Re: Structure and Translation Strategy (was "Negation and discourse prominence [was Romans 7:15]")

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Mon Apr 20 1998 - 00:32:10 EDT

>At 10:14 PM -0500 4/18/98, I (Micheal Palmer) wrote:

>>While Carl's translation [of OU GAR hO` QELW TOUTO PRASSW] seems
>>reasonable to
>>me (Doesn't it always?), my sense of clause-initial OU in the Hellenistic
>>period is that it negates the entire clause in a slightly different way,
>>giving a sense more like this:
>> For it's not true that hO` QELW TOUTO PRASSW
>> For it's not the case that I do what I wish to do OR
>> The proposition "I do what I want to do" is incorrect
>>Does this seem wrong to you Carl? Here the entire main clause (including
>>both the relative clause hO` QELW and TOUTO PRASSW) is negated, not just
>>the relative clause which OU immediately precedes.
>>As to the word order, OU falls immediately before the relative clause
>>(except for GAR), but this position is also the beginning of the larger
>>main clause. The relative clause appears in this initial position because
>>it is thematic (a discourse analysis term meaning roughly that even though
>>it is not the grammatical subject, it is the focus of of the sentence). The
>>presence of the demonstrative TOUTO referring back to the relative clause
>>strenghthens this thematic status.
>>The placement of OU, then becomes ambiguous. It *could* be negating only
>>the relative clause, or the entire main clause (including the relative
>>clause). If the author had meant to negate only the relative clause, this
>>could have been accomplished by placing it (along with OU) after the the
>>main verb, PRASSW, or by placing some other element, such as a subject
>>pronoun, before OU to occupy the cause-initial position. Each of these
>>strategies would have had a negative impact on the thematic status of the
>>relative clause, though.

At 6:29 AM -0500 4/19/98, Carl W. Conrad responded:

>Michael, I really think you're right about this, and although it may not
>seem that my version represents the same manner of construing the Greek as
>yours, my tendency in translation into English is generally to endeavor to
>reproduce the effect of the Greek word-order to the extent that can be done
>without violating intelligible (even if not idiomatic) English word-order
>conventions, and this often entails use of expletives, especially, "it
>is/it is not." I wrote:
>>> The fact that the GAR follows immediately
>>>upon the OU, which most normally immediately precedes what is negated, also
>>>should be viewed as an indication that it is the whole proposition that is
>>>negated here. The force of the word-order is something like: "For it's not
>>>what I WANT--not THAT--that I do ..."
>So I did say that it was the whole proposition that was being negated, and
>in this I think that you and I are in full accord, Micheal, about the
>STRUCTURE of OU GAR hO QELW TOUTO PRASSW, but my translation strategy did
>not reflect the structure so much as the word-order, and it must be granted
>that the effect of the Greek word-order cannot be reproduced without
>employing extra fillers.

Yes. I should have picked up on this in your original message. And your
translation does do an admirable job of reflecting the implications of the
Greek word order.

Carl wrote further:
>Let me add that some day, perhaps after retirement, I want to study a bit
>more closely the similarities/influence of Latin grammar on Koine Greek,
>and that one of the things I'd like to look at more closely is precisely
>this sort of clause where a relative pronoun and its short clause precede
>the demonstrative pronoun which functions as its antecedent and the verb
>comes at the end of the clause, of this type, which I've noticed especially
>in Propertius, ...

[A wonderful discussion of QUOD AMES TU ID AMAMUS OMNES and its negation
NON QUOD AMES TU ID AMAMUS OMNES deleted for the sake of brevety.]

>Does this make any sense, Micheal?

It makes very good sense. If you ever decide to do that study of the
influence of Latin grammar on Koine Greek, I would love to read it.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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