[b-greek] Re: forground & background, boundry markers -Longacre's Model

From: CWestf5155@aol.com
Date: Sat Nov 03 2001 - 11:08:35 EST


I'll certainly take you up on your suggestion. I haven't read Heimerdinger
yet and I appreciate the tip--I anticipate that it will be very helpful to me
one way or the other!

I think that I would tentatively agree with the thesis that the semantic
structure of a narrative is "only loosely coupled to formal criteria",
depending on how he defines loosely. However, you will remember Longacre's
discussion on "zones of turbulence", which I may apply more broadly than he
does. I suggest that a occurence of an multiple number of marked formal
characteristics in one sentence or in sequence will have significance at the
level of discourse--that is, at some level above the sentence.

In my model I don't equate marked formal features with prominence, but I
suggest that they are significant contributors to prominence. However, many
occurences have to do with specificity, focus, etc. Also, even at the level
of discourse, there may be relative prominence (emphatic indicators) within
background, foreground and frontground.

Say it is a given that the color red is marked. I know of paintings where it
occurs in the background, foreground and frontground for accent. Wherever it
occurs, it draws the attention to the feature within the domain that it
occurs in--it does not by definition make the object it colors frontground.

So all this is to say that marked formal features and even the general
category of prominence make one contribution to a model of discourse
structure that ought to be complex, and weigh in diverse other discourse
features that contribute to textual cohesion, topic structure, co-text and

But a marked feature is always a marked feature in the Kingdom of Narnia. It
contributes meaning at some level and its contribution should be
distinguished from a default form (unmarked form). We're looking at patterns
here, and it would be a mistake to deconstruct the contribution of marked
features because they don't invariably indicate the foreground.

I wish I could take a more active role in these discussions--I'm having
trouble these days just reading the posts!

Cindy Westfall
Assistant Professor
Colorado Christian University

In a message dated 11/02/2001 3:09:35 PM Mountain Standard Time,
cc.constantine@worldnet.att.net writes:

> R. Longacre's notion of using formal language features to determine
> discourse structure in Hebrew Narrative has now been subject to an
> critique by Jean-Marc Heimerdinger*.
> Heimerdinger argues that semantic structure of a narrative is only loosely
> coupled to formal criteria and that reliance on formal features to
> discourse boundaries will lead to a distortion of the semantic structure.
> Gosh, this sounds a lot like an argument Cindy Westfall and I were having a
> year or two ago.
> Anyway, anyone who is using Longacre's DA model in their research will want
> to read this book*. This applies just as much to NT Greek studies as it
> to OT Hebrew.

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