[b-greek] Hypotaxis & Parataxis

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (c.s.bartholomew@worldnet.att.net)
Date: Thu Oct 12 2000 - 14:16:01 EDT

I have been taking a break from my Markan studies to do a study of
Colossians. I am about done with this, but reading over the text again last
night I was struck by Paul's use of chains of relative clauses in this

The nesting of relative clauses such as one finds in Colossians we will call
Hypotaxis. The sort of structure we find in the gospel narratives where the
clauses are linked in a flat linear structure by KAI or DE we will call
Parataxis. I think this is the standard use of these terms.

My proposal is simple. I am suggesting that Hypotaxis & Parataxis are
capable of accomplishing the same semantic/pragmatic function. That at some
rather abstract level of functional definition, Hypotaxis & Parataxis can be
viewed as two means to the same end. I am not ready to write this functional
definition but I would welcome some attempts from those more experience in
these matters.

This is just a hunch not a well worked out plan. If you are interested in
historical development of this hunch in my own thinking read on. Otherwise
stop now and press "Delete."


In the late 80's I designed and developed a prototype of a system which was
required to manage complex logical objects which were indeterminate in
structure, that is, these objects were always changing their size and shape,
and complexity. These objects could be thought of as "texts" with words,
phrases, clauses and paragraphs, etc. That is how I conceptualized them in
my design process. I had been trained in the school of recursive (hypotaxis)
solutions to these kinds of problems. I had been taught by very
knowledgeable colleagues that hypotaxis was the way to go when dealing with
indeterminate structures.

After my prototype was finished and working a fresh young and somewhat
brilliant engineer just out of grad school was assigned to me to translate
my prototype into a production system. This young fellow explained to me
that you could solve this problem using either hypotaxis or parataxis and
proceed to prove his point with a working version. In terms of Greek grammar
this fellow took my relative clauses and translated them into clauses
connect with KAI and DE and achieve the identical functional result.

I was very impressed.

I suspect that this has something to do with having a sufficiently abstract
grasp of what Hypotaxis & Parataxis are doing, i.e., a functional definition
at a level which would include both structural types.

There are of course some significant side affects of choosing either
Hypotaxis or Parataxis which cannot be overlooked without significant loss
but if we set aside these side affects I think we can see that an author can
in effect choose either of these structures and still achieve the same
functional result.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062


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