Splitting Compound Verbs?

Post Reply
Alan Bunning
Posts: 277
Joined: June 5th, 2011, 7:31 am
Contact:

Splitting Compound Verbs?

Post by Alan Bunning »

As I am preparing to release my transcriptions for the Center for New Testament Restoration , there has been one issue that I have wrestled with for years that I first posted to B-Greek back in 2007 regarding word divisions. The general rule that the CNTR texts aspire to follow is that “words should be divided into the smallest units possible that can stand alone as individual words without sacrificing any loss of meaning.” This is a briefly addressed here (http://bunning.gweb.io/CNTR/downloads/manuscripts.pdf) along with a discussion of why the “concordant” method is inadequate. You could say that I am a “splitter” not a “lumper”, but you can only do so much splitting without sacrificing meaning.

My main struggle, however, is whether prepositions should be attached to the front of verbs as compound words. For example, do we really believe that Greek children learned ανερχομαι, αντιπαρερχομαι, απερχομαι, διερχομαι, εισερχομαι, εξερχομαι, επανερχομαι, επερχομαι, ερχομαι, κατερχομαι, παριεσερχομαι, παρερχομαι, περιερχομαι, προερχομαι, προσερχομαι, συνεισερχομαι, and συνερχομαι as separate lemma? Or did they simply learn ερχομαι and saw the prepositions as separate modifying words, meaning they functioned as adverbs? Beyond the Greek grammars and A.T. Robertson, I have looked for discussions dedicated to this topic and the best thing I found so far is this (https://archive.org/details/severalpapersonp00holm) which concludes: “In general the range of combinable prepositions of a verb is in direct ration to the nearness with which the verb expresses pure motion.”

Of course, there are several cases where treating the preposition and verb root as separate words would lead to a different meaning, but then this is no different than situations involving idioms which also involve more than one word. It seems that in most cases, however, the preposition can be treated as a separate word without changing the meaning of the alleged compound verb. Some compound verb actions do not involve direction, but then again, the prepositions themselves carry a wide range of meanings in various contexts not limited to direction. As a result, there are very few cases (perhaps none?) where the meaning of the two words would be different than the compound verb. One often cited exception is “αναγινωσκω” which would literally mean “I know up”, but is usually translated as “I read”. But even then, this issue is muddled when people do not understand the differences between meaning and translation. For example, in English one might say, “The couple got hitched up over the weekend” and so when translated to another language would you find the equivalent words for being “tied up” which may be an unfamiliar idiom to them, or would you use their word for “married”? In many instances, idioms and word play in the Greek are sacrificed in order to make nicer English translations. So with “αναγινωσκω”, it could literally mean to “know up” with the concept of receiving knowledge “up” off of a written page, and that may be exactly how the ancient Greeks thought about it idiomatically. Of course, when translating it to English it might be better to use “read”, but we are not translating the Greek here, we are merely showing where the words break in Greek, not indicating how people may want to translate the words into some other language! We must not let English conventions dictate how the Greeks understood and used their own language!

This is not random, the syntax of the Greek language clearly shows the augment/reduplication of a compound verb directly attached to the root word, not to the front of the preposition! The syntax alone is compelling prima facie evidence that they should be treated as separate words. During the New Testament period, it is said that these prepositional prefixes were beginning to be attached to the verbs and thus we occasionally see the augment moved to the front of the preposition such as “ηπισταμην” for “επισταμαι”. Look at what is going on at Jude 1:14: προεφητευϲεν (02), επροφητευϲεν (P72, 03), προεπροφητευϲεν (01). In these few cases then, the syntax dictates that they should be treated as compound words. But the same type of thing goes on in compound nouns, where originally two separate nouns later syntactically became one compound noun. In a language that was written scriptio continua, there were no word boundaries specified so we must rely on syntax and meaning to guide us.

So here would be my reasons for treating compound verbs as separate words:

1. The Greek syntax clearly indicates that they are separate words.
2. In most cases, the meaning of the separate words is not different than the compound words. (And in the cases where it is, they should be treated just like any other phrase or idiom where two or more words result in a different meaning, and they should probably have their own lexical entry.)
3. There would be far fewer lemma for students to have to learn (and this is how I think it was experienced by the Greeks).

And here are my reasons for keeping the prepositions joined to the verbs:

1. This is the way we have always done things (and again I don’t care).
2. I already have the words joined together and parsed this way and to split them would take a lot of work (here I do care, but that is not a very good reason).

