Relevance Theory and the Greek Article - personal study thoughts

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Matthew Longhorn
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Relevance Theory and the Greek Article - personal study thoughts

Post by Matthew Longhorn » June 6th, 2018, 2:58 am

Hi all, looking for some feedback on whether you think the outline below is a worthwhile avenue of exploration for a personal study.
Go gentle, I am just at the beginning stage of thinking it through right now, and have necessarily oversimplified things below for the sake of space. That includes not dealing with references to place names such as cities

I am considering the use of the definite article in the New Testament. Recently I have been listening to and reading a lot of journal articles as well as reading a number of chapters in books on definiteness and reference. I have also been reading about the use of the definite article in English from a relevance theory procedural meaning perspective.

I have found that a number of treatments of the article in the New Testament don’t really deal with the question of what it means to be definite, I see this as a slight missing. Similarly, many treatments of the article are based on intuition rather than experimental pragmatics, these often deal with default means of reference. Whilst not fully disagreeing that there are default ways of referring, I want to see what underlies these, namely why they became defaults.

I clearly haven’t read everything on the subject, however I have read lots of journal articles, chapters of a number of books on NT linguistics, as well as Wallace’s book and Ronald D. Peters’ PHD dissertation. This is on top of all the grammars I could lay hands on.

I am interested in looking at applying Christopher Lucas’ modification of Hawkins’ work on the use of the definite article (see link below) to the New Testament and also Matsui’s work on bridging in understanding the use of the article. I want to also work through papers on experimental pragmatics looking at processing effort in reference assignment.

https://www.academia.edu/2129603/Defini ... ommodation

My current suppositions with regards to participant reference specifically, for the most part agree with the outcome of other works that I have read on NT linguistics. The difference being the relevance-theoretic and hopefully experimental pragmatics underpinning.

Initial introduction of participant in narrative with no article unless either:
1. Activated in the discourse already through spreading activation or some other mechanism e.g. bridging
2. Accessible as a mutually manifest P-set
Subsequent reference through articles or pronouns. Some relatively recent work on processing cost of discourse reference has shown pronouns to be more costly than nouns therefore impacting relevance

Where switching between previously activated participants in an embedded discourse section
1 The use of ho de is used as a means of reducing the processing cost that would have been involved in the use of full noun phrases. The article anaphorically marking the noun phrase used as a mutually manifest P-Set. The cognitive principle of relevance will allow the hearer to stop at the most accessible reference assignment which will usually be that one in the recent discourse
2 The use of the article with a noun phrase to predominantly create an expectation of more cognitive effects where the previous full reference is relatively recent. This additional expectation is due to the increase in processing effort due to decoding the greater lexical information. Unlike previous work that I have looked at I would also like to look at this use sometimes perhaps being simply to help the hearer keep track of which participants are involved thus the increase of relevance through reduction in processing cost in some instances. This would divert from perspectives that see this as necessarily highlighting the salience of the information following and would need to look at the length of the reported discourse interactions.
3 The use of the anarthrous noun phrase to increase expectations of relevance. This would be through the lack of indication that the noun phrase is a mutually manifest referent, thus requiring reference assignment by the hearer. Given that this is a recent referent then this would be highly accessible to the hearer and thus not require an undue amount of processing.

Rather than just applying the relevance theory principles intuitively I would be interested in researching this from an experimental pragmatics perspective using works on modern languages as an analogue.

In particular:
1 Processing effort based on use of articular vs anarthrous proper nouns
2 Participant reference in participant switching


Obviously this would just be for myself; I tend to get a tad obsessive looking into things but enjoy the challenge and find I learn a lot by focussing on specific things. Rather than spending loads of money and time on something that is well off base it would be great to hear thoughts to the contrary if people deem it a daft idea!

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Greek Article - personal study thoughts

Post by Stephen Carlson » June 6th, 2018, 6:33 am

Sounds interesting. Let us know how it goes.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Matthew Longhorn
Posts: 74
Joined: November 10th, 2017, 2:48 pm
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Re: Relevance Theory and the Greek Article - personal study thoughts

Post by Matthew Longhorn » June 6th, 2018, 6:36 am

It will be a long project - anticipating being over a year based on previous ones that I have done.
Glad you don’t think it is daft!

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