[b-greek] RE: "hOUTOS/hAUTH Word Order" and "Questions about questions"

From: Mark Beatty (marksresearch@hawaii.rr.com)
Date: Tue Jun 19 2001 - 04:04:21 EDT

Dear B-Greekers,

These comments address the June 3 ideas from Roger Hutchinson about word
order, the June 3 response by Harry W. Jones, the June 11 "questions about
questions" by Keith Thompson, and the June 11 response by Paul Schmehl.

As for background, In April I finished my dissertation entitled "The
Mechanics and Motivations of Greek Word Order Applied to the Exegesis of the
Epistle to the Hebrews" (University of Texas at Arlington. Available around
September through ProQuest 800-521-0600 x3781.)

My approach was to predict "uneconomic syntactic structures" using a revised
minimalist program and to explain "uneconomic syntactic structures" using

"Uneconomic structures" is a technical term meaning, in effect, a violation
of the rules of the language. My theory is that languages like Greek,
Russian, and Arabic allow violations of economy for semantic/discourse
reasons. Languages like English and Vietnamese do not allow uneconomic word
order variations to the extent of what Greek allows. English and Vietnamese
do allow uneconomic structures, however, such as a prepositional phrase that
occur at the beginning of a sentence. Consider the following and then I will
address issues in Greek.

1) I went to the store in the afternoon.
2) In the afternoon I went to the store.

What is the difference between (1) and (2)? Most theories of syntax cannot
answer this about English, so it is no surprise that they cannot answer such
questions about Greek. For my theoretical approach the answer and the
reasons for the answers are the same. Because of this, we can have more
confidence that my approach is superior because it theoretically works in
all 6,808 languages of the world.

My theory states that if a syntactic structure is "uneconomic" then it has
some "special" discourse purpose. With this I can answer Roger Hutchinson's
and Keith Thompson's questions. hOUTOS after a noun is syntactically
uneconomic and therefore has a special semantic/discourse usage. An economic
question in (Koine and Modern) Greek is formed by any question word (TIS,
POU, etc) occurring at the beginning and the verb occurring before the

The next key point of my dissertation is that the REASON for "special" word
order is not answered by syntax but by semantics. (My theoretical
constructions subsume discourse under semantics.) With this I can address
the issues brought up in other submissions. Roger said:

"Thus, in referring to a man in one's immediate physical presence, one would
say, hOUTOS hO ANQRWPOS. To refer to a man possessing certain
characteristics previously described, but who would not necessarily be in
one's immediate presence, one would say, hO ANQRWPOS hOUTOS."

Harry criticized this saying:

"The demonstrative pronoun "hOUTOS" indicates near presence whereas the
demonstrative pronoun "EKEINOS" indicates remoteness. So this idea
is already covered in NT Greek."

According to my theoretical package, word order could be used for near and
remote presence and would simply be a different way to do it. This, however,
would by no means be the use in all of Roger's passages (and perhaps not
even in any of them.) I think that Harry's point is well taken, however.
With clear ways to express near and distant reference, why use something
like word order that heavily relies on inference?

My quick analysis of Luke 14:30 is that the people mocking the foolish
builder use the demonstrative and article to specify which builder they are
referring to. As I said, there is nothing special about this word order so
the use of both the demonstrative and the article is just a way to clearly
specify the foolish one they are mocking. There is no special discourse
function being accomplished (such as CONTRASTING this builder with another.)
The builder himself, however, does not need to be present, only his
unfinished tower. Also, those talking about him do not even need to be in
the presence of the unfinished tower, as there was no need for an unfinished
tower to be present when Jesus was telling this story.

As to Matthew 24:34, Jesus is being specific about who He is talking about
(since that is why a Greek uses a demonstrative with a article). But since
this is a "special" word order, something else is being done besides the
specific reference. Note, however, that this is a highly significant
theological passage. It is best to test one's theory out on language that
will not determine fine points of theology.

According to my theory, the whole noun phrase "hH GENEA hAUTH" is in a
"special" position of being to the right of the verb. In light of this, I
would guess that word order is being used to differentiate "hH GENEA hAUTH"
from other groups of people, OR, (and perhaps similarly) Jesus is
communicating that "hH GENEA hAUTH" is of key importance and concern to Him.
Compare this to 24:34b PANTA TAUTA. "All these things" are not marked as
special by word order. If these ideas are correct, then perhaps this is said
to comfort hearers and readers when they fear the whole "Jewish race" will
be annihilated. (I cannot figure how you get the temporal "generation" out
of hH GENEA hAUTH in this context so I interpreted "hH GENEA hAUTH" as the
Jewish race.)

