Re: Fw: Sentence structure or construction!

Date: Fri Oct 17 1997 - 22:13:47 EDT

In a message dated 10/16/97 11:51:12 PM, you wrote:

>Jonathan's questions and observations prompt me to ask a question about
>sentence structure in Greek. Is there any?! What I mean is, what is the
>basic recognizable sentence structure? How does a Greek writer go about
>constructing his sentence? In English we more or less construct the
>sentence in a particular way, but I have never heard anyone talk about this
>in Greek (of course I may have been asleep in that class).

Well, since English is not an inflected language (at least, not much any
more), in order to communicate meaning, we pretty much have to construct
sentences in certain ways.

"A boy bit a dog" is different in meaning than "A dog bit a boy." Mostly we
put subject + verb + object.

Any modifiers to these basic pieces must be placed in such a way as not to
cause confusion.

"A small boy bit a big dog" is different from "A big boy bit a small dog." It
is only by proximity that modifiers can be properly understood (generally adje
ctive+noun, verb+adverb).

In Greek and other highly inflected languages, word order is much less
important because the word's usage in a sentence is communicated by case
endings, personal endings, etc.

hO PUER FEREI TO BIBLION means the same thing as FEREI TO BIBLION hO PUER or
TO BIBLION hO PUER FEREI etc. The only difference is one of emphasis. "THE
BOY caries the book" (the GIRL doesn't), "The boy CARRIES the book" (he
doesn't KICK it or THROW it), "The boy carries THE BOOK" (not the PENCIL).

That being said, it seems to me that, unless there is some important emphasis
he wished to make or he liked playing with word order as a matter of style
(liked to use chiasmus for example), the Greek would do pretty much as the
English do = subject + modifiers + predicate (verb + modifiers + object +

The point to remember, then, is that the construction of Greek sentences is
often a product of an author's sense of style (balance and elegance in the
flow of thought was very important to the Greeks) and what he wishes to
emphasize, what he feels will be the most effective order of thoughts to
achieve his desired end.

For these reasons, it is very difficult to answer your question: "What is the
basic recognizable sentence structure? The answer is: "It depends on what
goal or end or response the author is trying to achieve in his

>If this is a dumb question, please forgive me, and put it down to only
>having had one cup of tea this morning so far!

There are no dumb QUESTIONS. ANSWERS are another thing entirely, however. As
I read over all that I've written, it seems to me that anyone who knows
enough Greek to actively participate in this list already knows all this. I'm
not trying to insult anyone's intelligence, but that's the way I see it.

Rev. Craig R. Harmon

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