Thus, the reasons for splitting them seem more compelling to me than my own laziness, but I really don’t want to buck tradition and do a lot more work unless I have to. So what I would like from you is to provide some valid reasons to keep them joined together based on evidence. What am I missing? Here are some other thoughts that may lead somewhere:

1. Am I correct in that the only difference between regular prepositions and improper prepositions is whether or not they have ever been attached to verbs?
2. When multiple prepositions are attached, do they always appear in the same order and why?
3. How many compound verbs are there where the meaning of the joined words would be changed if the leading prepositions were detached?
4. I think there is a general rule that the accent of a compound verb cannot recede back into the preposition, but I am wonder if there are cases when it does. (Of course, no accents were present in the New Testament texts but this could still be a form of evidence).

Splitting the compound verbs would obviously be a radical change to the current way of thinking. If you can come up with some good reasons for keeping the current convention of compound verbs, I would really, really appreciate it!
Ruth Mathys
Posts: 13
Joined: September 5th, 2011, 6:11 pm

Re: Splitting Compound Verbs?

Post by Ruth Mathys »

This is the kind of argument that I like to test against my own native tongue, being the one that I have the best intuitions about. It's cognate with Greek and makes verb + adverb/preposition/thingy compounds in a very similar way to Greek (do any other language families in the world form compounds in this way?). So would you say that understand should be regarded as under + stand? After all, it forms its past tense in the same irregular way as stand, right? Do children learn them as variations on the same word, or as different words? Do children learn turn out (result) as a variation of turn? Is get down (descend) a variation of get?

Of course some compounds are more transparent than others and easier to relate to the base verb, but I think that to treat them all as adverb + verb is to fall into the etymological fallacy.

Ruth Mathys
Eeli Kaikkonen
Posts: 489
Joined: June 2nd, 2011, 7:49 am
Location: Finland
Contact:

Re: Splitting Compound Verbs?

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen »

Ruth Mathys wrote:This is the kind of argument that I like to test against my own native tongue, being the one that I have the best intuitions about. It's cognate with Greek and makes verb + adverb/preposition/thingy compounds in a very similar way to Greek (do any other language families in the world form compounds in this way?). So would you say that understand should be regarded as under + stand? After all, it forms its past tense in the same irregular way as stand, right? Do children learn them as variations on the same word, or as different words? Do children learn turn out (result) as a variation of turn? Is get down (descend) a variation of get?

Of course some compounds are more transparent than others and easier to relate to the base verb, but I think that to treat them all as adverb + verb is to fall into the etymological fallacy.

Ruth Mathys
I was going to write a post using this same example, "understand", but you did it first... and I agree.

The question itself is legitimate. Certainly there are situations where a compound word is learned and understood by itself without reference to its parts. Also there are "x + y" words where the whole is clearly the sum of its parts. I think the latter case is more usual with rare or new words and the former case more usual with common words with long history. Αναγινωσκω is a common word. We have enough data to see whether it was just "read" or "know up". Αντιχριστος is a rare word and we don't have a way to decipher its meaning except the linguistic "fallacy", which is not necessarily a fallacy in this case. If Paul coined the word he didn't have any other possibility to make himself understood than to add two already known meanings together to form a new "x + y" meaning.

If you ask me, parsing guides or lexicons which break up the compound words for any other purpose than helping memorizing or for historical curiousity are... crap. More often than not they lead to fallacies. Even well-meaning high quality lexicons lead unlearned readers astray when they point to parts of compound words. Louw/Nida is good: it gives only the actual meaning of the word. This leads always to correct understanding, even when the word is of type "x + y".

Have you, Alan, read for example Silva's Words and Their Meaning? Or at least Carson's Exegetical Fallacies? Carson's little book is highly recommended for any interpretation related issue.
Louis L Sorenson
Posts: 709
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 9:21 pm
Location: Burnsville, MN, USA
Contact:

Re: Splitting Compound Verbs?

Post by Louis L Sorenson »

A good corpus to work on would be the CCAT LXX files (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/gopher/text/r ... /lxxmorph/). They are split by word, but the lemma given for the compound verb (verb + prepositions) is the simplex (the verb less preposition(s)). The preposition(s) are listed as after, in the lemma form of the preposition. The compound verb, in its lemma form (e.g. κατοικέω) is missing from the file. See. Ruth 1.4 κατῴκησαν.
Ruth 1:4
KAI\ C KAI/
E)LA/BOSAN VBI AAI3P LAMBA/NW
E(AUTOI=S RD DPM E(AUTOU=
GUNAI=KAS N3K APF GUNH/
*MWABI/TIDAS A3 APF *MWABI=TIS
O)/NOMA N3M NSN O)/NOMA
TH=| RA DSF O(
MIA=| A1A DSF EI(=S
*ORFA N NSF *ORFA
KAI\ C KAI/
O)/NOMA N3M NSN O)/NOMA
TH=| RA DSF O(
DEUTE/RA| A1A DSF DEU/TEROS
*ROUQ N NSF *ROUQ
KAI\ C KAI/
KATW/|KHSAN VAI AAI3P OI)KE/W KATA
E)KEI= D E)KEI=
W(S C W(S
DE/KA M DE/KA
E)/TH N3E APN E)/TOS
Barry Hofstetter
Posts: 2014
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 1:48 pm

Re: Splitting Compound Verbs?

