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

From: Wayne Leman (wleman@mcn.net)
Date: Thu Feb 08 2001 - 00:17:56 EST

Mark Beatty lamented:

>I have been thinking about word order lately and am somewhat dissatisfied
>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
>subset of sentence constituents seems ad hoc to me.

Mark, the trend in all word order studies, including those on Greek, is
toward studying (syntactic) constituent order, rather than word order,
precisely to address concerns such as yours.

As to whether to consider prepositions, inflections, adverbs, etc. in the
same way that syntactic constituents like subjects and objects are
considered has to do with the fact that these parts of speech are not at the
same level of syntactic constituency as are subject, objects, verb phrases,
sentential complements. It would be mixing linguistic apples and oranges to
consider inflections (which have to do with word-level morphology) in
relation to sentential constituents. Inflections only have order relevance
with regard to the word stems to which they are affixed. For Greek, as for
English, for inflectional affixes, we only need to know if they are prefixes
or suffixes, for their ordering.

There are some good books on word order available, if you would like to read
more in this area. I don't have a decent word order bibliography at my
current office, but if you do a search on the Internet using the keywords
"word order" I would guess that you would come up with the names of some
books and perhaps also some word order studies.

You also said:

>Second, I find the label "emphasis" both circular and vague.

You are correct that terms such as emphasis, focus, and prominence have
often been
described vaguely and in ways that can reflect some circular logic. There
are linguists who have been addressing this entire issue of circularity in
the identification of linguistic phenomena and labels for them. Some top
names of scholars in this effort are Talmy Givon and Russell Tomlin and
Doris Payne, all of the Univ. of Oregon. You might want to do an Internet
search on their names, or a search for books by them, or edited by them, on
amazon.com. One way to break out of these circularity problems is to do
controlled experiments where only one parameter at a time is varied. That
kind of cognitive science, experimental linguistics work is being conducted
at the Univ. of Oregon and a few other schools that have linguistics

Wayne Leman
Bible translation site: http://www.geocities.com/bible_translation/

B-Greek home page: http://metalab.unc.edu/bgreek
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: [jwrobie@mindspring.com]
To unsubscribe, forward this message to leave-b-greek-327Q@franklin.oit.unc.edu
To subscribe, send a message to subscribe-b-greek@franklin.oit.unc.edu

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:36:50 EDT