Re: diagramming vocatives

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Apr 28 1999 - 12:31:54 EDT

At 8:52 AM -0700 4/28/99, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
>Micheal W. Palmer wrote:
>> Here we seem to have a slight difference in the meaning of "function within
>> the clause." Syntactically, the vocative is as Carl states, "not within a
>> clause at all". That is, it does not have a syntactic function such as
>> subject, object, adverbial, etc. Semantically, however, vocatives are
>> quite often coreferential with some noun phrase or pronoun which IS
>> syntactically a part of the clause (as is SOI in Clayton's example). SOI in
>> Luke 1:3 is the indirect object of the infinitive GRAYAI (expressing the
>> RECIPIENT argument of that infinitive), and the vocative KRATISTE QEOFILE
>> does refer to the same person as SOI, though its case assignment marks it
>> as not having the same *syntactic* function as SOI.
>> SOI and KRATISTE QEOFILE have the same semantic role (we can call it
>> RECIPIENT) but a different syntactic function (indirect object for SOI, ???
>You are right about one thing, there is some muddying of the distinction
>between semantic and syntactical function in this discussion. However I
>am not sure that I am ready to agree with the idea that a vocative with
>what several people on the list have called an "appositive" relationship
>to a constituent in the clause has no syntactical function in the same
>clause. Why relegate the vocative with an appositive function to the
>syntactical outer darkness? We do not relegate any other "appositives"
>to the outer darkness.
>On the other hand there are vocatives which do not bear any clear
>relationship to any constituent in any clause. These vocatives should be
>relegated to the syntactical outer darkness. A vocative of this sort
>calls attention to the addressee, when the addressee is not otherwise
>represented in the clause.
>There is no way that we are ever going to reach consensus on this list
>about syntactical analysis much less semantic analysis. There is too
>much diversity. Diagramming is a graphic byproduct of a language model.
>Since there are several language models represent on b-greek I would
>never expect much in the way of agreement on how to go about

You are clear as a bell here, Clay, perhaps even clearer--so often I don't
understand you, but I (think) I understand you clearly here and agree with
you wholeheartedly. I note also, to my slight chagrin, that we (did I start
this myself? shame, shame on me!) are using theological (or is it canon
law) terminology even to describe attitudes toward grammar:

>clause. Why relegate the vocative with an appositive function to the
>syntactical outer darkness? We do not relegate any other "appositives"
>to the outer darkness.

I forget exactly what the phrase is for explaining OBSCURA PER
OBSCURIORA--something like that. And I suppose that the outer darkness

One of the "obscure" grammatical facts that has always intrigued me
somewhat is that the Vocative should even be deemed a grammatical "case." I
know that it traditionally is so deemed, but with some degree of
questionability. For plurals one always uses the nominative plural, but for
singulars there really is no distinctive case form: O-stem nouns simple use
the non-functional E-grade of the stem, while other nouns generally are the
simple stem without the usual nominative indicators such as lengthening of
the stem vowel or addition of the nominative -S marker. So I ask myself the
(rhetorical?) question: can an endingly noun stem have a case?

That's the silly question I sit pondering after collecting a batch of final
exams for First Year Greek when I don't really want to start reading them.

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

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