Re: Incidence of article

From: Thomas J. Kraus (
Date: Thu Jun 24 1999 - 03:28:00 EDT

On: Thu, 24 Jun 1999 15:04:28 +1000 Rick Strelan wrote:

> Is it at all possible that the use/non-use of the definite article not only
> with names but in other circumstances has to do with the metre or rhythm or
> the 'sound' of the text as much as with grammatical rules or usage?

Dear Rick,
lacking articles in short verses may have to do with rhythm, e.g.
Menander«s GNOMAI MONOSTICHOI (cf. ed. by Jaeckel) do rarely contain the
article. But there may be other reasons cited for this (the complex
functions of the Greek articles have no place in most of them!). The same
counts for the massive corporae of inscriptions (primacy of brevity!) and
some early. Your assumption might be correct with some special usage
(think of hymns or the like, pieces of literature which had to be
memorized easily), but on the whole the problem with the Greek article is
that its usage is very complex, changing during the process of a language
developing (see the rare use in Homer, the more or less undogmatic usage
in the Graeco-Roman papyri, and the changing attitude towards the article
during literary Koine - e.g. new Atticism).
If you consult D. Sansone, Towards a New Doctrine of the Article in Greek:
Some Observations on the Definite Article in Plato, in: Classical
Philology 88 (1993) 191-205 and H. Kurzowa, Zum Charakter des griechischen
Artikels, in: Listy Filol. 92 (1969) 199f. you«ll find some of the
problems mentioned and treated. Gildersleeve«s Syntax (part II) is a
classic and as useful as the treatment by D.B. Wallace, Greek Grammar
Beyond the Basics. An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids
1996) 209ff.
Please, be careful to judge the Greek article on an absolute basis, i.e.
to say the functions of the Greek article are such and such, and then look
up references in a text to identify these functions. Style is always an
effect of subjective joice. If you need more references or have an
explicit example to discuss, please, feel free to contact me immediately.
I cannot promise to solve problems (who does anyway?), but will try to
throw in my five pennies, if you want me to.

Best wishes,

Thomas J. Kraus
Universitaet Regensburg
Kath.-theol. Fakultaet
Universitaetsstr. 31
D-93053 Regensburg
Federal Republic of Germany

Tel. + 49 941 943 36 90
Fax. + 49 941 943 19 86

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