Qualitative and Indefinite Definition and Distinctions

From: Williams, Wes (Wes.Williams@echostar.com)
Date: Thu Sep 04 1997 - 12:26:29 EDT

The most helpful explanation and distinction I have read on qualitative/
indefinite nouns was in the book "Qualitative Nouns in the Pauline
Epistles and Their Translation in the Revised Version" by Arthur W.
Slatten, 1918 (older, but still good). He illustrates the usage with
"Frederick is a prince" and "Henry is a soldier." I quote below pp. 6-7.
While reading, pay very careful attention to the word "class." The
statement that a noun is qualitative arguably implies the existence of a
class has not yet surfaced on b-greek. For qualitative and indefinite
overlap, note (b) and (c) in the "Henry is a soldier" examples below.


A qualitative noun is a noun (in Greek always anarthrous) whose function
in the sentence is not primarily or solely to designate by assignment to
a class but to ascribe by the attribution of quality, i.e., of the
quality or qualities that are the marks of the class designated by the
noun. The effect is to ascribe to that which is modified the
characteristics or qualities of a class and not merely to ascribe to it
membership in that class. It is the connotive rather than the denotive
sense that emerges. In the sentence "Frederick is a prince" the word
"prince" is either designative, marking Frederick as a member of a
class, a son of a monarch, or qualitative, describing Frederick as the
possessor of the superior character presumed to distinguish the son of a

[Note the following sentences, which I believe addresses Dale Wheeler's
question as to qualitativeness and indefiniteness in the same predicate
noun; italics mine]

At the same time it is to be noted that the literal sense may obtain
alongside the qualitative. Frederick may, for example, in fact be a
prince and to him may be attributed the virtues that are regarded as
proper to his station. *In most instances this is precisely the design
of the qualitative usage,* viz., to direct the attention of a hearer or
reader to the qualities or characteristics that properly belong to that
which the noun designates. Each common noun designates any or all
members of a class, the class being defined by the possession of certain
attributes; therefore to predicate the noun of an individual, strictly
speaking, *both assigns it to the class and ascribes to it the
attributes which distinguish the class.* But in actual usage this
strictness is not always maintained. Four cases may arise, viz.:

a) The individual may be assigned to the class without stress being laid
upon the qualities of the class, though in fact the individual may
possess them all. The noun is indefinite, e.g., Henry is a soldier.

b) Because in this case there is not much stress laid upon the
qualities, the individual may be assigned to the class, though in fact
he may not possess all the qualitites: Henry is a soldier (that is, a
member of a military organization, though he lacks some of the soldierly

c) The qualities may be assigned to a member of the class without
particular thought of the class, e.g., Henry is a soldier (i.e., has all
the qualitites of a soldier).

d) Because membership in the class may be little thought of, the
qualities, or rather, a part of them, may be ascribed to one who is not
strictly a member of the class, e.g., Henry is a soldier (i.e. has
soldierly qualitites, though not a member of any military organization).


Strictly abstract nouns [such as SARX in John 1:14, or AGAPH in 1 John
4:8], being themselves the names of qualities, are essentially
qualitative, and the omission of the article serves merely to strengthen
this innate qualitative force.


[end quote]

In view of the foregoing, it is my observation that if someone is to
state that a noun must be indefinite or qualitative, mutually exclusive
of one another, and cannot overlap in the same predication (i.e.
indefinite-qualitative or qualitative-indefinite), the burden of proof
is on them to prove that assertion.

Wes Williams

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Paul F. Evans [SMTP:evans@esn.net]
> Sent: Thursday, September 04, 1997 7:08 AM
> To: Apokrisis1@aol.com; b-greek@virginia.edu
> Subject: Re: Qualitative and Indefinite
> Greg, et. al.,
> For those of us who are getting swamped by the back and forth in this
> thread, could someone more precisely define the terms
> "qualitative/indefinite" and "qualitative/definite" (and how the
> difference could be recognised im a given context).  How can one
> determine if a given context intends "definiteness" or
> "indefiniteness"?
> > It seems fair to suggest that Polycarp's reply reveals not only the
> group to
> > which he belongs (indefinite),
> How is this indefinite?
> Pardon me for asking such elementary questions in a technical debate!
> Paul F. Evans
> Pastor
> Thunder Swamp Pentecostal Holiness Church
> MT. Olive
> E-mail: evans@esn.net
> Web-page: http://ww2.esn.net/~evans

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