Re: Discourse Spans (hierarchy)

Date: Mon Mar 08 1999 - 15:53:23 EST

Dear Clayton,

The issue of starting point for structure is very intriguing, and a case can
probably be made for many different starting points.

Using the teleological level as a starting point bothers me because in
comparison to the other three categories (grammatical, lexical, and
informational), purpose is most intuitively determined--and I've seen such
approaches becomes quite circular. You need an indisputed statement of purpose
to use it as a starting point. More than half the time, this is the very thing
that I'm trying to discover in the analysis. However, treating genre and
purpose as givens is common in 'top-down' analysis.

I like the informational approach (Young says: references to the same
participants, concepts, events, setting or the like). This tends to work well
with narrative as a starting point. I see deixis as being pretty instrumental

But also, I think that tracing participant, repetition and reference chains
(and how they interact) are standard for any analysis. Actually, there is a
lot of cross-over between the lexical and informational approach as defined by
Young if lexical 'repitition' is defined broadly.

Nevertheless, I still see the analysis of the grammatical indicators as vital.
As often noted, Hellenistic Greek lacks the orthographic structure that
Western composition utilizes. In some ways, I think that the analysis the
material is similar to analysing spoken conversation--the authors give
signposts (discourse markers) to indicate how a given element fits with in
with the discourse. I like to work out the logical relationships between the
clauses and clause clusters based on the conjunctions, particles,
subordination, etc.

The grammatical 'spans' are extremely useful in detecting how the author
breaks up (or shifts) and presents the material--it can function like
paragraph indentation. And what is good about the grammatical features is that
they are formal indicators
Once I saw how some analysts overrode grammatical 'spans' on the basis of
their intuitive notion of topic, I realised how important it was to respect
them, and even use them as a starting point of anaysis (I'll give one
example--it is quite common to place a break between Hebrews 1:3 and
1:4--which breaks up a periodic sentence that the author unified

Starting point is, after all, pragmatically decided. What is vital is that you
don't use one feature to build a case and then run rough shod over the rest of
the structural indicators.

Cindy Westfall
PhD Student, Roehampton

In a message dated 3/7/99 2:25:37 PM Mountain Standard Time, writes:

> Richard Young (intermediate NT Greek, p252) lists four types of
> discourse spans: grammatical, lexical, informational and teleological.
> I have one little problem with this list. I don't think the members of
> the list are the same sort of thing. I would suggest reworking the list
> by grouping informational and teleological spans separately from
> grammatical and lexical spans. What is the point? Who cares?
> I think that discourse structure is primarily semantic. For this reason
> I would say that the best place to start searching for a discourse span
> is in the realm of information and teleology. However, the
> implementation of a span in NT Greek will involve markers at the
> grammatical and lexical levels. These markers serve to set off the
> boundaries between topic (informational) and purpose (teleological)
> spans in the discourse.
> What I am suggesting is a differentiation between what is used to mark a
> span (grammatical and lexical markers) and what actually identifies the
> substance of the span, information and teleology. I think what is
> called for is some sort of hierarchy which represents this distinction.
> In the actual performance of discourse analysis I would choose to look
> first for groupings at the informational and teleological level and then
> ask myself how have grammatical and lexical markers been used to set off
> these groupings. I have tried to illustrate this in my pervious posts on
> discourse structure in Luke.
> Additional note:
> Both Richard Young and Stanley Porter (Idioms) spend most of their time
> talking about the first two categories (grammatical and lexical) because
> these are most obviously connected with Greek Grammar which is the
> subject of their books (and b-greek). However, I think that spans at
> the informational and teleological level must be considered when talking
> about how discourse is marked in NT Greek, otherwise we end up
> overlooking the question of what these grammatical and lexical markers
> are doing.
> There may be one or two people on this list which will appreciate this
> point. For the rest of you, reach up with the little finger of your
> right hand to your favorite key.

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