Syntactic Relations

015.1 The second step in a descriptive grammar is to state the grammatical relations that obtain between and among words and other elements in the language (§009), as classified on a morphological or other basis (§§010-014).

As illustrated in §003, the native user of a language knows what possibilties are open to him in filling an empty slot in a given sentence frame. This knowledge suggests that word classes coincide in some important respect with other grammatical features. It appears, for example, that sentences in Greek, as in English, most often consist of "subject" and "predicate," and that the "subject" is correlated to a greater or lesser degree with the word class nouns, while the "predicate" is closely related to the word class verbs. An extensive statement of the relations between these features proves to be a very complicated matter. It is made no less complicated by the fact that various word classes require subdivision into smaller classes, and many words belong to more than one class.

015.2 For the purposes of this grammar a less than exhaustive statement of the relations between and among word classes and other grammatical devices is quite satisfactory. Some restriction is, in fact, necessary. Preoccupation with the marginal features of Greek, which would be required in an exhaustive grammar, only misleads where the beginner is struggling to form something like native responses to the bread-and-butter features of the language.

016.1 Open and restricted word classes. The simplest sentence pattern consists of noun and finite verb (qualification in §504):

      1             2     1             2
(1)    γυνὴ / ἀπέθανεν a woman / died

We may use a slash (/) to mark off the noun from the verb and thus the "subject" from the "predicate," and designate the former 1 and the latter 2 (a kind of shorthand to enable us to speak more efficiently of the sentence parts, without having to give a full description each time.)

If it is now asked what may stand as element 1 in a sentence of this type, a tentative reply would be: only a noun or some other item in the nominal system. This implies that a finite verb cannot function as "subject." The reverse is also true: only a finite verb or some other item from the verbal system may appear as item 2. Such a generalization does not tell us much specifically about the grammar of Greek, but it does indicate that the "subject" [3] and "predicate" [2] of the sentence are correlated, in some important respects, with the two major word classes represented by the nominal and verbal systems, respectively.

016.2 The generalization that some item from the nominal system must stand as element I in the sentence appears to be confirmed by substituting grammatically acceptable words for γυνὴ in sentence (1):

     1             2     1          2
(2)    ἀνὴρ / ἀπέθανεν a man / died
         1                   2      1            2
  τὸ παιδίον / ἀπέθανεν the child / died
              1                     2          1                 2
  ἡ θυγάτηρ σου / ἀπέθανεν your daughter / died
         1                2        1            2
  Ἀβραὰμ / ἀπέθανεν Abraham / died
          1                 2          1              2
  ἀπέθανον / οἱ προφῆται the prophets / died

Element 1 in every case is a noun or a word group “headed” by a noun. Words like ἀνήρ, παιδίον, Ἀβραάμ belong to the word class, nouns, which is virtually numberless. It is therefore an open or unrestricted word class.

016.3 One might go so far as to say that any noun may substitute for γυνή in sentence (1):

        1                2     1           2
(3)    δένδρον / ἀπέθανεν a tree    / died
(4)    βιβλίον  / ἀπέθανεν a scroll / died
(5)    οἶκος     / ἀπέθανεν a house / died

So long as we are concerned solely with grammar, sentences (4), (5) are quite acceptable. It may be difficult to imagine the circumstances under which they might be spoken or written, but they belong, nevertheless, to the potential of the language since they conform to the grammatical system.

016.4 For the verb in sentence (1) various acceptable substitutions are likewise easily possible:

      1          2       1             2
(6)    γυνὴ / μένει a woman / abides
          2                   1           1               2
  μένουσιν / οἱ προφῆται the prophets / endure
       1        2      1            2
(7)    ὁ παῖς / ζῇ the child / lives
    2              1           1                2
  ζῇ / ἡ θυγάτηρ σου your daughter / lives

Words like ἀπέθανεν, μένει, ζῇ belong to the word class, verbs, which is also virtually numberless. Verbs and nouns therefore comprise open or unrestricted word classes.

016.5 Verbs and nouns (together with adjectives, adverbs, and infinitives and participles, which are made from verbs) constitute the bulk of the major vocabulary in Greek. Words belonging to these classes may be freely created, change meaning, and die in the history of the language. It is therefore impossible to specify by listing hat nouns may appear as element 1 in the sentence, or what verb may appear as element 2. We must be satisfied to say that a sentence like (1) is comprised of a nominal element as “subject” and a verbal element as “predicate.”

016.6 These large open or unrestricted word classes are quite distinct from other smaller word classes, the items of which function primarily as structure signals and can be specified by listing. 017.1 The Greek negative adverbs are illustrative of a very small, closed word class.

