[b-greek] Re: Topic Prominence Marking: Jn 19b-27

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Wed Nov 07 2001 - 14:32:55 EST

> Participant Encoding and Topicality
> Heimerdinger* does address the level of participant encoding (e.g., noun
> phrase, pronoun, zero anaphora) in his discussion of topicality (see pps.
> 123-125). He argues that referential distance is not the only factor to
> consider when observing how a participant is encoded.
> He notes that Abraham is encoded repeatedly as a full noun phrase
> (Gen. 22) where the referential distance does not require this. He
> that using a full noun phrase for Abraham in a context where a pronoun or
> anaphora would be sufficient increases the topical prominence of Abraham.
> I will need some time to think this one over. The example you
> cite from Luke (see above) seems at first glance to undermine this idea.

Not necessarily. Participant reference is specific to the language. Hebrew
uses many more proper names than English does, so we translators have
learned many times to translate a proper name from a Hebrew text with a
pronoun. It has little to do with topical prominence, just a feature of
Hebrew participant reference.
Similarly, Greek uses lots of pronouns where English requires a proper name.
In Greek narratives it is common for the main participant to be referred to
by a pronoun or just a pronominal affix in the verb. But that does not mean
that a pronoun always refers to the main character. One has to distinguish
between the main characters in one section as opposed to a different
section. And there may be two main/major characters. Participant reference
is a fascinating discourse study topic, but can be complex.
An idiomatic translation into English from Greek will often use a proper
name or noun phrase rather than a pronoun. Otherwise, the reader cannot keep
track of the participants. Mark 9:14-21 is a section we commonly use in
demonstrating this kind of thing to prospective Bible translators.

Just take a look at the following section from KJV and see if you can follow
the participants:

"And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth
with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they
should cast him out; and they could not.
He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be
with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought
him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he
fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long
is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child."

Iver Larsen

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