Post by Barry Hofstetter »

To address one issue: when we are growing up as children, we don't learn compound words as compound words. Children and "naive" speakers of languages (speakers who have not self-reflectively studied their language according to some methodology) don't "hear" compound words in their constituent elements, they hear them as semantically meaningful units in their own right. They have to be taught about prefixes and suffixes at some point in school. My favorite parallel in Greek to "understand" is ὑπηρέτης. Does it mean "under-rower?" No, it means "servant..." In Latin, I think it wasn't until I started teaching that I realized that incipio was in + capio, but of course it doesn't mean "take in" it means "begin..." Undertake is another parallel example in English. So when learning vocabulary, it's best to start with what the word actually means when it's used. Does that mean we don't at some point deal with how compounds are formed in the language? Of course not, as long as students have good grounding to see that the compound elements don't always add up to the actual usage of the word. Of course, sometimes it does, and then it's helpful to point it out, such as εἰσἐρχομαι...
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.
cwconrad
Posts: 2112
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:52 pm
Location: Burnsville, NC 28714
Contact:

Re: Splitting Compound Verbs?

Post by cwconrad »

Barry Hofstetter wrote:To address one issue: when we are growing up as children, we don't learn compound words as compound words. Children and "naive" speakers of languages (speakers who have not self-reflectively studied their language according to some methodology) don't "hear" compound words in their constituent elements, they hear them as semantically meaningful units in their own right. They have to be taught about prefixes and suffixes at some point in school. My favorite parallel in Greek to "understand" is ὑπηρέτης. Does it mean "under-rower?" No, it means "servant..." In Latin, I think it wasn't until I started teaching that I realized that incipio was in + capio, but of course it doesn't mean "take in" it means "begin..." Undertake is another parallel example in English. So when learning vocabulary, it's best to start with what the word actually means when it's used. Does that mean we don't at some point deal with how compounds are formed in the language? Of course not, as long as students have good grounding to see that the compound elements don't always add up to the actual usage of the word. Of course, sometimes it does, and then it's helpful to point it out, such as εἰσἐρχομαι...
Barry, you are stating an obvious truth that is not obvious only because, as you rightly note, we are unlikely ever to think about it -- unless or until we start learning a foreign language (English grammar doesn't seem to be taught in American schools any more) and begin to reflect analytically on our own language and how it is like and unlike the foreign language we are learning. But there's a more fundamental truth (at least I think it's true): that processing the spoken-and-heard language and analyzing the elements of the same flow of words (in terms of morphology, syntax, idiom, etc.) are utterly distinct mental actions. I think that failure to recognize that "obvious" distinction is at the heart of the "fatal flaw" of grammar-translation language teaching.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
Alan Bunning
Posts: 277
Joined: June 5th, 2011, 7:31 am
Contact:

Re: Splitting Compound Verbs?

Post by Alan Bunning »

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
Ruth Mathys wrote:This is the kind of argument that I like to test against my own native tongue, being the one that I have the best intuitions about. It's cognate with Greek and makes verb + adverb/preposition/thingy compounds in a very similar way to Greek (do any other language families in the world form compounds in this way?). So would you say that understand should be regarded as under + stand? After all, it forms its past tense in the same irregular way as stand, right?
I was going to write a post using this same example, "understand", but you did it first... and I agree.
If you would have read the link I posted (http://bunning.gweb.io/CNTR/downloads/manuscripts.pdf) , you would have seen that I used the example of “understand” and so I also agree! Obviously, as I said, certain compound verbs may be worthy of their own lexical entries. But there are a couple of flaws with the “understand” example that must be pointed out. In Greek we have a syntactical element of augment which shows us where the words DO presumably break, which we don’t have in English. Ironically, the example of “understand” would be equivalent to “αναγινωσκω” whose meaning can work as an idiom as I discussed. From the Online Etymology Dictionary :

"Old English understandan "comprehend, grasp the idea of," probably literally "stand in the midst of," from under + standan "to stand" (see stand (v.)). If this is the meaning, the under is not the usual word meaning "beneath," but from Old English under, from PIE *nter- "between, among" (cognates: Sanskrit antar "among, between," Latin inter "between, among," Greek entera "intestines;" see inter-). Related: Understood; understanding "

So again, here we have an idiom that overtime has received a common place meaning. But again, it is best to stay away from English, and focus on Greek words. I am looking for evidence in the Greek language, not examples in English! Here we do have a syntactical element of augment that shows us where the words break. And when the meaning of the words caused them to be thought of as inseparable, we have examples where the Greeks began augmenting the prepositions.
Alan Bunning
Posts: 277
Joined: June 5th, 2011, 7:31 am
Contact:

Re: Splitting Compound Verbs?

