Lesson 6: The Article


125. Sentences are meaningful because they conform to a grammatical system characteristic of the language as a whole. Nonsense sentences are words strung together without reference to system: hill the the up go boy high. One may construct a meaningful sentence out of these words (with one modification): the boy went up the high hill. The knowledge that makes it possible to order words into a sentence is knowledge of the grammatical system. The native user of a language may be only dimly aware of the rules by which sentences are constructed, and even the grammarian is rarely conscious of them when he is speaking or writing. But every user of a language has to conform to the system to be understood.

1250. Grammar attempts to expose the system of a language by describing the various structures into which words and word groups enter. Such structures may be simple or they may be very complex. Whatever the degree of complexity, such structures are signaled by devices within the language itself (in spoken language they are also signaled by intonation contour, stress and the like). Some of these devices have no other function than to indicate structure, e.g. the inflectional endings in the nominal system. In order to be able to understand a sentence one must know 1) these structure signals and how they function; and 2) the meaning of the remaining words (§1).

1251. The article serves as a signal in Greek. Since it is nearly lexically empty itself (i.e. one cannot point to or define a the), it is employed primarily in conjunction with other lexically full words or word groups. While it may serve to specify a head term (or cluster) in various ways as a determiner (§§710-7160), it may also serve merely to signal structure. It more often does the latter, but it may do both.

1252. As a signaler of structure, the function of the article ranges from specifying case, by which it contributes indirectly to sentence structure, to indicating changes in the speaker in a dialogue or shifts in subject matter (demonstrative function). At the simplest level, the article assists in the identification (gender, number, case) of various elements in the sentence and in the determination of word groups. Some of the simpler functions should be observed from the outset, since they contribute to the ease with which the nominal system can be mastered and the sentence resolved.

1) The article with a nominal head

126. The simple word group, article plus nominal head, is not often separated by other words (intervening words are usually connectives or nuance words which cannot stand first in their own clause, e.g. μέν, δέ). The sequence is always article, nominal head.

(1)           ὁ Ἰησοῦς Jn 8:12
(2)           τὸν πατέρα Jn 8:27
(3)           τῆς ἁμαρτίας Jn 8:34b

The article signals the gender, number and case of the head. Without knowledge of the inflectional patterns of the nominal heads in question, it is thus possible to determine the case relationship of the word group to the sentence (excluding the options indicated in §1210.2-4).

2) Article, head with qualifier

127. There are three possible sequences for a word group comprised of article, head, adjective qualifier:

127.1 Article, adjective qualifier, head:

(4)           τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον Jn 8:51b
(5)           τοῖς ἀκαθάρτοις πνεύμασιν Lk 4:36
(6)           οἱ ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταί Jn 4:23

127.2 Article, head, article, adjective qualifier:

(7)           ἡ κρίσις ἡ ἐμή Jn 8:16
(8)           ἡ ἐντολή ἡ παλαιά 1 Jn 2:7b
(9)           τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν 1 Jn 2:8

127.3 Head, article, adjective qualifier:

(10)           εἰρήνην τὴν ἐμήν Jn 14:27

127.4 It is to be noted that the article in each sequence precedes the adjective qualifier; the nominal head may lack the article as in (10), but it usually does not. The article contributes to the determination of the word group and again signals gender, number, case (excluding the options in §1210.2-4).

3) Article, head with other determiner

128. The determiners which may appear with a word group comprised of article and noun (or article, adjective qualifier and noun) are drawn from a closed class of words, and always appear in "predicate" position, i.e. without an article preceding them:

(11)           ταῦτα τὰ ῥήματα (οὗτος) Jn 8:20a
(12)           τὴν ἡμέραν ἐκείνην (ἐκεῖνος) Jn 1:39
(13)           ἡ χήρα αὕτη ἡ πτωχή (οὗτος) Mk 12:43

Such determiners may either precede (11) or follow (12) the article-head. In (13) an adjectival modifier is appended (cf. §127.2).

4) The noun phrase with genitive modifier

129.1 In the noun phrases considered so far all the terms have been in the same gender, number and case. Another commonly occurring noun phrase consists of article-head in one case, modified by an article-noun in the genitive case. The genitive word group limits or specifies the head term (§112.1).

(14)           τὸ φῶς τοῦ κοσμοῦ Jn 8:12a
(15)           τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου Jn 8:28a
(16)           ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ 1 Jn 2:5

This is a very commonly occurring word cluster (it occurs more often than those in §§127, 128). The precise sense in which the genitive word group specifies the head is grammatically indeterminate, but the sense is generally drawn from an established range (§§0112-1120).

This type of phrase is subject to other sequences:

129.2 The defining genitive is sandwiched between article and head:

(17)           ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ [γὰρ] υἱός 2 Cor 1:19
    (Cf. §127.1)

129.3 The relation of the defining genitive to the head is signaled by a repetition of the head article:

(18)           ὁ λόγος [γὰρ] τοῦ σταυροῦ 1 Cor 1:18
    (Cf. §127.2)

129.4 The genitive word group precedes the head:

(19)           τοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἡ γένεσις Mt 1:18

(18) and (19) are by no means common, and (17) is literary (Turner 349).

129.5 The sequence, ὁ (in any gender, number, case) ---- τοῦ (τῆς, τῶν) ----, thus signals a noun phrase in which one component in the genitive case modifies the other. The sequence may be varied: ὁ τοῦ ---- ---- / ὁ ---- ὁ τοῦ ---- / τοῦ ---- ὁ ---. Such noun phrases can often be identified and resolved on the basis of the article alone.