RE: Machen Revisited

From: Clayton Bartholomew (
Date: Wed Sep 17 1997 - 06:49:38 EDT

One might conclude from my criticism of *traditional text books* that I
have nothing but criticism to offer, that is, no positive proposals to put
forward. This is not the case.

I have been thinking for about a decade about a rule-based approach to
teaching NT Greek morphology and syntax. This is not a system based on
memorizing rules, it is quite the opposite. It is a system based on
writing rules.

The student would be give a simple form of graphic notation based on
predicate logic to use as a basic tool for doing rule construction.
(Examples of this notation can be found in a standard text book on
Compiler Design, by Aho and Ullman. My memory is slipping but I think
one form of this notation is called Backus-Nauer Form. Some of you
younger software engineers need to help me out at this point.)

Writing rules forces a student to think about the structural
relationships in the morphology and syntax of the Greek language. It is
much more fruitful activity than rote memorization. A certain amount of
memorization will take place as a by-product of rule writing.

Again this is not a hypothetical concept. I did it myself, using a
predicate logic language called Prolog. Syntax rules are actually fun to
write because you can get instant feed back. You write the rule and then
feed it a sentence. You keep working on the rule until you get the
sentence to parse correctly. You are learning NT Greek syntax all the
time you are doing this.

There is a snag to this system. Most of the logic notations that I have
encountered are intended for L-R languages. An L-R language is highly
word order dependent and can be read from left to right (L-R) in a single
pass. NT Greek is not an L-R language. So the notations that are
currently available are not ideally suited for NT Greek. However we have
a lot of bright, young and highly motivated technical types on this list.
Why cannot one of you take on the task of designing a rule notation
system which can accommodate languages like Greek and Russian. I have
given the problem a lot of thought but the solution is beyond me.

Given a rule notation system that is well adapted to NT Greek one could
build a course on NT Greek based on rule writing. A student's set of rules
could be tested by feeding it real paragraphs from the NT and seeing
where the rules fail. This would require that the rules be implemented as
a program on a PC/MAC. This is not a insurmountable problem.

This suggestion is a *major* departure from traditional NT Greek

Clay Bartholomew
Three Tree Point

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