017.1 The Greek negative adverbs are illustrative of a very small, closed word class.

      1            N> 2       1                2
(8)    γυνὴ / οὐκ ἀπέθανεν a woman / did not die

A second negative adverb is μή. To this word class we may arbitrarily give the designation N. οὐκ and μή may be distinguished from all other adverbs by virtue of the grammatical constructions into which they may enter that other adverbs may not. Cf. §§613-617.

017.2 It was stipulated in §016.1 that the “subject” of a sentence like (1) must be a nominal item. The personal pronouns belong to the nominal system and so may appear as element 1 in the sentence. Yet they constitute a closed or restricted word class, the members of which can be listed.

      1             2   1            2
(9)    αὐτὴ / ἀπέθνῃσκεν she / was dying

In (9) αὐτή is a pronoun specifying that the “subject” of the verb is feminine and singular (=she). Apart from some context in which this sentence appears, it would be impossible to specify further what is meant by αὐτή. It is for this reason that pronouns are sometimes defined as substitutes for nouns. In one context (Lk 8:42), the antecedent of αὐτή is θυγάτηρ, daughter. αὐτή is therefore also a sequence word in that it indicates the continuity of subject matter in contexts where it is inappropriate to express the noun in each sentence or phrase where it is called for. As a consequence, the personal pronouns belong more to the structure-signaling elements of the language than to its major vocabulary. 017.3 On the basis of §017.1-2 one may generalize: closed or restricted word classes belong more intimately to that class of words called function words (§§001, 002, 006) than to major vocabulary, since they participate more directly in the grammatical system. Conversely, the major vocabulary of the language is made up primarily of open-ended word classes.

018. It is impossible to speak of the grammar of Greek without speaking of more than morphology and words. A morphological variable or a word belongs to a grammatical system that transcends the isolated morpheme or word. The reach of the system is stratified. For example, one may speak of the grammar of the phrase

(10)    ἡ θυγάτηρ σου your daughter

in which the head term, θυγάτηρ, is “modified” by the article ἡ and the genitive of the personal pronoun, σου (lit. the daughter of you ).

The phrase (10) also belongs, of course, to a sentence, such as

               1              2            1              2
(11)    ἡ θυγάτηρ σου / ζῇ your daughter / lives

in which the phrase (10) appears as the “subject” of the verb, ζῇ. We then have a “complete” sentence with “subject” and “predicate.”

The reach of the system extends even beyond the sentence. If we take a sequence of sentences, such as

              1                      N> 2     1      2
(12)    ἡ θυγάτηρ σου / οὐκ ἀπέθανεν. αὐτὴ / ζῇ
             1                   2    1    2
  your daughter / did not die. She lives.

it can be observed that the “subject” of the second sentence, αὐτή, functions to link the “subject” of the second sentence with the “subject” of the first.

In speaking of grammatical system it is thus necessary to speak of it with respect to overlapping and interrelated levels: the structure of the phrase can be learned in isolation but it must also be learned in the context of the sentence; sentence structure can be learned in isolation, but it, too, must ultimately be referred to sequences of sentences and the construction of such larger units as the paragraph.

019.1 The question confronted by the learner of a language, and antecedently the grammarian who teaches him, is how best to take hold of a new language. Aside from becoming initially acquainted with a system of morphological variables that may vary considerably from that employed in his own native language (e.g. Greek in relation to English), the beginner is advised - according to most modern linguists - to endeavor to seize the language at its most immediately workable level, namely the sentence. One learns to use a language (beyond the halting use of single words coupled with sign language) by comprehending sentences. With a few model sentences in hand, the novice is in a position to make some use of a language, however pressed he may be to make himself articulate. A knowledge of morphology, major vocabulary and even phrase structure does not necessarily make a language usable apart from some acquaintance with sentence structure.

019.2 If the sentence is assigned a certain priority for practical, pedagogical reasons, that priority is supported to a large degee by the requirements of descriptive grammar. Word classes, for example, can finally be sorted out only in the context of the sentence. And it is necessary to work with the sentence (and the sequence of sentences) in mapping out the complex network of relationships between and among constructions. In short, the sentence provides a more viable focus for descriptive grammar than the word or phrase, and yet primary attention to the sentence does not require that attention to the sentence be diverted from word classification and phrase structure. The sentence is the point of departure, moreover, for the consideration of sentence-transcending structures and devices.

