[b-greek] Re: Definiteness of Anarthrous Nouns in Prepositional Phrases

From: Mike Sangrey (mike@sojurn.lns.pa.us)
Date: Wed Jul 26 2000 - 12:18:58 EDT

Jay Adkins <JAdkins264@aol.com> said:
> Mike Sangrey wrote:
>> Just a quick note of two cents worth:
>> The definiteness (or not) of nouns is not just determined by coupling
>> the presence of the article with the lexical definiteness of the
>> noun. One must also determine whether the substantive is `focal' in
>> the context.

To which Jay Adkins replied:
> I never intended to suggest that it did, thus my comment about taking
> the time to research the passages involved to determine which ones
> were definite and which ones weren't. The search itself was
> presented as a response to Dale M. Wheeler's research and Paul
> Dixon's comments and question regarding the "data on some other
> prepositional constructs, like EIS, KATA, etc."

First, I should apologize to Jay. When I quoted you I made the conscious
decision to NOT include the context to which you were responding. I knew
at the time that I was pushing the limits and that people might misread;
I thought I was safe, but only barely so. With that, I say I'm sorry.
Thanks for clarifying for any who may have misunderstood you because
of me.

Paul Dixon <dixonps@juno.com> also asked:
> Could you elaborate a bit on Levinsohn's discourse? Particularly,
> what does he have in mind regarding the substantive being "focal"
> in the context as a determiner of definiteness?
> Not too long ago on this list there were some who were arguing that
> a noun could be both definite and qualitative ...
> ... I am assuming that an anarthrous noun is
> either definite, indefinite or qualitative, but only one of these three,
> as per its usage in the context.

Well, I'll try (but this is more than two cents :-) Credit goes to

Levinsohn interacts quite a bit with Wallace in his chapter, "The Article
with Substantives[1]", significantly agreeing with him[2]. However,
Levinsohn brings a decidedly linguistic perspective additionally to
the discussion. I think that is valuable.

Levinsohn has written the chapter to support his claim that: "if the
referent of an *anarthrous* noun phrase is known and particular (or, to be
more exact, if the author assumes that the reader will be able to assign
it unique referential identity...), this gives it *prominence*. It is
marked as prominent because it is of particular importance. [emphasis
his]" That is a very densely packed sentence and should be chewed for a
while in order to properly digest it. The context of the chapter helps
(buy the book :-)

This *prominence* affects whether the author codes with an article or
not. (A synonym for "prominent" is "focal".)

He goes on to cite Wallace and reiterates Wallace's point of the over-
lapping nature of `indefinite' (I), `qualitative' (Q), and `definite'
(D). That is, that I overlaps with Q which overlaps with D. D and I,
obviously, do not overlap. The picture is of three ellipses, the center
one overlapping the two at either end. I point this out since your
(Paul's) assumption stated above is not quite precisely right--at least
according to Wallace--there IS overlap.

He points this out to say that this frees the author to use the article
to refer to a qualitative concept which is "in scope" (my words).
For example, He cites James 1:3-4:


He says, "if a reader can assign unique referential identity to an
anarthrous noun, then it is prominent." What that means is that
James, having introduced the concept of hUPOMONHN, now has it in
scope, therefore he can refer to it using the article (I think of a
finger pointing at the in-scope item). So, James in verse 4 is saying
the `endurance', the quality I just mentioned, brings about maturity.

Other examples (these are proper names) include, Gallio in Acts 18:12-18
and Pilate in Mark 15 (first reference anarthrous, next nine are

The key, and what I think Linguists in general and Levinsohn in
particular bring to the table, is that the article is frequently used for
"in-scopeness" from the perspective of the author as he/she perceives the
reader will perceive it. Or put another way, for particular concepts the
author believes these concepts are active in the cognitive environment
of the reader. This is so either because the author has put it there
(hUPOMONHN in James 1:3-4), or activated it by referring to it by
association (TWi hUPHRETHi in Luke 4:20 by association with the synagogue),
or it is there by nature of the extra-linguistic context of the reader
(THS SAMAREIAS in John 4).

An interesting twist to this involves what Levinsohn calls "the Global
VIP (Very Important Person)[3]". He says, "The basic principle is as follows:
 1. reactivations of the global VIP after a temporary absence are
    articular (perhaps he is considered to be in the wings, rather than
    truly being reactivated)
 2. reactivations of participants other than the global VIP are

This leads him to say later that "[a]narthrous references to activated
participants are therefore of particular significance. In particular,
they make the participant and/or his or her initiative or speech
*prominent*. [emphasis his]"

Thus the anarthrous active participant is not LESS definite, it is MORE
prominent. (This is fodder for one of those arguments which go
something like: "Less filling. No, tastes great. No! Less
filling..." :-)

So, that is really what I meant when I said, "One must also determine
whether the substantive is `focal' in the context." There are multiple
dimensions of semantics going on here in the interplay of article with
context. It would be easy, actually, except the semantics of the
English article--the one we so easily interpret with--are different
than the Greek article. I'm sure I'll have to be reminded of this in
the future.

It appears to me the general principle is:

 1. anarthrous concepts indicate concepts thought to be not in scope
    which are being brought into scope.
 2. articular concepts indicate concepts thought to be already in-scope
 3. anarthrous in-scope concepts are very prominent

[1] "Discourse Features of New Testament Greek"; pages 148-167.

[2] However, regarding Apollinius Corollary, Levinsohn cites Heimerdinger
    and gives Luke 4:38 as a counterexample.

[3] An interesting research project would be to map the words
    in a letter, say Philippians, to semantic domains. Then ask, and
    answer the question, "What semantic domains function analogously to a
    Global VIP?" One would use the techniques of participant reference,
    articularity, point of departure, etc. I suspect that the major
    theme(s) of the letter would naturally show prominence and you
    would have objective evidence as support it. I also suspect the
    major breaks in the letter would also surface.

Mike Sangrey
Landisburg, Pa.
       Every Christian library should have a plaque which states:
              "There is one book which explains all these."

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