Re: Morphology vs. syntax

From: Mark B. O'Brien (
Date: Thu Jan 23 1997 - 22:37:40 EST

On Thu, 23 Jan 1997 10:57:21 -0600 Edgar Krentz <>
>I think this is a false antithesis. In the introductory, basic Greek
>one must spend time on morphology, the ability to recognize and parse
>words carefully. Alongside that one must begin the study of syntax as
>After morphology is somewhat under control, then a more systematic
>study of
>syntax is necessary--along with the control of the principal parts of
>that show, to use Smyth's phraseology, some "formal peculiaritey of
>He gives a long list of these on pp. 684-722.
>Beck in the middle ages of the 1940s for three years (HS and college),
>regular as clockwork, we were tested on five of these verbs each
>(The instructor selected the ones he regarded as most significant.)
>When we
>finished the last, we did it all over again. The second and subsequent
>times through the list, 90% was the minimum for a passing grade. While
>thought it a form of Chinese water torture at the time, I have now
>grateful for over 40 years!

As always, I appreciated your comments, as well as insights into your own
experience. My own experience in learning Koine was through texts like
Wenham, Jay, and especially Goetchius (whose emphasis on linguistics I
appreciated). We did look at some of the aspects of morphology that
helped explain certain forms, but on the whole we moved through
morphology pretty quickly, focusing mostly on rote memorization of the
"weird and wonderful", and the emphasis shifted towards grammar and

I am entirely in agreement that the beginner really needs to master both
aspects of the language, I just realize that my own training did not
train me well to analyze a lot of forms... merely to recognize them
because I had memorized them cold.

Mounce's text seems to spend a lot of time (in the stated interest of
reducing rote memorization) explaining morphology in a level of detail
that I have seen swamp some beginners, and although rote memorization is
distasteful to many (if not all!), I wonder if this isn't a better
approach. (I'm starting to have aspects of Carl's "garden metaphor" come
to mind again!)

>One should evaluate Mounce on the basis of the entire proposed course
>sequence, not on the basis of the introductory grammar alone. The
>BASICS, pays constant attention to syntax in the notes, and provides
>"cheat sheet" summary of grammatical usage.

This is a good point, and perhaps presents a bigger picture of Mounce's
pedagogical approach (along with Wallace).

Thanks again for your enlightening input...

Mark O'Brien
Dallas, TX
"I have always thought that the acquisition of language and culture gave
a person completely new aspects of personality." -- Head of Humanities
and Art, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:03 EDT