[b-greek] Re: 5 Case v. 8 Case

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (c.s.bartholomew@worldnet.att.net)
Date: Wed Oct 18 2000 - 14:57:38 EDT

on 10/18/00 9:29 AM, Mark Beatty wrote:

> As to case and function: Has anyone considered arguing more than 8
> functions. Simon Wong (1997) A classification of Semantic Case-Relations in
> the Pauline Epistles suggests fourteen "cases".
> Or, if we are to go on historic morphological forms, has anyone considered
> using Tocharian as the base? It has 13 distinct case forms. Or, we could
> combine the Dative and Genitive (as in Modern Greek) and say that Greek only
> has 4 distinct cases.
> A solution to this dilemma is to recognize that forms are limited and
> functions are many. In many syntactic frameworks, "case functions" are not
> called "case functions" but something else such as "theta roles". Such
> terminology is helpful in confusing the ideas of "functional case" and
> "morphological case".


As you have noted the word "function" is equivocal. The word function is
used for syntactic function, semantic function, and pragmatic function. The
boundaries between these categories are drawn in different places according
to the linguistic model being employed.

Once we depart from categories tied directly to morphological marking there
is nothing to keep us from having a 1,000 categories. Read some of the
grammars on NT Greek published in the last five years or so and you will see
that this is the tendency, the endless multiplication of categories with an
even more endless confusion about whether the categories are syntactic,
semantic, or pragmatic.

There is a linguistic dragon lurking just below the surface of this
confusion. The linguistic dragon (YAM, the sea) is the now very prevalent
notion that DISCREET functional categories are passe, outmode residuals of
structuralism and "Early Chomsky (1965)." Several different schools of
"functionalism" have adopted as an axiom the idea that "SCALARS" are more
useful than discreet functions. This means that the whole idea a discreet
functional category is now considered suspect. This would apply to all
categories semantic, pragmatic and so forth.

The implications of this shift in thinking are enormous. For example,
instead of talking about definate/indefinate substantives we end up talking
about a range from indefinite to definite. When this kind of thinking takes
over your entire linguistic model you are going to be in big trouble.

I can see why this idea is attractive. Take the Greek genitive case for
example. Should we have one, five, thirty or a hundred semantic/pragmatic
functions for the Greek genitive? Difficult question is it not? Well we can
get rid of the whole problem by just attacking the idea of discreet
functions and just replace it with some scalars. We can say that the Greek
genitive moves semantically and pragmatically along several different scalar
axes. When we see a genitive in context we can say that this particular
genitive is a "little more of this" and a "little less of that." The
product of this sort of thinking is going to be a lot of really mush-mouthed
exegesis, massive amounts of double talk and equivocation as if that was not
enough of a problem already.

My thinking on this is that the wholesale abandonment of discreet functions
is the equivalent of intellectual suicide. It is jumping ship in the midst
of a gale. The weather was getting rough with discreet functions so lets
jump overboard and drown in scalars.


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

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