Re:Sentence structure or construction!

From: Clayton Bartholomew (
Date: Sat Oct 25 1997 - 07:13:01 EDT

Don Wilkins wrote:
My own anecdotal experiences have all suggested
that the Greek word order is generally the same as English, and I have
actually used this inference in my former Greek classes as a gauge to help
my students pick out points of emphasis and deemphasis. I also use this
inference in doing Bible translation, though of course I take into account
the myriad specific minor differences between Greek and English. As to
closing statement, I wouldn't expect any new, or at any rate interesting,
material to come out on word order, period. If that proves to be the case,
then your statement will stand by default. Otherwise, while I'll keep your
experiences in mind, I have no reason to take a different approach from
the one I have taken so far.


I don't get it. Some time ago, I ran across this same statement in James
Efird's intro grammar (page 20). Commenting on word order in NT Greek
Efird said "Generally speaking, it is similar to that of English sentences."

When I first read this statement in Efird's book I was dumbfounded,
overcome by disbelief. I immediately checked the back cover of the book
to see where the author was coming from. I concluded that the author's
credentials were good enough and that he must mean by this statement
something totally different from what I was taking it to mean.

I think a statement like *Greek word order is generally the same as
English* is prone to be very misleading. I just read again Stanely E.
Porter's treatment of this subject (Idioms of the GNT, pps 287-297). I was
able to note perhaps a dozen specifics in which the word order of NT
Greek is different from that of English. Here are just a few examples.

At the phrase level of analysis, NT Greek adjectival modifiers and
demonstratives tend to follow their substantives (Porter pps290-291).
At the clause level of analysis, NT Greek shows a flexibility of constituent
order completely unknown to English.

The NT Greek clause has less *necessary* constituents than an English
clause. What we mean by this is a NT Greek clause can get buy with a
minimum of elements (e.g., a single verb, two nouns). This has a side effect
on word order questions. How do you describe the word order of a clause
that contains a single verb? Is the verb final or initial? I point this out to
show that comparison of NT Greek word order to English word order can
be a very slippery business.

I am *not* denying that there are similarities between the word order in
NT Greek and English. But I do find the statement *Greek word order is
generally the same as English* a little hard to swallow.

Another statement of Don Wilkins' I find perplexing is:

I wouldn't expect any new, or at any rate interesting,
material to come out on word order, period.

My response to this statement is more disbelief. What is the point of
studying language if this statement is true?

Clay Bartholomew
Three Tree Point

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