Re: Trivial (but interesting?) grammatical question

From: Kimmo Huovila (
Date: Wed Feb 09 2000 - 02:21:50 EST

Randy Leedy wrote:
> The question is how to view the grammatical function of a nominative
> substantive with a first- or second-person verb. For example, I Cor
> He is adamant that hOI PANTES must be taken as an appositive to the
> understood subject of METECOMEN.
> I find myself wanting to say that the
> nominative is not inherently third person and can be taken in
> agreement with the verb as its subject, just as would be done if the
> verb were 3rd-person. It seems to me perhaps not quite true to Greek
> idiom to force the supply of an elliptical pronoun for this phrase to
> modify or rename. Again, if the verb were 3rd-person (hOI GAR PANTES
> EK TOU hENOS ARTOU METECOUSIN), I doubt that anyone would seriously
> object to calling hOI PANTES the subject, even if, technically, they
> might say that it is more accurate to view it as appositional to the
> subject implied by the personal ending of the verb. What solid basis
> is there for objecting to calling it the subject of a 1st- or
> 2nd-person verb? Are substantives that are not explicitly 1st- or
> 2nd-person inherently 3rd-person? If so, then it seems that a problem
> still remains: if a 3rd-person substantive cannot be the subject of a
> 1st- or 2nd-person verb (due to disagreement), then how can it rename
> a 1st- or 2nd-person pronoun? Is agreement in person not necessary for
> this grammatical construct? All in all, it seems simpler to me to call
> the nominative substantive the subject regardless of the person of the
> verb.

As there were not many responses to this thread, I give it a try.

First, I do not see any ellipsis in the Greek structure. In Finnish, on
the other hand, the mention of the first (second) person pronoun is
obligatory in this kind of a construction (at least according to my
native intuition), making a clear case of apposition. Normally in
Finnish the first or second person pronoun is not obligatory. But this
is hardly relevant to Greek where this construction is OK without a

If we analyze this as an apposition, the personal ending and the hOI
PANTES are most naturally taken to be in apposition, as the clause does
not seem elliptical by Greek standards (it does not have to be analyzed
as an apposition to an ellipsed (understood) personal pronoun). The
first person and the hOI PANTES both define each other: the first person
includes the speaker and the PANTES further defines the group referred
to by the plural ending.

What arguments would there be to take the ending as the subject to the
exclusion of hOI PANTES, or vice versa? Could we see them both together
as being the subject?

To see the nominative as not inherently in the third person sounds like
saying that it does not say whether the speaker or addressee is included
in the group. This is of course semantically true. This information is
added in the ending, which can be seen as defining the person of the
nominative. Would this amount to apposition?

Are these really two ways of saying the same thing?

This whole issue does not seem not empirical but rather a question
related to a framework of syntactic theory. And the same constructions
can be given several different analyses from the standpoint of different
theories (something you learn when you study different approaches to
syntax, or even compare different analyses that explain the same set of
data). So, I think this question has to do with how we want to define
subject and apposition.

Ultimately these two analyses seem to say the same thing, so they can be
seen as mutually compatible, unless one wants to adhere to some
particular theory of syntax that constrains the answer. If this is the
case with your friend, you could ask him what his theoretical framework
is and how exactly it constrains the answer.

I do not see that either analysis would lead to any dead end or other
serious difficulty, so probably it is just a matter of taste.

Your friend was very adamant about his analysis. Can he give some
arguments why your proposal would be wrong? Or could he think that these
analyses are not mutually exclusive?

I hope this is helpful.


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