Re: EN + dative in Eph 5:18

From: Larry & Beth Hartman (
Date: Wed May 07 1997 - 20:52:42 EDT

Clayton Bartholomew wrote:
> Andrew Kulikovsky wrote:
> >>>>>>
> But your interpretation is ruled out by the extreme improbability or
> impossibility of EN+dative indicating the *content* of filling.
> >>>>>>
> Andrew's statement raises some basic questions about the nature of
> language. It seems like the folks posting on the b-Greek list are not
> all from the same school of linguistics. This causes some problems with
> the clarity of the discussion because the disagreements are often not at
> the surface but really about very fundamental issues.
> I see in Andrew's statement a confusion of the formal and functional
> level of syntax. Just as many of us would find concordant translation
> offensive, violating our understanding of lexical semantics, it seems
> incorrect to me to say that it is impossible for EN+dative to indicate
> the *content* of filling. I don't mean that it is simply an incorrect
> interpretation of this verse, rather that is incorrect methodology which
> reflects a notion of the relationship between syntax and semantics which
> has been proven inoperative.
> I would suggest that Chomsky was correct in stressing the arbitrary
> relationship between syntax and semantics. Now the word arbitrary here
> is used in the same way it is used in lexical semantics. It means that a
> syntactical pattern maps to a semantic domain, which like lexical
> semantic domains is somewhat fuzzy on the edges. This fuzziness does
> not spell the end to all exegesis. It does not mean that a syntactical
> pattern can be used just any old way. But it does mean that the meaning
> of the utterance is not tied directly to the semantic pattern. It does
> mean that statements like: it is impossible for EN+dative to indicate
> the *content* of filling, are dubious statements.
> Rereading my discussion above I am not satisfied that I have stated my
> case very well. Are there any linguists out there that can say this
> better than I did?
> Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
> Three Tree Point

How about theory vs. practice? While grammar can be taken to very
strict limits with rules an theories, often its implementation at the
user level is less accurately implemented than what we learn from our
text books. I have encountered this many times as military field
linguist. For those who are students and professors of Greek, continue
the good job with these discussions, but don't forget that human
language is not rigid, but flexible. We do not with absolutes all the
time, but probablies, and possiblies, etc.

Larry A. Hartman
Defense Language Institute Alumnus
Department of Arabic Studies

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