Re: Greek Word Order

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Fri Jan 24 1997 - 00:05:00 EST

At 11:06 AM -0800 1/23/97, Mike Luper wrote:
>I was wondering what those on the list might have to say regarding the
>common or "unmarked" order of words in Greek sentences--both Classical
>and Koine.

Before we get an incomprehensible discussion going over a common
misunderstanding of markedness theory, let me point out that what is the
most COMMON order may in fact NOT be the UNMARKED order.

The unmarked order is that order which reflects no particular attempted to
give special prominence to any particular element in the sentence. In a
text which is argumentative in style, or one where particularly emphatic
statements are regularly used to highten suspense or tension in a
narrative, it may turn out that a MARKED order is most common.

In the New Testament, for sentences with an *explicitly stated* subject in
the nominative case in the main clause, my feel is that the UNMARKED order
is verb-subject-object, but that the most COMMON order is

Of course there is variation from one author to another, but I'm basing my
"feel" mostly on a reading of Luke-Acts, which represents nearly one third
of the New Testament. I once read a dissertation of the basic word order in
Luke's Gospel which argued that the basic (unmarked) order was
verb-subject-object, but his own statistics clearly showed that the order
subject-verb-object was more common. I don't find that to be a problem. (I
wish I could remember the name of the author of that dissertation!)

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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