[b-greek] "Standard" word orders are cumbersome

From: Mark Beatty (marksresearch@hawaii.rr.com)
Date: Thu Feb 08 2001 - 04:37:19 EST

If we regard Koine as having a "standard", "basic", or "normal" word order
of SVO or VSO, we are in effect saying that other word orders are derived
from that. This involves a cumbersome process of a native speaker producing
one form and then transforming it into another. Linguistics has progress to
the point where this cumbersome process is not longer necessary. The
alternative is to have several possibly conflicting principles that have
relative strengths when they conflict. Thus, we might say that the head of
a Greek phrase is to the left of the complement. (Thus, the preposition is
to the left of a noun phrase, the determiner is to the left of a noun, the
verb is to the left of the object.) At the same time, other factors are
working. For example, if the sentence is a question there is a +Q feature
at the beginning of the sentence and it "wins" an object from a verb. This
would vary between languages. In Greek and English the wh-word is found at
the beginning of the sentence because +Q is strong. In Vietnamese and
Chinese the wh-word says in place (called in situ wh-words), because +Q is
weak. Another example is if there was some discourse reason to make an
object special. In this case the object would also be found elsewhere than
after the verb. This is possible in Greek and Russian, but not in English
and Vietnamese.

Such a theory, as illustrated above, allows one to explain all the syntax of
a language, not just parts of the language. It also allows one to compare
the syntax of languages and account for minor differences simply by the
relative strength of features. That means this theory accounts for more
data. This is good because, more data explained = more confidence in the
conclusions of your syntax.

Such a theory, as illustrated here, also allows one to identify "special"
word orders that have discourse motivations. Just figure out the most
"economic" application of the principles. Make sure you have accounted for
all the exceptions that are not discourse related. Then all other
variations are by default discourse motivated.


Mark Beatty

B-Greek home page: http://metalab.unc.edu/bgreek
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