[b-greek] Re: Pronoun gender agreement

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Fri Jul 14 2000 - 15:40:07 EDT

At 11:39 AM -0600 7/14/00, John Barach wrote:
>Nelson Kloosterman wrote:
>> "A pronoun agrees with its antecedent in gender and number,"
>> wrote Machen in his beginning grammar (p. 47). He then proceeded
>> to illustrate with the sentence: BLEPW TON MAQHTHN KAI DIDASKW
>> AUTON, which being translated is, "I see the disciple and teach him."
>> Recall that the gender of MAQHTHS is masculine.
>> Here is my question: In light of the grammatical observation that "a
>> pronoun agrees with its antecedent in GENDER and number," what would
>> the Greek have been for the sentence, "I see the disciple and teach
>> her"?
>Carl Conrad responded by pointing to a possible feminine word for a
>female disciple. In the case of a disciple, then, there is a feminine
>word for a female thing.
>But is it the case that there is a feminine word for everything which is
>female? Take the word DIAKONOS, for instance. Phoebe (a female) is
>called a DIAKONOS (Rom. 16:1).
>Suppose you wanted to say "I see the servant/deacon and send her" (one
>of those typical Machenesque sentences). Wouldn't you have to write:
>BLEPW TON DIAKONON KAI PEMPW *AUTHN*? And in that case, wouldn't
>Machen's rule stated above break down, because the pronoun wouldn't
>agree in gender with the antecedent? Does anything like that ever
>happen in NT Greek?

There are lots of nouns that are of common gender, and it should be
understood that the second declension -OS paradigm for nouns has no
obligatory relationship to masculine nouns (consider, for instance, hH
numerous names of trees and shrubs which are regularly feminine. Moreover,
compound adjectives don't have a distinct feminine form: AQANATOS, APOROS,
EUTUCHS, etc. have a single form for masculine and feminine and another
form (AQANATON, APORON, EUTUCES) for the neuter.

Machen's rule is not really wrong so much as it is formulated too
rigidly--and in fact, almost any rule will admit of apparent exceptions. Of
course, if someone tried to rephrase it to read, "A pronoun agrees with its
antecedent in IMPLICIT gender and number," that would be misleading also,
suggesting, for instance that for the neuter diminutive KORASION we ought
to use a feminine pronoun whereas in fact we use a neuter pronoun. or that
for the neuter diminutive PAIDION we ought to use a masculine or feminine
pronoun as the case may be, whereas in fact we use a neuter pronoun
(normally at least).

So in the above instance If we really had such a sentence as "I see the
servant/deacon and send her," I think we should have no compunctions about
understanding DIAKONOS as a noun of common gender and writing BLEPW THN
DIAKONON KAI PEMPW AUTHN. Of course, once a distinct office of "deaconess"
comes to be established, a feminine noun such as DIAKONISSA may be coined
according to the rule that Socrates taught Strepsiades in Aristophanes'
Clouds: the feminine form of ALEKTRUWN ("rooster") is ALEKTRUAINA
("roosteress"): grammar, of course, can conceive of such a thing as a
"roosteress" in the abstract, and many English-speakers too are pretty
adept at creating new nouns and verbs whenever they need them.


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad@ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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