Re: Dependent clauses, etc.

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Fri Mar 07 1997 - 01:20:54 EST

At 5:50 PM -0600 3/6/97, Ronald Ross wrote:

>. . .. I am aware that I am to a large degree an outsider on this list,
>so I hesitate to make suggestions of this nature, but it seems to me
>that it would be healthy for the study of biblical languages to begin to
>look at them in light of other languages. Linguists working in the area
>of typologies typically take two different approaches: 1) start from a
>form (structure) and see what functions it fulfills within a language
>and cross-linguistically; 2) start with a function and see what forms
>it takes within a language and cross linguistically. If a variety of
>forms do what relative clauses are supposed to do, then we can probably
>conclude that they are different types of relative clauses. IMHO.

You should not feel like an "outsider". Your comments are very welcome
here. I find your awareness of modern linguistics refreshing. If my
response to your last post contributed in any way to your feeling like an
outsider, I sincerely appologize.

The distinction you make between two different approaches in the paragraph
quoted above is helpful. I tend to fit your type 1), though I definitely
see the value of the type 2) approach. The *reason* that I like the first
type of approach (especially when discussing Greek in this forum) is that I
believe that Greek speakers of the hellenistic period *chose* to use a
participial clause rather than a clause with a relative pronoun (for
example) for a reason, and that reason gets blurred if we lump the two
types of clause together in one semantically or functionally defined
category. Still, there is great value to the second type of approach, and
it overcomes some of the serious shortcomings of my own approach.

By the way, I could NOT explain what the reason for their choice of one of
these types of clause over the other was with any clarity. That's one of
those things I'm still working on. :-)

I think the distinction between your two types of approach may well
correlate with a difference of personalities. I find reading Comrie (whom
you mentioned in your last post, and who fits type 2) to be somewhat
frustrating, for example, because I want to see a more syntactically based
analysis. This is just my personal bias. I do recongnize the tremendous
contribution that he has made to tense and aspect studies as well as
universals. My thinking just works more clearly using the first of your two

Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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