Re: Concord of Gender and Number

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Aug 21 1998 - 09:13:32 EDT

At 7:48 AM -0500 8/21/98, James P. Ware wrote:
>I am a little confused by Clayton's and Carl's most recent postings on
>concord. Both seem to take Matthew 12:6 as a case of apparent lack of
>concord. But meizon in this verse is not an attributive or predicate
>adjective, but is rather a substantival adjective i.e. it functions as a
>noun. It doesn't strictly speaking have either grammatical concord or
>discord with anything in the clause. The relevant issue here, it seems to
>me, is what factors enter into play when a Greek speaker assigns gender to
>substantival adjectives. Here Clayton's hunch seems to fit the context.

I think that I did indicate, in my initial response to the question
regarding Mt 12:6, my understanding that MEIZON was substantival and that
this was quite sufficient to explain its neuter form. I may have been less
clear about it when I responded to Clay's more specific question about
passages that didn't seem to follow the rule.

>Another thing that confused me was Carl's statement that "normally an
>adjectival modifier or pronoun is going to agree with its noun or
>antecedent in number, gender and case, although a pronoun will take its
>case primarily from its function within its own clause." Am I correct in
>reading this to say that concord in case is not necessary with pronouns,
>except in a few special instances? If so, then I am not confused. Would
>it be accurate to rephrase this: adjectives must agree with the noun they
>modify in case, gender and number; pronouns must agree with their
>antecedent in gender and number only, their case being determined by their
>function in their own clause (with [normally] the exception of
>demonstrative pronouns in deictic clauses)?

Sorry about that. I find it very difficult to write clearly when I'm trying
to offer a generalizing rule like that because I'm mentally thinking of
possible exceptions even as I'm formulating what I write. The problem (or
one of them) with the formulation above is that pronouns fall into
different categories: demonstratives used with a noun will have to show
concord (hAUTH hH POLIS, TOUTON TON ANDRA); relative pronouns do normally
agree with antecedents in gender and number but have their case determined
by their function within their own clause. But the problem even here is
that there is a not-uncommon tendency for relative pronouns to take the
case of their antecedents even when this is not the proper case for their
function in their own clauses. What I really wanted to dispute was what it
seemed to me Clay was arguing, that there isn't much consistency in Greek
usage with regard to rules of concord. I think that there's general
consistency and rather few exceptions--and I wouldn't consider the use of a
neuter plural subject with a singular verb a real exception, because this
usage is quite regular.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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