Diachronic syntactical change (was Re: grammatical query)

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Sun Mar 02 1997 - 11:52:04 EST

I'm going to try to produce a "hybrid" response to this question;I call it
"hybrid" for more than one reason: (1) it is, I think, a hybrid
construction, namely a new type of indirect statement constructed upon the
older classical Greek standard indirect QUESTION construction; (2) I have
pieced together the elements to which I am responding by editing Ronald
Ross's last response to Perry Wiles and then "cloning" Micheal Palmer's
slightly earlier response to the question and pasting it into my edited
document; (3) although the penchant of NT grammarians is for explanation of
NT Koine constructions as much as possible in synchronic terms, I share
with A.T. Robertson a passion for the long view of Greek morphology and
syntax, even if I don't agree with everything he had to say.

At 11:36 PM -0600 3/1/97, Ronald Ross wrote:
>> Perry Wiles wrote:
>> > Infinitives with accusative subjects are common enough in a lot of
>> > languages (even in English). But today I came across the following in
>> > Acts 4.13:
>> >
>> >
>> > Here the accusative subject AUTOUS is construed with the FINITE verb HSAN.
>> > I think AUTOUS here functions as the direct object of EPEGINWSKWN (and
>> > hence is accusative) and not as the subject of the hOTI clause (although
>> > of course the referent of AUTOUS is the same as the unexpressed subject
>> > of the hOTI clause ie the two apostles). The hOTI clause is epexegetical
>> > - filling out the content of the Council's knowledge of the apostles.

At 10:37 PM -0600 3/1/97, Micheal Palmer wrote:
>AUTOUS is accusative because of its relationship to EPEGINWSKON. This may
>seem a little odd because of a difference between the Greek verb EPIGINWSKW
>and the English verbs "to know" and "to [come to] understand".
>If we say "I know you" (with "you" as direct object), we mean "I know who
>you are," or "I have met you before." In Greek, however, an object can be
>stated for EPIGINWSKW with a quite different implication. It can be much
>more like "I know [something] ABOUT YOU" or "I know [something] CONCERNING
>YOU." The SOMETHING may be expressed by an OTI clause as it is in Acts 4:13.
>Acts 4:13 uses AUTOUS in relation to EPEGINWSKON in just this way:
> They came to know CONCERNING THEM, that they were with Jesus.
>While we do use "they" as the subject of "were" in our English
>translations, we should not construe AUTOUS as the subject of HSAN in Greek.

I think that Micheal is suggesting an answer to this question in terms of
what is the standard INDIRECT QUESTION construction of classical Attic,
wherein the indirect question, "who you are" is the object of an
introductory clause such as "I know." The classical construction
idiomatically casts the SUBJECT of the subordinate clause of indirect
question into the OBJECT of the verb of the main clause. Thus:

        English: "I knew {who they (nom.) were}."
        Greek: HiDH (acc.) {TINES EIEN} (Optative required here in
classical Attic in secondary sequence)

It seems to me that the INDIRECT STATEMENT clause of Acts 4:13 has been
constructed by analogy to this older INDIRECT QUESTION consruction thus:

        English: "They recognized {that they (nom.) were with Jesus}"

The classical grammars generally explain this by saying that the subject of
the indirect question is anticipated as the object of the introductory verb
and is therefore not repeated in a nominative form in the subordinate

>> > Ronald Ross wrote:
>Perry, I agree with you that AUTOUS is the direct object EPEGINWSKON here,
>but I have more trouble accepting that the subordinate clause is epexegetical
>(to the degree that I understand the term). What traditional Greek grammars
>call "infinitives with accusative subjects" in linguistics has traditionally
>been called "subject-to-object raising" (functionalist grammarians like
>Van Valin, William Foley [University of Sydney], Talmy Givon, etc. still
>call >it that, although generativists don't). The subject of the
>subordinate clause >"moves up", so to speak, to become the object of the
>main clause, and the >subordinate verb infinitivizes.
>a. They believed [that HE was smarter than his brother].
>b. They believed HIM [to be smarter than his brother].
>What seems to me to have happened here is that the AUTOI of the
>alternative construction has indeed become the direct object (AUTOUS) of
>the main clause, but the writer did not remember to make the subordinate
>verb an infinitive, thereby producing a hybrid construction.

I think that Ronald's account here is plausible, possibly even correct,
although I still think that the analogy with the indirect question
construction better explains Luke's usage in the verse in question.

What I think is particularly fascinating, however, is the way that Ronald's
suggestion anticipates the course which Greek syntax is moving on, although
it does so rather in the subordinate hINA + subjunctive clauses than in
these indicative indirect statements such as discussed in the current

Briefly: In classical Attic, hINA + subjunctive clauses have a function
that is for all practical purposes restricted to clauses of purpose, e.g.:

        "They sent envoys to report these matters to the allies."

In the above sentences, note that the normal English uses the infinitive
where the Attic Greek uses hINA + subjunctive in primary sequence and hINA
+ optative in secondary sequence and Koine Greek uses hINA + subjunctive in
secondary sequence. Already we find this hINA + subjunctive used for more
and more constructions in the Koine apart from purpose. For instance,
consider the only slightly peculiar construction in Mk 10:35b, where James
and John come to Jesus and say, DIDASKALE, QELOMEN hINA hO EAN AITHSWMEN SE
POIHSHiS hHMIN. If we cut out the clause hO EAN AITHSWMEN SE which is a
subordinate noun clause functioning as the object of POIHSHIs, we have the

        "We want you to do" (common colloquial English)

In English we complete "we want" with an objective case + infinitive. We
explain the Koine Greek, however, by saying that hINA POIHSHiS is a noun
clause functioning as the object of QELOMEN.

Perhaps Isidoros will help us out here. I don't have any "learned"
scholarly grammars of Modern Greek (I rather doubt that the only one of
that sort I've ever consulted, the German work of Thumb, stands in much
regard these days--I really wonder whether the scholarly MG grammarians
call this an infinitive), but the inexpensive Modern Greek textbooks I have
looked at say that the active infinitive is identical with NA + subjunctive
(present or aorist)--and that it is CONJUGATED for person or number: I
think then that Modern Greek for the above clause-sequence in Mk 10:30b
would be:

        QELOME NA POIHSHiS (except that: (1) the last verb would be
pronounced, if it were used, PEE-EE'-SEES (so much for the advantages of
the modern Greek pronunciation!); (2) probably the verb wouldn't be a form
of POIW at all but rather of KANW, from the ancient verb KAMNW, "labor,"

If this is the case, then the subjunctive clause with hINA has in fact
become the Modern Greek infinitive with NA.

A fascinating language this is; and it has been for a long time.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwc@oui.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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