[b-greek] John 4:17-18

From: Wayne Leman (Wayne_Leman@SIL.ORG)
Date: Mon Jun 25 2001 - 21:43:59 EDT

Clay, even though languages like Hellenistic Greek lack syntactic
constituent order (such as that which English has), there are still
pragmatically predictable orders, and these can be called "standard
patterns". Cross-linguistic studies demonstrate that there are
overwhelmingly high percentages of languages in which answers are given to
questions using certain predictable consituent orders (typically, the
constituent "answer" if mentioned first in the answer).

ANDRA in John 4:17 is not fronted from a tabula rasa of constituent order.
It is part of a discourse and that discourse is logically connected its
original author and is held together by principles which the speakers of the
language internalized as toddlers. ANDRA is an important constituent in the
discourse flow. Jesus' reply to the woman comes after her assertion that she
had no husband. A contrastive or remonstrative reply very, very often (very
high percentages, scientifically) is correlated with some constituent order
variation. We can replicate these kinds of constituent order changes with
fluent speakers of living languages.

Some languages have syntactic constituent order, others have pragmatic
constituent order, and many have some combination. No one makes such
pronouncements ex cathedra. They come after careful study of discourse
connecteness, cohesion, tension points, etc.

Wayne Leman

> > In other words, I would choose to be very cautious and tentative about
> > significance of the fronting of ANDRA. I have read all the works that
> > mentioned and numerous others which talk about word order and
pragmatics. I
> > am as yet unconvinced that this "rule" as you stated it is "one of the
> > assured results of modern linguistics."
> Why am I unconvinced? Because the whole notion of "fronting" assumes that
> know for sure what order constituents should take in a Greek clause. You
> cannot identify a "fronted" constituent unless you have identified a
> standard pattern. All of the logic of "fronting" goes to pieces if you
> simply deny that this pattern has been conclusively identified.
> I am taking an attitude of "suspended judgement" on the standard pattern
> issue and for that reason also on the question of "fronting." I know that
> the pragmatics folks will say I have missed the point, that a fronted
> constituent is not dependent on a standard pattern but having read in
> detail the arguments for this position I still think they are wrong.
> In my mind saying that you can identify a fronted constituent without
> a standard pattern is like saying you can see black camels moving across a
> black desert on a moonless night.
> Clay

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