RE: What is a Greek Sentence?

From: Clayton Bartholomew (
Date: Wed Jun 04 1997 - 04:39:48 EDT

Micheal Palmer Wrote:

Part One: A hellenistic Greek sentence is a set of interrelated clauses. This set may have
only one member, or many. One or more of the member clauses may be eliptical if the
discourse context provides the necessary constituents to complete them. A sentence
which contains only one clause may also be eliptical if the same condition is met.

Part Two: "Interrelated" in Part One must be understood in a tightly constrained way. The
clauses must be interconnected either 1) by the use of complementizers (such as OTI) or
conjunctions (such as KAI, DE, and hINA), or 2) by some of the member clauses taking a
non-finite form (infinitives or participles) as modifiers of, or constituents of another
clause. Of course, both of these strategies may be used in the same sentence. (Given the
regular use of asyndeton in the NT, you might also want to allow for a null conjunction,
allowing adjoining clauses with strong thematic overlap to constitute a single sentence
even if no complementizer, conjunction, or non-finite verb form is present. This position
is somewhat debateable, though. Why not just call these 'closely related sentences'
rather than trying to make them asyndetic clauses of the same sentence?)

I am not sure what *elliptical* means here? Is it the same as thing as being self
referencing or recursive? I don't think this is what it means.

Your strong definition of the term *interrelated* looks at first glance like sentences
might be definable strictly in terms of Greek syntax, that is without reference to
semantic information. Is this truly the case? Can we build a set of syntax rules (e.g.,
PROLOG predicates) for a Greek sentence which could find sentences in a text without
reference to meaning?

My personal hunch before asking this question was that the concept *sentence* is not
strictly a category of syntax in NT Greek. That to look for a *sentence* in terms of Greek
syntax alone is going to be difficult. My hunch was that a Greek clause may be definable in
terms of syntax alone but identifying a Greek sentence requires semantic information as
well as syntactical information. Or perhaps this saying too much for even for clauses?
Perhaps a clause cannot be defined strictly in terms of syntax.

What do you thing about this?

Clay Bartholomew
Three Tree Point

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