020.1 The Greek language, like English, functions largely with a set of commonly recurring sentence structures. These structures are used over and over again, with modification and expansion, of course. The constituent elements of the sentence consist largely of commonly recurring phrase structures. The structure of sentences and phrases is surprisingly monotonous. It would be even more monotonous were it not possible to include some sentences within the framework of other sentences (subordination) , and to link and connect sentences and parts of sentences by various devices (coordination). Nevertheless, subordinated or included sentences reflect the same basic sentence patterns, modified or transformed in accordance with regular rules so as to make grammatical inclusion possible. Greek thus makes highly repetitious use of a relatively small set of grammatical structures, which are modified and varied within the limits of these structures.

020.2 A commonly recurring sentence pattern in Greek consists of subject, transitive verb, and direct object.

      2               1                    4     1          2             4
(13)    οἶδεν / ὁ Πέτρος / τὸν ἄνθρωπον Peter / knows / the man

The subject is set off by slashes and designated 1, the verb is designated 2, as above (§016.1); a slash (/) may also be used to mark off other elements in the entence, and 4 designates the direct object. (13) is identical in structure with

       2           1                  4          1            2          4
(14)    εἶδεν / ὁ λαὸς / τὸν ἄνθρωπον The people / saw / the man

in that it also consists of subject, transitive verb, and direct object.

020.3 Sentences may be said to be enate (Gleason: 199ff.) if they have identical structures. Sentences (13) and (14) are fully enate, i.e. they correspond grammatically item for item as well as in structure. If enation is restricted to structure, sentences may be enate even though they do not correspond item for item. For example,

      2        1                 4 1       2          4
(15)    οἶδα / ἐγὼ / τὸν ἄνθρωπον I / know / the man

is enate to (13) and (14) in structure, although a noun phrase has been replaced by a personal pronoun (ἐγώ). However, the personal pronoun subject does not normally appear in Greek:

     2-1            4 1       2           4
(16)    οἶδα / τὸν ἄνθρωπον I / know / the man

In (16) the subject is signaled solely by the personal ending attached to the verb. Yet (16) remains structurally enate to (15). Further, the object may be represented by a personal pronoun rather than by a noun phrase:

    2-1        4 1       2        4
(17)    οἶδα / αὐτόν I / know / him

The structure of (17) remains identical with that of (13)-(16) although all items but one have been modified.

020.4 The direct object (4) in sentences (13)-(17) is either a word or a noun phrase. For this type of object may be substituted an included sentence or clause without altering the structure:

    2-1         S4 1       2              S4
(18)    οἶδα / τὶ λέγεις I / know / what you mean

Let S stand for an included sentence, to which is attached a raised 4 to indicate that the included sentence appears in the structure of object. (18) may be resolved into two sentences:

   2-1 1       2
(18a)    οἶδα / (4) I / know / (4)
  4       2-1    4        2       1         2
(18b)    τί / λέγεις; what / do / you / mean?

The sentence (18b) is included in (18a) without internal modification, although in (18) the direct question of (18b) has become an indirect question.

020.5 The included sentence, however, may be incorporated into the larger structure by means of some modification. In that case it becomes an included dependent sentence:

        1              2                 s4
(19)    οἱ ὄχλοι / εἶδον / ὃ ἐποίησεν Παῦλος
          1            2               s4
  The crowd / saw / what Paul did

The capital S is changed to small s to indicate that the included sentence is dependent. Unlike S4 in (18), s4 in (19) may not stand as an independent sentence when divorced from its larger context. Rather, (19) is composed of two sentences, one of which has been modified:

      1               2         1            2
(19a)    οἱ ὄχλοι / εἶδον / (4) The crowd / saw / (4)
       1                 2    1         2
(19b)    Παῦλος / ἐποίησεν / (4) Paul / did / (4)

The object of (19b), in independent form, would be a noun phrase, pronoun, or other included sentence; when incorporated into (19a) as the object, the object of ἐποίησεν becomes a relative pronoun, which is a grammatical device for joining two sentences.

020.6 The structure of (19) is identical with the structures of (13)-(18), i.e. subject, transitive verb, direct object. It may also be observed that the structures of S4 in (18) and s4 in (19) are also identical: in (18) τί is the object of λέγεις, so that the structure may be schematically represented as 4/2-1 — the same elements as found in (13)-(17). s4 in (19) may be analyzed as:

  4           2              1
(19b)    ὃ / ἐποίησεν / Παῦλος  

Once again, the structural elements are identical.

020.7 The sentence structure of (13) is thus utilized in a variety of other sentences, including the included sentences of (18) and (19). All these sentences are enate because they reflect the same basic grammatical structure. Among the commonly recurring sentence patterns in Greek, this type of sentence appears most often. A good grasp of its structure and varieties will go a long way towards the ability to read the structure signals in Greek.