Re: Degree of indefiniteness of hOSOI clause in Gal 3.10

From: Warren Fulton (
Date: Sun Feb 06 2000 - 17:07:24 EST

"Moon-Ryul Jung" <> wrote:

>If Modern Greek has
> hOSOS + subjunctive,
> hOSOS + indicative,
> POU + indicative,
>then hOSOS + indicative would be used typically when the referent is an
>actual person/thing, I would think.

To which Carl replied:

> I think, Moon, that you are making the questionable assumption that all
> users of a language are fully cognizant of prevalent standard syntactic
> alternatives and fully observant of the nuanced differences between them.
> In fact, however, it doesn't take a lot of observation of a spoken language
> to discern that different individuals vary considerably in their conformity
> to normative patterns--that such conformity is a matter of statistical
> probability. Another factor involved in the existence of hOSOS +
> subjunctive clauses in Modern Greek is the endeavor in the Katharevousa as
> supported by an elite class to revive morphological and syntactical
> patterns that have long since passed out of usage in the demotic language
> spoken (and written) by the majority of Greek-speakers. My assertion--which
> I readily admit is a supposition rather than something I can readily
> prove--is that the distinction observed by classical Attic writers is
> probably NOT observed by the writers of the GNT with any regularity if at
> all, and that we therefore cannot be very confident about the degree of
> indefiniteness intended by Paul in Gal 3:10. I would really welcome Warren
> Fulton's additional input on this question and for that reason am cc'ing
> this to him, hoping he's not caught up in the disturbances in Austria at
> this time (I'm assuming that <.at> means Austria, at any rate).
> Vienna, Austria

Yes, I'm here thanks. Thank you for your concern. The demonstrations have stopped today, although they went on late into the night. We live just a few blocks from "Party HQ," and it got fairly rowdy last night.

Carl's comments on MG usage are right on target. It's not so much that demotic speakers are careless with their great linguistic heritage, more that everyday usage does not demand the kind of razor-sharp distinctions the language is capable of drawing. At our school, we teach a lot of Austrians to prepare for residency in the US. Of course, our teaching is "by the book." Last year, one of my students called me long-distance to ask about a colloquial future form we had failed to teach him. "What's FIXING TO?," he wanted to know.

The point I wanted to add to Moon and Carl's dialogue was that the feature of using hOSOS as a correlative pronoun is still alive in Greek. The feature of enhancing the indefinite quality of hOSOS by combining it with (KI') AN + subj. is still alive. And not just in the cobwebbed and artificial katherevousa -- there are modern pop songs that blare out of loudspeakers wherever you go in Greece that make use of these forms.


Don't cry over them,
No matter how great your sorrow.

Greek pop music is the best in the world, by the way.

Because of this incredible persistence as a living feature of the Greek language from ancient times until today, I don't think you can just write off the use of AN + subj. as a meaningful marker of indefiniteness after the Attic period. It not only appears with hOSOS, but with the relative pronouns hO,TI and hOPOIOS. But, along with Carl, I do warn against setting up rigid standards of usage that no native speaker would pay the slightest attention to.

Even if we establish however that hOSOS is capable of expressing different shades of indefiniteness, we are still very far from the conclusions that Moon would like to draw. Moon, if I understand you correctly, you want to know how hOSOI + indicative limits or shapes the group that it refers to.

Moon had asked:

> I wanted to know the hOSOI clause in Gal 3:10 single out a historical
> entity rather than potentially existing entity. By "low degree of
> indefiniteness" do you mean that the hOSOI clause refer to an entity
> which is potentially existing, but which may be realized at any moment?

No, I was just saying that the fact that hOSOI here lacks the AN + subjunctive construction indicates it is not as indefinite as it could be. In English I can say "all those who do such and such," or I can put fuzzier edges around my group by saying "whoever should do this or that." The second version is less sharply defined because I have switched to a mood of hypothesis. If this subjunctive element of vagueness is what you mean by "potentially existing," then, no, it is missing in Gal. 3:10. But as Carl has pointed out, the subjunctive/indicative distinction would not be strong enough to support a reading that either removes the referents of hOSOI to the abstract or localizes them in a specific group:

> I wonder if hOSOI clauses always refers to an indefinite group
> who satisfies the condition expressed in the clause, rather than
> a specific or concrete group, who satisfies the condition.

When Peter delineates the group of believers in Acts 2:39 as hOSOUS AN PROKALESHTAI KURIOS O THEOS, he uses the subj. with AN. I hope no one, at least no one on this list, will try to extrapolate from the verb form a definition of this group as either closed or open, specific or indefinite. Moon, do you see the pitfalls in this method? But your question was what the choice of hOSOI as a delineator says about the group it delineates.

When a writer wants to define a group of people, s/he has a number of different grammatical constructions to choose from. The most common way to do this in Greek, I guess, is to use the participle. In Matthew 10:41, we have the set of those who accept a prophet for the right reasons defined with the participle DECOMENOS. In the next verse there is another group category defined with hOS AN + subjunctive. Are the groups defined in these two verses essentially different in terms of how the membership is specified? The RSV has "he who..." for one and "whoever ..." for the other. As a linguist I hear a little bell that says the second group is more "indefinite" than the first, but as a reader attuned to the message level of the text, I probably hear no difference. All the groups in verses 40-42 are essentially of the same type because of the identical contexts of group --> reward. As a reader attuned to textual melody and rhythm, I might conclude that the switch to hOS AN after a string of
DECOMENOI is really just stylistic.

Now, in your original post, Moon, you spoke of the "inherent indefiniteness of hOSOI." Actually, in comparison to a generalizing participial construction or the indefinite use of hOS with AN, hOSOI, a quantifier, should carry a more limiting sense when defining groups. But that's just theory. When you look at Gal. 3:10,


you really don't worry too much about the fact that hOSOI is being used here and not one of the other constructions Greek possesses to express the function of defining a group. Sure, a number of the translations have "all who" to get across the idea of "as many as" in hOSOI. The "all who" notion, though, can be just as well transported by PAS hOS AN, as in Rom 10:13 and Acts 2:21, or simply PAS hOS in the very next verse here in Galatians. What strikes me here is neither the lack of a subj. nor the choice of hOSOI, but:

1) the context of this sentence in a discussion about the law and
2) the framing of this sentence as a typical statement of the law.

In legal statements the patterns are typically:

definition of the group --> class of crime
class of crime --> punishment
or just
definition of the group --> punishment.

To me, Gal. 3:10 belongs to the same kind of legal statement that we get in other verses with the indefinite hOS AN:


or with the "generic" pronoun hOSTIS:


or with a generalizing participle:


I put Gal 3:10 in this category because it is consistent with the pattern of group definition --> punishment in these and many other examples. Moon, I hope this approach of examining the functional role of the sentence, combined with the kind of structural analysis you've been doing, helps you further along with your exegetical work. Carl, thank you for reminding list members that Koine can be approached from the classical side, but also from the modern perspective. Greek is a continuum of living usage that has not stopped.

Warren Fulton
Inlingua School of Languages
Vienna, Austria

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