" uses αδελφος this way when in the formula, 'X, the brother of Y', so this is a sufficient indicator as to what Paul means. But how many of Paul's contemporaries can we find who actually use αδελφος regularly as Paul does? Knowing this would help construct useful contextualization for applying the formula. If such a shift can be regularly shown elsewhere from this Pauline type usage to the common meaning of the noun when in the formula 'X, the brother of Y', then it should be considered with Paul. However, an analogous a priori rule, 'X, the son of Y' means biological son, fails in the situation of "son of God". In Wisdom 2:18 the writer says,

ει γαρ εστιν ο δικαιος υιος θεου αντιλημψεται αυτου και ρυσεται αυτον εκ χειρος ανθεστηκοτων
for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries

X = ο δικαιος
Y = θεος

I doubt that anyone would want to claim that the righteous man is actually the biological son of God. In fact in Wisdom 5:5 we find εν υιοις θεου paralleled with εν αγιοις, telling use that "sons of God" here is basically another way of saying "holy ones", so 'X, the son of Y' is not a pointer of biological necessity. Why should 'X, the brother of Y' be? Obviously there is no "should" about it.

A priori formulae are generally not useful when doing linguistics. One has to show meaningful contextual indicators to call into question Paul's normal, though idiosyncratic, use of αδελφος. He shows what he thinks of biological connections when he qualifies them with κατα σαρκα. How would Paul's readers know that he intended the common meaning of αδελφος in Gal. 1:19, when Paul has generally avoided biological connections and used the noun to refer to fellow believers? I don't think there are any contextual clues to suggest that Paul meant a biological connection so the linguistic rule is, we should read the word to mean what he normally meant by it.

sean peter ingham

Barry Hofstetter wrote:It sounds like your interlocutor has a theological axe to grind on this.
Sean Ingham
 
Posts: 12
Joined: August 3rd, 2011, 8:56 am

Re: Differentiating fictive and biological kinship

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 3rd, 2011, 2:12 pm

Let's look at the text of Gal 1:19

ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου.
Anyone else of the apostles, however, I did not see ... except James the brother the Lord.


The function of the article before the ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου is to identify which James Paul was talking about. I can readily see how the biological sense of ἀδελφός fits nicely here to make the identification, but it is much less clear to me how a "fellow believer" sense for ἀδελφός helps us (or Paul).

Stephen
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
Stephen Carlson
 
Posts: 1899
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Melbourne

Re: Differentiating fictive and biological kinship

Postby Sean Ingham » August 3rd, 2011, 3:54 pm

sccarlson wrote:Let's look at the text of Gal 1:19

ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου.
Anyone else of the apostles, however, I did not see ... except James the brother the Lord.


The function of the article before the ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου is to identify which James Paul was talking about. I can readily see how the biological sense of ἀδελφός fits nicely here to make the identification, but it is much less clear to me how a "fellow believer" sense for ἀδελφός helps us (or Paul).

Stephen

In the phrase (1 Thes 3:2),

    τιμοθεον τον αδελφον ημων
    Timothy our brother
do you think we to believe that Timothy is really the biological brother of Paul and others? (ημων is after all a genitive phrase substitute.) Or similarly, 2 Cor 2:3, τιτον τον αδελφον μου: is Titus really the biological brother of Paul? These specific identifiers, with αδελφος qualified with a possessive pronoun, give a certain prestige to Timothy and Titus.

