[b-greek] ad hoc clarifications and significance

From: Mark Beatty (marksresearch@hawaii.rr.com)
Date: Thu Feb 08 2001 - 04:12:02 EST

Dear Wayne,

Some lamentful clarifications.

As to "word order" you said, "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."

Yes, I would agree with you if we want to be technical and precise. The
issue is not word order but constituent order. Subjects and objects of
verbs are really DPs, and the terms "subject" and "objects" are actually
short hand for a bunch of other technical stuff like possessors of various
theta roles, cases, being in certain c-command relationships, and having
undergone feature checking. I was not being technical in my comments
because I do not think many in the audience have a background in revised

About "technicalities" have you read Stowell's article "Subjects across
categories" (Linguistic Inquiry, 1983)? In that article he successfully
argues that all kinds of phrases can have subjects. According to Stowell,
we can talk about the subject of a prepositional phrase or the subject of an
adjective phrase.

As to Bibliographies, I have some 30 pages on syntax and discourse related
issues that I am presently working with. I have looked at "word order
studies" and have a page or two just on that. I quoted three prominent
Greek word order sources in my comments about emphasis. I think that
looking at more sources than I have already considered really would not
profit much. Leedy, Friberg, and Callow have done plenty of looking at
sources and they are self admittedly self dissatisfied with their own
conclusions. (Have you considered Chu 1998, a Discourse Grammar of Mandarin
Chinese. I do not think he helps much either.)

As to "apples and oranges", you illustrate the syntactic approach I am
criticizing. You have two syntax theories, an apple one for verbs, objects,
and subjects and an orange one for prepositional phrases, complementizers,
inflections, and determiners. Furthermore, I think your apples and oranges
do not even begin to address questions like, "why does English and
Vietnamese not have the flexibility that Greek has?"

As to inflections, I mean a syntactic category containing words like Modern
Greek [tha] "will" and [na] "infinitive to" and English words like [will]
and the infinitive marker [to]. I am not talking about morphology. Koine
Greek does not have overt inflection words, yet I believe I can build a
sound but technically complex argument that Koine has a syntactic
inflectional category.

As to discourse theories, I think Fauconnier's Mental Space theory, with a
healthy doze of Sperber and Wilson pragmatics by far beats out other
theories for psychological reality and explanatory adequacy.

You mentioned Doris Payne. As I remember she is very famous for word order
studies. I also remember she assumes a base structure that is then
manipulated for discourse considerations like emphasis. Right? I remember
her conclusions to be as satisfying as Leedy, Friberg, and Callow.


What is the significance of these technical clarifications.
First confidence. If a syntax theory works for all of a language, for all
forms (such as Modern and Koine) then we can have more confidence in the
predictions than an ad hoc theory. If a syntax theory also accounts for the
other 6703 languages in the world, we can have even more confidence.
Second, accuracy. We need syntax to point out what is a special word order.
Statements like "fronted constituents" over predicts because prepositions
and determiners are in front but not necessarily "emphasized". Also, many
complements in Greek (OTI, DE, etc.) are required to be second in the
sentence. Just because a constituent is in front of an OTI does not mean it
is "emphasized" because this is a mere morphological function, not a
discourse function.
Third, correct interface with discourse. We need to find out what
constituents are special before we go looking for a discourse motivation.
Fourth, your can use this in exegesis. As submitted previously, I applied
this theory to Hebrews 12:2. Maybe I'll test out my theories on a few more
passages and send them off to ya'll for review and discussion in the next
couple of weeks.

Thanks for the interaction.


Mark Beatty

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