Re: Greek Word Order

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Sat Mar 08 1997 - 22:49:37 EST

At 10:22 PM +1000 3/7/97, Ward Powers wrote:

>I find that there are four major "building blocks" in the construction of a
>Greek clause or sentence: Conjunction, Direct Object or Complement, Verb,
>and Subject, and that this is the order in which they typically occur. (Some
>Greek Grammars describe as a "predicative nominative" what I have called
>here the "complement".)


The advice you give on how to construct and English sentence from the Greek
(not quoted here) sounds like good advice to beginning students.

I found the order of your building blocks somewhat unexpected. The order
you give is quite common, but I don't really think it is the most common
order. Two issues may account for why it "seems" like the most common order
to you. One, it may in fact be the most common order in the text with which
you have spent the most time, even though it is not the most common
overall. Two, because this order is so strikingly different from English,
it may be the one which sticks in you memory most.

In particular, I suspect that an order which places the object somewhere
after the verb is actually more frequent. While detailed studies on the
issue have not proved to my satisfaction where the most basic position of
the subject is, most place the object somewhere after the verb.

Then again, you may be right. I have not done detailed studies of the
entire New Testament. My own work in Luke and Acts suggests that the most
frequent order in main clauses there is actually quite similar to English,
but every time I read through the text I come away with the feeling that
the most BASIC (unmarked) order places the subject after the verb (in spite
of the frequency data on main clauses).

I still think that your approach could be very beneficial to beginning
students, though. It would certainly get them to recognize that they should
not expect the order in Greek to be like the order in English!

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:09 EDT