I suggest this analysis to simply give some illustrations of some of the
possible semantic REASONS for special word order. That a word order is
"special" is mechanical and easy to identify. Why a special word order was
used is a matter for exegesis.

Back to Questions. Paul Schmehl illustrated that some English sentences do
not have word order changes. These "echo questions" are marked by intonation
in spoken language and question marks in written language. One issue that
has not been properly addressed in English grammar is WHY an echo question
is used. It is simple, usually, to identify an echo question, but few people
tell why the echo question is used. As mentioned above, if we cannot answer
such questions about our native language with native speaker intuitions, how
do we presume to answer such questions about Greek.

My theoretical bundle works the same for Greek as it does in English. There
is an "economic" form for questions. Echo questions are not economic and
therefore have some special semantic function. Paul illustrates,

"I can say, "Is the sun yellow?", and you can
respond, "The sun is yellow?".

"The sun is yellow?" is an echo question. It might communicate some special
semantic function like shock, (how can anyone think that the sun is
yellow?") or surprise (I never considered that the color of the sun could be
ascertained through the smog?)

An extended context (or ethnographic interviews) would be needed to find the
exact semantic use of the echo question. My point is something in ADDITION
is being done by an echo question besides asking a question. The something
different is semantic and must be inferred from the context.


I have discussed in very general terms my theory of syntactic mechanics and
semantic motivations for word order. In my dissertation I applied this to
the Epistle to the Hebrews and found that it works. One example is that
every time QEOS is used as subject of a verb (10 times total) it is always
in the "special" word order. Following is a couple of pages from my

But one does not need to go into neurology to test this theory. Following
are some verse-by-verse conclusions from uneconomic word order motivated by
discourse importance.
265. Heb 1:9. God is the one who set Christ above His companions.
266. Heb 2:13. God is the one who gave children to follow Christ.
267. Heb 4:4. God is the one who rested from His works.
268. Heb 6:3. God is the one who permits or does not permit ministry
269. Heb 9:20. God is the one who commanded obedience to the covenant.
270. Heb 11:5. God is the one who took Enoch away.
271. Heb 11:16. God is the one who is not ashamed to be called their God.
272. Heb 12:7. God is the one who is treating us like sons.
273. Heb 13:4. God is the one who judges adulterers and the sexually
274. Heb 13:16. God is the one who is pleased with such sacrifices.

This list uses the English phrase “God is the one …” to approximate the use
of word order in Greek. This English form was used because it singles out
the subject ‘God’ in a way Greek word order is believed to single out the
subject. The above 10 occurrences of verb-subject order with qeov" ‘God’ as
the subject shows the consequences of the theory being presented in this
dissertation. If correct, then all of these occurrences are exalting God as
the most important element in the relevant MS context.

Comparing (265) through (274) with (259) shows a pattern of involvement of
God at key places in every major section. He is integrally involved in the
position of the Son in relationship to the angels in (265) and (266). He is
the one who has the reward of rest in (267). He is the one who is sending
teachers and opening hearts in (268). He is the one who instigated the
covenant in (269). He is the one who is involved with the faithful in (270)
and (271). God is the one who either judges sin or is pleased with obedience
in (273) and (274). These are just general observations based on the
macro-structure. If a MS analysis was conducted all the way down to the
sentence level, then a more precise analysis could be given for all these
occurrences of uneconomic subject syntax.

If one followed a different syntactic theory, the numbers of VS versus SV
would give the opposite conclusion than the one reached here. If one
followed the rule that the “normal” word order is always quantitatively more
frequent than the abnormal, then VS would be considered normal and SV would
be considered abnormal. On reflection, however, the results obtained seem to
meet the common sense expectation if one considers all the variables.
Discourse motivated word orders always have overt noun phrases. Overt
subjects are not needed, since Greek, being a pro-drop language, does not
require an overt subject. Whenever there is an overt subject, something
beyond the minimum is present. When there is an overt subject with economic
word order, it is predicted that the overt subject is needed for
identification, because not enough context exists to fill in who the subject
is. When the overt subject in the uneconomic position is used, however, it
is predicted that the subject has both the role of identification and some
discourse purpose. To verify this prediction is beyond the scope of this
dissertation. The theories laid out in this dissertation, however, are
relevant to both ask this question and answer it.

I hope this helps everybody's studies. I thank everybody in advance for any
feedback. Over the past few years feedback from b-greekers has helped me
develop and better communicate my theories that comprised my dissertation.


Mark Beatty

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