[b-greek] re: scalars (was: 5 Case v. 8 Case)

From: yochanan bitan (ButhFam@compuserve.com)
Date: Thu Oct 19 2000 - 19:11:32 EDT

RE: Copy of: re: scalars (was: 5 Case v. 8 Case)

shalom Clay,
>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
>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
>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
>exegesis, massive amounts of double talk and equivocation as if that was
>enough of a problem already.
>My thinking on this is that the wholesale abandonment of discreet
>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.

The storm may not be as bad as you think.
That is why it is important to recognize 'fixed' boundaries
like the five formal case-categories.
Those are discrete and fixed for particular languages and dialects.

For Koine Greek there are five formal noun categories ('cases') of
"argument relationships" (relationships of noun phrases within a

The genitive for example is a discrete formal category, yet often is
ambiguous or blurred as to semantic relationship. Denying that ambiguity
actually clouds the picture. It is important to recognize that an author
had an option of explicitly stating the full relationships clearly if that
fit one's purpose. Where other concerns are more prominent for an author,
they can collapse a relationship into an "of" phrase or genitive phrase.
The resulting DECREASE in explicit communication is part of the
communication and should be included within one's linguistic grid.
Myriad functions have their place as exemplifying possiblities for
analysis, and scalars have their place as unifying and explaining how such
apparently fragmented systems are able to function in the real world.

Randall Buth

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