[b-greek] ad hoc word order and ambiguous emphasis

From: Mark Beatty (marksresearch@hawaii.rr.com)
Date: Wed Feb 07 2001 - 20:49:09 EST

I have been thinking about word order lately and am somewhat dissatisfied in
the existing approaches. First, why are only verbs, subjects and objects
considered? Why not also considered prepositions, complements, and
inflections (Modern Greek)? Having a theory of word order only for a select
subset of sentence constituents seems ad hoc to me.

Second, I find the label "emphasis" both circular and vague. Friberg
defines it as:
"Emphasis is focus, either marked or unmarked ... Marked focus highlights an
argument over the predicate, or more generally a naturally unmarked element
over the constructional focus. (1982:10)"

Callow defines it as
"Emphasis" normally involves the speaker-hearer relationship in some way
(and) highlights information that is of particular interest or significance
or which will be surprising to the hearer (1992:71)."

Leedy (1991) states the following in the conclusion to his dissertation:

The major area needing further work is the problem of identifying emphasis
objectively. A whole study should be devoted to this topic in order to lay
a firmer foundation for subsequent word-order investigations wishing to take
emphasis into account. The present writer often had a sense that a
particular word was emphatic, but yet was unable to provide an objective
reason for claiming so. A fuller understanding of different kinds of
emphasis would likely enable one to explain the order in many of the clauses
that this study leaves unexplained. This kind of study would not be a study
in Greek grammar, of course. It would be a study in discourse phenomena and
should therefore be undertaken by someone trained in that field. Such a
study would pay rich dividends in providing insight into nuances of meaning
and should therefore be welcome among careful exegetes of the word of God.

I think Leedy is right in grounding "emphasis" in discourse. If this was
done, however, it might be better to not even use the word "emphasis"
anymore because it is so vague. Instead we would say things like, "this
word has a special position because it is linking this section with
another", or "this word has a special position because Jesus is so different
than others".

Of course to say it has a special position, then we first have to find out
what is a special word order. If we simply say, "any thing fronted" then we
would also have to say "the preposition is always emphasized over the object
because the preposition is always in front of the object."


Mark Beatty

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