It's not so much the article as the whole phrase that identifies which James. The only other place this phrase is used (though in the plural) regards a list of significant believers in 1 Cor 9:5, the apostles, the brothers of the Lord and Cephas. And are there any problems with the notion that James, a person of importance in Jerusalem, should be given--for want of a better word--an honorific: he's not (merely) a rank-and-file "fellow believer", but "the fellow believer of the Lord". He is regularly given the honorific "the Just" in later literature, so an honorific is not a strange idea.

sean peter ingham
Sean Ingham
 
Posts: 12
Joined: August 3rd, 2011, 8:56 am

Re: Differentiating fictive and biological kinship

Postby David Lim » August 3rd, 2011, 11:29 pm

Sean Ingham wrote:ει γαρ εστιν ο δικαιος υιος θεου αντιλημψεται αυτου και ρυσεται αυτον εκ χειρος ανθεστηκοτων


I agree that we cannot use syntax alone to distinguish meaning, but it is one factor in determining the range of meanings and also one factor in encouraging the audience to choose a particular meaning over others. In the text you had quoted it does not have the syntax of "X, son of Y," which requires two noun clauses in opposition. Instead, it has "X is [a] son of Y", where "son of Y" is simply predicated of X whereas "son of Y" is a defining attribute in "X, son of Y,". But I would still say that the original meaning of "son" as being "literal son of a literal father" is valid, because it is just taken from a different perspective, in which "physical flesh" is not in the picture. Furthermore, it is true that "X, son of Y," tends to predispose the audience to expecting that it refers to a literal descendant (especially Jewish audience), so it is left to the author to correct that presupposition if it was not the intended meaning.

Sean Ingham wrote:
sccarlson wrote:Let's look at the text of Gal 1:19

ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου.
Anyone else of the apostles, however, I did not see ... except James the brother the Lord.


The function of the article before the ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου is to identify which James Paul was talking about. I can readily see how the biological sense of ἀδελφός fits nicely here to make the identification, but it is much less clear to me how a "fellow believer" sense for ἀδελφός helps us (or Paul).

Stephen

In the phrase (1 Thes 3:2),

    τιμοθεον τον αδελφον ημων
    Timothy our brother
do you think we to believe that Timothy is really the biological brother of Paul and others? (ημων is after all a genitive phrase substitute.) Or similarly, 2 Cor 2:3, τιτον τον αδελφον μου: is Titus really the biological brother of Paul? These specific identifiers, with αδελφος qualified with a possessive pronoun, give a certain prestige to Timothy and Titus.

It's not so much the article as the whole phrase that identifies which James. The only other place this phrase is used (though in the plural) regards a list of significant believers in 1 Cor 9:5, the apostles, the brothers of the Lord and Cephas. And are there any problems with the notion that James, a person of importance in Jerusalem, should be given--for want of a better word--an honorific: he's not (merely) a rank-and-file "fellow believer", but "the fellow believer of the Lord". He is regularly given the honorific "the Just" in later literature, so an honorific is not a strange idea.

sean peter ingham


In the particular case of Gal 1:19, as Stephen has said, "τον αδελφον του κυριου" does not refer to any "brother of the lord" but a specific one because of the article. I doubt "the fellow believer" can be a title because I do not think it is attested as such, so although it may not be a strange idea, it may not have been used in that way, just like the title "first lady" is not a strange idea but was only used after a certain point in human history.

Also I don't think "αδελφος" can directly mean "fellow believer", because it does not fit the usage well, for example:
[Rom 8] [29] οτι ους προεγνω και προωρισεν συμμορφους της εικονος του υιου αυτου εις το ειναι αυτον πρωτοτοκον εν πολλοις αδελφοις (clearly "πρωτοτοκον εν πολλοις αδελφοις" refers to "του υιου αυτου" as being one out of "many brothers")
[1 Tim 5] [1] πρεσβυτερω μη επιπληξης αλλα παρακαλει ως πατερα νεωτερους ως αδελφους [2] πρεσβυτερας ως μητερας νεωτερας ως αδελφας εν παση αγνεια (it is clearly an injunction to treat older persons as one's own parents and younger persons as one's own siblings)

