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

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Mon Feb 05 2001 - 20:48:31 EST

At 10:46 PM +0100 2/5/01, Iver Larsen wrote:
>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.

I think part of our "problem" here is that you and I are interested in
different aspects of the "problem." That is to say, you're interested in a
description of how typical noun phrases function in the Greek of the NT--I
think that's very much worth pursuing, but as I mentioned to you in an
off-list message prior to your sending of this one, I think significant
work along these lines has already been done by Micheal Palmer, a currently
inactive member of this list whose book on the subject I called to your

>> 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

I understand that's what you're focusing on, but I think you have missed my
point or at least missed why I think it's significant: the use of an
adjective in the neuter form adverbially is common, I think, in all periods
of Greek. The use of an adjective in agreement with the subject in an
adverbial sense is by no means as common in the Koine of the NT as it is in
Classical Attic, but it is common in Luke and I think the evidence, if it
were collected, would show that it is probably common in educated authors
of the period of the composition of the NT: my bet is that it would be
found in Josephus, Philo, and Plutarch. I bring that to bear on the
discussion of "Predicate" and "Attributive" positions because I think this
usage of an adjective that agrees with the subject but is construed with
the verb is something that needs to be accounted for in any thorough
accounting of the Hellenistic Greek noun phrase.

>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
>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.)

I think this is really quite true; I even think that there's a good
historical reason for it, and that is that the article is essentially a
demonstrative pronoun and still functions as such in several constructions
in Koine Greek (e.g. hO D' APOKRIQEIS EIPEN AUTOIS ... and the like). Over
a century and a half ago (I think) Middleton proposed that the article-noun
phrase is an abbreviated/syncopated demonstrative + participial phrase with
the participle of EIMI followed by a predicate word; i.e. hO ANHR is an
abbreviated form of hO WN ANHR, "The one being a man" which is not too far
removed from "The one who is a man." At any rate, the only reasonable way
to convert TO EUAGGELION TO EUAGGELISQEN hUP' EMOU into English is "the
gospel that was preached by me." If there's a difference between TO
EMOU is that the latter is "unnatural" compared to the former, so
unnatural, I think, that it's hardly likely to get said. I may be wrong
about that, but that's my gut feeling.

>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,
>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

And I really think you are right about this.

>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.
>begun in
>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
>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 fully agree with you thus far. In fact, what you're saying here seems
almost obvious.

>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
>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.

Yes, so long as there's no article in there the description seems accurate
and neatly descriptive. But the article has an impact on these noun phrases
of considerable importance, and that is where the old question of
"predicate" and "attributive" position keeps raising its head. This is
where I suspect that Micheal Palmer has really done some spade work and
just may have anticipated what you are concerned with.

What I would hope is that it is quite clear to what an extent I agree with
your description of these noun phrases in NT Greek, even as I continue to
be unsatisfied about the accounting for positions relative to the definite


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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