[b-greek] RE: word order and relative prominence in Greek

From: Glenn Blank (glennblank@earthlink.net)
Date: Sat Feb 10 2001 - 11:16:14 EST

>. . . If VSO is an abbrevation of
>VP, NP(S), NP(O), this order cannot explain the following example,
>where the verb and the adverb are split:
>John 15:25 EMISHSAN ME DWREAN "they hated me without cause"
>So I guess that VSO is an abbreviation of V, NP(S), NP(O), and that it
>simply does not take into account adverbials . . . In that
>case, the position of adverbs should be explained by means of
>other constraints . . .
>Moon-Ryul Jung
>Sogang Univ, Seoul, Korea

Yes, VSO is an abbreviation for V,NP(S),NP(O). Yes, the position of adverbs
would be explained by means of other constraints.

The Generative tradition of linguistics views the NP(O) as a constituent
within the VP, with the sentence composed of [NP(S),VP], and the VP composed
of V,NP(O). So from that perspective, yes, SVO is really
[NP(S),[V,NP(O)]], and VSO would be V,NP(S),NP(O). Incidentally, then, the
difficulty, not just for Greek but any VSO language in this tradition, is
accounting for how the V can get separated from the NP(O).

(But of course, John 15:25 is an example of why the debate continues as to
whether Greek is VSO or SVO, the NP(S) not being explicitly represented.)

Adverbs are notoriously flexible. So for example in English, I can say "The
skeptic quickly dismantled my argument" or "The skeptic dismantled my
argument quickly" or evem "Quickly, the skeptic dismantled my argument."
Accordingly, many linguistic theories see the adverb as being a constituent
of the sentence rather than of the VP. It is perhaps more productive, then,
account for where the adverb CANNOT occur than trying to catalogue all the
places it can occur. For example, the acceptability of "The skeptic
dismantled quickly my argument" is questionable. The explanation, according
to Government and Binding Theory, is that the Adverb, being a sentence-level
(S) constituent, cannot separate the V and its NP(O) because it would then
be dominated by the VP rather than by S.

This might be the approach to take in dealing with the Greek Adverb: look
at it in terms of constituent structure rather than in terms of word order.
Look NOT at all the places the adverb occurs, but where it cannot occur, and
then look for some explanation in the proposed constituent structure
for why it cannot occur there. Such an analysis may also provide further
proof as to whether Greek is SVO or VSO.

glenn blank
Pensacola, Florida

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