Re: pronoun/antecedent agreement

Date: Thu Jun 06 1996 - 11:52:45 EDT

Marion Fox replying to post by Philip Graber. Philip stated:

On Thu, 6 Jun 1996 wrote:

> > ...the subject of a finite
> > verb is in the nominative case WHEN THERE IS AN EXPLICIT SUBJECT.
> Why is the only true when we have an explicit subject? Why not with an
> elliptical subject?

Because a word can only be marked for case if it is there. If the subject
is not explicit, there is nothing there to have case. Subject is an
obligatory element of English clauses (as a general rule; the exceptions
are irrelevant to my point here), but not in Greek. The verb morphology
in Greek indicates something about the subject HAD THERE BEEN ONE,
however, by indicating person and number. This information allows us to
supply a subject in English translation, which English demands since we
cannot normally have independent finite clauses without subjects. We must
resist moving from what English requires to statements about what Greek
does--many Greek clauses do not have explicit subjects, and the verb
ending is NOT the subject; it indicates some of the information provided
by an English pronoun, but that does not make it a pronoun.

Marion here: How can a noun (or any substantive) exist, either explicitly
or elliptically (in the mind) without having case? We get into a question
of metaphysics here. Let me illustrate with a simple English illustration.
 Suppose I say to a class: "Hand in the test." The subject of the
sentence is an elliptical "you (plural)" which takes as its antecedent the
elliptical word "class." While we do not have the inflection of either the
word "you" or the word "class" to denote the nominative case it is
understood to be in the nominative case. Why does not Greek function in
this same manner? By denying this point you "open a can of worms" that
allows one to use any word as the subject. This is precisely what happened
in the prior discussion.


Marion R. Fox
Engineering Science Department
Rose State College
6420 SE 15th Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73110

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73150-1910


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