Re: diagramming vocatives

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Thu Apr 29 1999 - 00:44:00 EDT

This note is a continuation of my discussion with Clayton about the
syntactic/semantic value of the vocative case (if we should really call it
a case, as Carl pointed out). If you are not interested in this topic just
use that wonderful little 'delete' button. If no one else shows an
interest, I will either drop the topic, or invite Clayton to continue it
off list.

>Micheal W. Palmer wrote:
>> 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, ???

And at 11:52 AM -0400 4/28/99, clayton stirling bartholomew responded:

>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.

Well... no other appositives are assigned vocative case. They all have a
case which reflects their function within the clause. It's hard for me to
immagine what *syntactic* function appositive vocatives could have. Perhaps
it would help me understand your perspective if you could state precisely
*what* syntactic function you see them as having.

>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.

I guess we would agree that *all* vocatives "call attention to the
addressee," and that this is the basic function of the vocative case,
wouldn't we?

Perhaps I can state my point more clearly from a different angle. All
vocatives refer to the addressee. The fact that the addressee is sometimes
also the referent of a different word or phrase--one which does have a
syntactic function (subject, object, adverbial, adnominal) within the
clause--does not imply to me that the vocative has a syntactic function
different from any other vocative. Take your example from Luke 1:3., for
example. KRATISTE QEOFILE refers to the addressee as would any other
vocative. The fact that SOI also refers to the addressee does not change
the syntactic function of KRATISTE QEOFILE. It does create the interesting
semantic relationship of a coreferrence between KRATISTE QEOFILE and SOI.

I guess it's a matter of perspective which can't be proven to everyone's
satisfaction, as you state so well in your next paragraph:

>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

If you are interested we could continue this discussion off the list
(unless others are interested). Frankly, though, I think you are right
about the difficulty of consensus on this one.

Micheal W. Palmer
North Carolina State University
Philosophy and Religion (New Testament)
Foreign Languages (Ancient Greek)

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