I have another way of looking at this word, based on the above as well as the following:
[Heb 2] [11] ο τε γαρ αγιαζων και οι αγιαζομενοι εξ ενος παντες δι ην αιτιαν ουκ επαισχυνεται αδελφους αυτους καλειν [12] λεγων απαγγελω το ονομα σου τοις αδελφοις μου εν μεσω εκκλησιας υμνησω σε (here Jesus "ουκ επαισχυνεται αδελφους αυτους καλειν" because "ο τε αγιαζων και οι αγιαζομενοι εξ ενος παντες", and Jesus says "απαγγελω το ονομα σου τοις αδελφοις μου".)
[Heb 2] [17] οθεν ωφειλεν κατα παντα τοις αδελφοις ομοιωθηναι ινα ελεημων γενηται και πιστος αρχιερευς τα προς τον θεον εις το ιλασκεσθαι τας αμαρτιας του λαου [18] εν ω γαρ πεπονθεν αυτος πειρασθεις δυναται τοις πειραζομενοις βοηθησαι [Heb 3] [1] οθεν αδελφοι αγιοι κλησεως επουρανιου μετοχοι κατανοησατε τον αποστολον και αρχιερεα της ομολογιας ημων ιησουν χριστον (here we have both uses, where the word is used "literally" in 2:17-18 in the same way as in 2:11-12 and then for "fellow believers" in the very next sentence, which suggests that "fellow believers" are considered to be just as "literal brothers" for the reason given in 2:11-12.)
[1 John 3] [10] εν τουτω φανερα εστιν τα τεκνα του θεου και τα τεκνα του διαβολου πας ο μη ποιων δικαιοσυνην ουκ εστιν εκ του θεου και ο μη αγαπων τον αδελφον αυτου [11] οτι αυτη εστιν η αγγελια ην ηκουσατε απ αρχης ινα αγαπωμεν αλληλους [12] ου καθως καιν εκ του πονηρου ην και εσφαξεν τον αδελφον αυτου και χαριν τινος εσφαξεν αυτον οτι τα εργα αυτου πονηρα ην τα δε του αδελφου αυτου δικαια ("ο μη αγαπων τον αδελφον αυτου" in 3:10 is in contrast to "ινα αγαπωμεν αλληλους" in 3:11 which is "ου καθως καιν εκ του πονηρου ην και εσφαξεν τον αδελφον αυτου" in 3:12)

Therefore I think that "αδελφος" retained its original meaning in the new testament in the sense that "fellow believers" were truly considered to be "brothers", even "true brothers", having God as their father and Jesus as their brother. In other words they did not change the meaning of "αδελφος" but rather they changed their understanding of their family ties. (I hope this does not go beyond the limits of B-Greek.)

Also I think we should consider that just because a person uses a word almost always with a particular literal or figurative or metaphorical meaning does not imply that his use of the word has that same meaning by default. If the audience can easily identify the special meaning that he attaches to the word, and the special meaning is not very far from the original, then it is also likely that the original meaning is still the default, but the audience learns that the word has now acquired a new possible meaning. For example, if a Christian does not have any siblings, his use of the vocative "brother" or "sister" is confined to the ones whom he considers "fellow believers", but it does not mean that he is not perfectly aware of the normal usage.
δαυιδ λιμ
David Lim
 
Posts: 885
Joined: June 6th, 2011, 6:55 am

Re: Differentiating fictive and biological kinship

Postby Michael Christensen » August 4th, 2011, 4:26 am

Pardon my interrupting the discussion about Chinese writing. I'm the other person in the discussion about the use of αδελφος in Gal 1:19, so I thought I might be given the opportunity to present my views.


No need to apologize. I'm sorry for the "brief" interlude -- though I should make it clear that I only started it because I find it extremely insulting to denounce another culture's language or writing as "archaic" and "primitive". Actually, several more claims were made later about Chinese that I find absolutely infuriating and incorrect and could certainly argue against in greater detail, but I'll keep quiet about it from now on since it is probably only irritating and uninteresting to most other people following this thread. Anyway, I'm relieved to see that you were able to steer the discussion back to the original topic.
Michael Christensen
 
Posts: 24
Joined: June 18th, 2011, 9:56 am

PreviousNext

Return to Grammar Questions

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests