Re: syntax and semantics

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Fri May 14 1999 - 16:16:13 EDT

> In Luke
> 8:23, the semantic context certainly delimits the significance of
> imperfective aspect. The semantic context, however, merely illustrates that
> the imperfect tense was the appropriate one to use in that place, because of
> what the imperfect communicated to Greek speakers of the first century.
> The bottom line, it seems to me, is that there is an unavoidable circularity
> here. It's not so much that semantic function "sheds more light" than
> syntax. Rather, they are interdependent. Just as the semantic interpreter
> wouldn't have a clue as to the semantic structure without first appealing to
> his grammar book, the grammatical rule-writer wouldn't know where to begin
> without looking carefully at contexts and their semantic significance.
> Comments, anyone?
> Mark House
> Adjunct Greek Prof.
> Fuller Theological Seminary
> Pasadena, CA


> The bottom line, it seems to me, is that there is an unavoidable circularity
> here.

Circular indeed. Saussure viewed any given "langue" as a self contained
system and concluded that determining the best entry point for analysis
of this system is ultimately problematic.

What I am objecting too is the notion that exegesis of ancient texts can
be successfully pursued by a process of linear induction starting with
phonemes and passing through morphology, phrase and clause syntax to the
analysis of paragraphs and higher level constituents. This system fails
because it starts out with a flawed understanding of the nature of

I suspect that Robertson and Turner did not fall completely into the
error described above. But that fails to prove that the error does not
exist. Judge for yourself. Do you know anyone who thinks this way?

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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