Post by Alan Bunning »

Barry Hofstetter wrote:My favorite parallel in Greek to "understand" is ὑπηρέτης. Does it mean "under-rower?" No, it means "servant..."
For nouns, there are many types of compound words that I believe must have their own lexical entries. I am not really addressing nouns here, and there is no syntactical augment to show us where the words break. My general rule, “words should be divided into the smallest units possible that can stand alone as individual words without sacrificing any loss of meaning” handles all of these other cases quite nicely. No one is arguing for a “concordant” method here.
Barry Hofstetter
Posts: 2014
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 1:48 pm

Re: Splitting Compound Verbs?

Post by Barry Hofstetter »

Alan Bunning wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:My favorite parallel in Greek to "understand" is ὑπηρέτης. Does it mean "under-rower?" No, it means "servant..."
For nouns, there are many types of compound words that I believe must have their own lexical entries. I am not really addressing nouns here, and there is no syntactical augment to show us where the words break. My general rule, “words should be divided into the smallest units possible that can stand alone as individual words without sacrificing any loss of meaning” handles all of these other cases quite nicely. No one is arguing for a “concordant” method here.
I'm not sure what a "concordant method" is, but okay. If you are talking about verbs, they are for the most part transparent compounds, consisting of a a prepositional/adverbial prefix plus the simplex form of the verb. But knowing what ἀπό means as a discrete lexical item and knowing what κρἰνομαι/κρἰνω means doesn't help a whole lot with ἀποκρἰνομαι.Καταλαμβἀνω looks easy, but it's got such a range of meaning that there seems, to me, little point in the exercise. BTW, how would you do a word like ἀπαίρω? Would you use απ- or would you write ἀπό?

I'm actually having trouble seeing the value of your work here. How do you see it contributing to anyone's overall or improved understanding of the language?
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.
Alan Bunning
Posts: 277
Joined: June 5th, 2011, 7:31 am
Contact:

Re: Splitting Compound Verbs?

Post by Alan Bunning »

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Alan Bunning wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:My favorite parallel in Greek to "understand" is ὑπηρέτης. Does it mean "under-rower?" No, it means "servant..."
For nouns, there are many types of compound words that I believe must have their own lexical entries. I am not really addressing nouns here, and there is no syntactical augment to show us where the words break. My general rule, “words should be divided into the smallest units possible that can stand alone as individual words without sacrificing any loss of meaning” handles all of these other cases quite nicely. No one is arguing for a “concordant” method here.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:I'm not sure what a "concordant method" is, but okay.
The “concordant” method is where they treat every different nugget of meaning as a literal word component which of course falls into all of the fallacies already discussed.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:But knowing what ἀπό means as a discrete lexical item and knowing what κρἰνομαι/κρἰνω means doesn't help a whole lot with ἀποκρἰνομαι.
Yes, that word like several others would then warrant its own lexical entry, and those are the exceptions. The entry could be shown as αποκρινομαι, or as with other idioms and phrases, the entry could be shown as απο κρινομαι. I also thought about using an underscore απο_κρινομαι to show that they are connected. But according to my rule, they could not be separated because that would result in a loss of meaning. This is a consistent rule that works across all types of words and I don’t see why verbs should be treated any differently.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:Καταλαμβἀνω looks easy, but it's got such a range of meaning that there seems, to me, little point in the exercise.
I don’t see any loss of meaning here, so I don’t think it would not warrant its own lexical entry. κατα still means what κατα means and λαμβανω still means what λαμβανω means. In this example, κατα has a wide range of meanings that cover all that cases of usage with λαμβανω.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:BTW, how would you do a word like ἀπαίρω? Would you use απ- or would you write ἀπό?
I am not sure what you are asking. The rules for dropping the last vowel of a preposition before words that begin with a vowel applies to other things besides verbs. There are no accent marks in New Testament Greek.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:I'm actually having trouble seeing the value of your work here. How do you see it contributing to anyone's overall or improved understanding of the language?
I am not sure what work you think I am doing and I am hoping not to have to do any work. I have already listed my reasons and the evidence for splitting compound verbs, and would like some evidence to support me not doing that. Observing the rules of Greek syntax and having fewer lexical entries seems like a win. It is also how all other compound words are treated in the lexicon. There are separate entries for words that stand alone, and compound words when the combined meaning is different. I don’t see any reason why verbs should be treated differently.
Post Reply

Return to “Syntax and Grammar”