[b-greek] Re: Word order and relative prominence in Greek

From: Iver Larsen (alice-iver_larsen@wycliffe.org)
Date: Fri Feb 09 2001 - 09:14:30 EST

Dear Moon
> I could send you one or more of the START articles if you are
> > interested.
> Yes, please send them to me.

I'll do that separately and directly.
> Then does VP,NP(S),NP(S) mean that a verb and an adverbial are positioned
> next to each other in the default word order? Is the default word order
> within a verb phrase V Adv rather than Adv V?

It may sound confusing, but I am currently operating at two levels.

If a sampling of a fairly large corpus of data indicates that one order is used
exclusively or very commonly and a different order of the same constituents is
never or rarely used, then I would say that the common usage is "default" and
other possible orders are marked for some specific reason. In this way I can say
that one author may use a specific order as his default order without implying
any emphasis, and another author may use the opposite order without implying any
particular emphasis.

If the data suggests that two (or more) orders of the same constituents
frequently occur, I would not talk about a "default" order, but only talk about
"relative prominence". This is a much more general principle, but could lead to
wrong conclusions if we do not take into account other factors. For instance, I
sometimes place adverbs in the wrong position in English or use other strange
word orders, because I am not a native speaker of the language.

For prominence, I include inherent, lexical prominence as well as discourse
prominence. Discourse prominence would mainly be theme raising or contrast. I do
not consider Halliday's theme-rheme theory adequate for describing Greek word
order, although it could be very useful for some other languages.

I have not studied the order of V and Adv in much detail, but from the little I
am doing as I am writing this it seems best not to talk about a default order
here, but relative prominence. Let me give a few examples to illustrate:

Mat 2:8 EXETASATE AKRIBWS "investigate carefully"
1 The 5:2 AKRIBWS OIDATE "you know very well/accurately"
Acts 23:15 hWS MELLONTAS DIAGINWSKEIN AKRIBESTERON "intending to investigate
more carefully"
Acts 18:26 KAI AKRIBESTERON AUTWi EXEQENTO "and explained to him more carefully"
Acts 23:20 hWS MELLON TI AKRIBESTERON PUNQANESTAI "intending to inquire more

If the focus is on investigation, the aspect of carefulness is already implied
and therefore the word for (more) accurate/careful is expected and does not add
a lot. But if the focus is on a more careful or accurate knowledge as contrasted
to a more superficial knowledge, then the adverb naturally comes first.

Mat 2:16 EQUMWQH LIAN "he was enraged greatly"
Mrk 1:35 KAI PRWI ENNUCA LIAN ANASTAS "and having arisen quite early (while
still) at night"
Mrk 16:2 KAI LIAN PRWI THi MIAi TWN SABBATWN "very early on the first day"
Mrk 6:51 KAI LIAN [EK PERISSOU] EN hEAUTOIS EXISTANTO "they were very much out
of themselves.."

In most cases LIAN follows what it modifies, especially if the verb is lexically
emphatic. The two Mark references differ in their use of "night" vs. "day", and
this is probably enough to determine the placement of LIAN relative to PRWI.

Mat 5:19 DIDAXHi hOUTWS "teaches thus" (focus on teaching)
Mat 5:16 hOUTWS LAMYATO TO FWS hUMWN "let your light thus shine"
John 18:22 hOUTWS APOKRINHi TWi ARCIEREI "Do you answer a high priest like

Mat 5:34 MH OMOSAI hOLWS "do not swear, actually"
1 Cor 5:1 hOLWS AKOUETAI EN hUMIN "It is actually heard among you"

Mat 10:8 DWREAN ELABETE, DWREAN DOTE "freely you received, freely give."
John 15:25 EMISHSAN ME DWREAN "they hated me without cause"
Rom 3:24 DIKAIOUMENOI DWREAN "being justified freely (without having earned it)"
Gal 2:21 ARA CRISTOS DWREAN APEQANEN "then Christ (would have) died without

Mat 11:1 METEBH EKEIQEN "he moved on from there"
Luke 9:4 EKEI MENETE KAI EKEIQEN EXERCESQE "stay there and go out from there"
This last instance contrasts that place with other places. That is why the place
adverb comes first. The order in the first example is so common that I might
call it the default order. Alternatively, we can say that in those cases the
fact that the location changes is more in focus than identifying the place they

John 13:30 EKEINOS EXHLQEN EUQUS "he (that one) went out immediately"
Luk 6:49 KAI EUQUS SYNEPESEN "immediately it collapsed"
This adverb and it sister EUQEWS almost always precede the verb, because the
lexical idea of "immediately" is almost always more prominent than the verb
idea. John 13:30 is one of the few exceptions where the verb idea is more
prominent than the immediacy. We need to exclude Mark, because he uses EUQUS in
a very unique way as a discourse marker indicating a surprising turn of events
in addition to the more normal usage.

These general guidelines of relative prominence may assist in determining where
an adjective belongs, if there is more than one possibility. But the semantics
and the context also assist in making that choice.

Mat 1:19 EBOULHQH LAQRAi APOLUSAI AUTHN "decided to divorce her secretly" and
not "decided secretly to divorce her". The secreteness of the divorce is in
focus, contrasting with normal procedure.

> If the default word order is not so useful, it seems that there is no
> limit
> to the freeness of word order in Greek. Is there no constraint to word
> order
> in Greek?

Yes, there are constraints. Some constituents can move around much more freely
than others. It is a complex issue and I'd better stop this already long e-mail.
Iver Larsen
Kolding, Denmark

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