[b-greek] RE: Nochmals positions relative to article

From: Iver Larsen (alice-iver_larsen@wycliffe.org)
Date: Mon Feb 05 2001 - 16:46:11 EST

Dear Carl,
Excuse me for deleting most of the earlier message. What you said was good and
But let me follow up on the main theme I am interested in.

> The semantic difference is readily granted; what grammatical difference do
> you identify between them and what role is played in that by position
> relative to the article? I've suggested that in what's traditionally been
> called the "attributive" position these words function ADJECTIVALLY,
> whereas when in what's traditionally been called the "predicate" position
> they function ADVERBIALLY--and that's why I've suggested as perhaps more
> adequate terms "adjectival" and "adverbial" positions relative to the
> article.

The reason I don't find this new proposal ring a bell with me has to do with how
I understand the function of word order in Greek NPs and also the notion of an
NP as a head with a number of modifiers attached. I'll give an example below.

> My point is that BDF show a few examples of adjectives "outside the article
> noun group" (OANG in Moon's terminology) or in what is traditionally termed
> "predicate position" functioning adverbially. I haven't done the testing,
> but I rather suspect that quite a more could be found by searching
> contemporary Hellenistic literature.

I am not following the IANG or OANG suggestion either.

You have a good point that there are occurrences of a few adjectives that may
agree with a noun in gender and number, but still function as an adverb.
Sometimes these adjectives become fixed in the neuter form when used as adverbs.
I accept that they function adverbially, but I see those as special cases, and I
am focusing more on how adjectives normally modify nouns.

Let me give two examples to illustrate my point. These examples have not been
selected to prove a point, but to show something that can be found over and over

                  not can a-tree good fruits bad produce
                a good tree cannot produce bad fruit
                (general knowledge, nothing unexpected or emphasized)

I analyse DENDRON AGAQON as an NP with a head noun followed by an adjective that
modifies the head. This NP functions as the subject in the clause. Similarly
KARPOUS PONHROUS is an NP with a head noun followed by an adjective. This NP
functions as object in the clause. In my scheme (TO) DENDRON TO AGAQON would
still be one NP, but after dialogue with Moon, I am inclined to analyse TO
AGAQON as a rankshifted clause within the NP, corresponding to English "a-tree
that (is) good". This fits with the fact that the copula is usually not
explicitly stated in Greek. I then take the definite article in this
construction to be a rankshifting marker, indicating that a whole clause
modifies a head noun. This helps to explain why a whole clause can be
rankshifted into an NP by use of the article, (e.g. Gal 1:11 TO EUAGGELION TO
EUAGGELISQEN hUP' EMOU). (Most languages use a relative pronoun for
rankshifting, and Greek can also do that. But it seems that the relative clause
rankshifted by a relative pronoun has a more independent existence in the
sentence than a relative clause rankshifted by the article. I need to research
this more.)

In most cases an adjective will follow the head noun, at least if the noun is
anarthrous, but sometimes it precedes. I am interested in finding out what is
the semantic or pragmatic reasons for this shift in word order. I do not think
it is haphazard or that the difference in word order carries no difference in
meaning. My hypothesis is that for an NP that consists of a head and an
adjective, the unmarked, normal order is noun plus adjective, because it is the
most common order. Then I am suggesting that when the adjective is moved in
front of the verb the adjective receives relatively more prominence than the
noun. Very often that prominence is a matter of contrast. It fits with the
general principle that fronting in Greek implies some kind of emphasis, whether
it is to highlight the topic or pave the way for a contrast. Whether the NP has
the definite article or not is not a matter of prominence. That has to do with
concepts like back reference, known/unknown information and indefinite/definite.

The following is an example where the adjective precedes the head noun:

Mark 14:6 KALON ERGON HRGASATO EN EMOI "She did a good work to/for me"
Compare with, e.g.
you a good work will complete it"

My hypothesis is that when the adjective precedes the head noun, then the
semantic content of the adjective is relatively more prominent than the semantic
content of the noun. In English, we cannot show this by word order, but have to
use the phonological feature stress. The lady in Mark 14:6 did a good deed, not
a bad deed as the disciples were thinking. But in Phil 1:6 the focus is on the
work that God is doing, not whether it is good or bad. God only does good

I am still investigating what difference it might make that the NPs have the
definite article. When the article occurs, the unmarked position of the
adjective seems to be between the article and the noun, and therefore I am not
sure how much weight to put on the word order when the article is present.

This hypothesis seems to work well and it can account for relative word order in
Greek in a way that no other scheme I have met can do. It seems to apply also to
the other kinds of "adjectives" such as numerals, demonstratives, etc. The
general principle that the most unexpected or important items tend to appear
before other items also applies to the order of phrases within the sentence.
Since this is the opposite of English, we often lose that aspect in translation.
For instance, in Mark 14:6 the focus is on the NP "good work", more than on
doing it or to whom it was done. In Phil 1:6 the focus is on God who began it,
and that he began it "in you" more than the work is good and that he will
complete it. It is to be expected that God will complete what he starts.

Iver Larsen
Kolding, Denmark

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