A colleague recently ask me about Biraud’s treatment of determiners in Ancient Greek and its implications for the DP hypothesis (Determiner Phrase hypothesis). I had not seen the book in over a decade, so I put my colleague off until I could find a copy. I found one in a nearby library and it seems to confirm my vague recollection that Biraud (despite the sound of the title to English speakers) was not really discussing the issue that falls under the term “determiner” in English Linguistics.

Here’s the description of the book from its back cover along with my feeble translation. I am not fluent in French. In fact, I’ve never had a French class. What I can read in French is entirely self-taught, so the translation I provide after the French text is certainly open to debate! If you see any mistakes, please point them out, and I’ll make the necessary changes.

L’attique classique est riche en déterminants et la variéte des structures des groupes nominaux appelle une étude précise. A l’aide de quelques principes simples de description, empruntés pour la syntaxe à l’analyse distributionnelle, et pour la sémantique plus librement inspirés par diverses théories, l’auteur montre que cette diversité se laisse réduire à un système de quelques règles aux implications multiples, dont les écrivains anciens ont exploité toutes les possibilités expressives. Sont abordés en cours d’étude plusieurs problèmes de linguistique générale, pour certains desquels sont esquissées des solutions originales (le statut des déterminants d’identité es d’altérité, une possible hiérarchisation de la structure du syntagme nominal en fonction des apports déterminatifs…).

Ainsi non seulement cet ouvrage peut-il donner aux hellénistes une vision plus claire d’une question sacrifiée dans les grammaires alors qu’un mot sur six dans les textes est un déterminant, mais il peut aussi présenter quelque intérêt pour des linguistes curieux des résultats d’une approche systématique de la détermination en grec ancien et des probèmes qu’elle soulève.

Classical attic is rich in modifiers and the variety of the structures of noun phrases calls for a precise study. Using a few simple principles of description, borrowed from syntax for distributional analysis, and more freely inspired by various theories for semantics, the author shows that this diversity can be reduced to a system of a few rules with several implications, of which the ancient writers have exploited all the expressive possibilities. Several problems of general linguistics are addressed in the course of the study, for some of which original solutions are outlined (the status of modifiers of identity and otherness, a possible hierarchy of the structure of the noun phrase according to the contributions of modifiers…).

Thus not only can this work give Hellenists a clearer view of a question ignored in grammars although one word out of six in the texts is a modifier, but it may also be of interest to linguists curious about the results of a systematic approach to modification in ancient Greek and the problems it raises.

[Any mistakes in the translation are entirely my fault! Don’t blame Biraud!]

Second-position clitics and the syntax-phonology interface

David M. Goldstein (UC Los Angeles) has uploaded a paper on second-position clitics in Classical Greek to He wrote the paper with Dag T. T. Haug (University of Oslo) using Lexical Functional Grammar as their framework and proposing some revision to the theory on the basis on their findings.

The paper was presented at the Joint 2016 Conference on Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar and Lexical Functional Grammar in Warsaw, Poland. Here is the abstract:

In this paper we discuss second position clitics in ancient Greek, which show a remarkable ability to break up syntactic constituents. We argue against attempts to capture such data in terms of a mismatch between c-structure yield and surface string and instead propose to enrich c-structure by using a multiple context free grammar with explicit yield functions rather than an ordinary CFG.
Thanks to Mike Aubrey for pointing this out on twitter!

Καλὰ Χριστούγεννα 2016

Again this year the flow of traffic that came in to this blog on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was wonderful to see. I appreciate your visit, whether you come to learn about Greek or Greek Linguistics, or even if this time of year is the only time you visit.

Peace and joy to you all.

Nativity, by Jeff Weese, Creative Commons
Nativity, by Jeff Weese, Attribution 2.0 Generic Liscense

Sound of 1st Century Greek: Mark 1-9

mark1-1imageLouis Sorenson has produced a nice reading of the first nine chapters of Mark’s Gospel following Westcott and Hort’s 1881 text using the Restored Koine pronunciation. His Let’s Read Greek website has numerous helpful resources for reading Greek texts. This is one among many.

Text and audio of Mark 1-9


Alan Bunning’s Textual Criticism Resources

cntriconforhamepageI’ve updated the homepage to give more prominent placement to Alan Bunning’s Center for New Testament Restoration (CNTR). The transcriptions of New Testament manuscripts he has provided are amazing. Having these available in machine-actionable form is an incredible boon to the work of textual criticism!

I linked the image on the homepage directly to the manuscripts page at CNTR rather than the project homepage to give quick access to the carefully aligned transcriptions. Once you get there, though, the menu at the top of the page gives you quick access to the project’s homepage and other resources to help you understand the transcriptions and the process used to produce them.

We all owe sincere thanks to Alan for his careful and thorough work.

A fresh approach to Greek accents

James Tauber has published a short video explaining the accentuation of Ancient Greek words in a way that is more precise than what is found in beginning grammars that deal with the issue. If you don’t follow the argument fully, just watch a second time.

If you have never studied Greek accents before, here are some terms that may help you understand the video:

Syllable Positions

ultima = the last syllable in a Greek word
penult = second to last syllable
antepenult = third to last syllable

Accentuation Patterns:

oxytone = an acute accent (´) on the ultima
paroxytone = an acute accent on the penult
proparoxytone = an acute accent on the antepenult

perispomenone = a circumflex accent (῀) on the ultima
properispomenone = a circumflex accent on the penult

Thank you, James.

New Testament Verbs of Communication

danoventverbsofcommunicationI have added Paul Danove’s New Testament Verbs of Communication: A Case Frame and Exegetical Study to the bibliography.

Danove has been developing his Case Frame analysis since the mid 1990s, and along the way he has contributed significantly to our understanding of the argument structure of Hellenistic Greek verbs. It is good to see this new addition.

Additions to the Bibliography

greekverbrevisitedI have added The Greek Verb Revisited to the bibliography here at Each of the papers contained in the book now also has its own entry in the bibliography.

I just found out today that the book is available for Kindle. You can read it on any device with the Kindle app.

γραφὴ ζῶσα Living Language in the Written Word

ΓραφὴΖῶσαICON3x2andahalfI’m looking forward to tomorrow (November 19, 2016)! Jonathan Robie and I will present our ongoing work on the communicative Koine Greek course, γραφὴ ζῶσα. Our presentation will take place at the 1:00 pm session of the Global Education and Research Technology section of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL).

We will demonstrate the results of combining technology with best practices in second language instruction, where even an ancient language can become a living language for those acquiring it.

We are in San Antonio, TX with a very large number of Biblical Scholars, but our presentation will attract mainly Linguists, Greek Teachers, Software Engineers, and Open Data Geeks. The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is also meeting here. The SBL and the AAR have jointly coordinated their national meetings for many years.

We would love to see you at 1:00 in room 209 of the Convention Center.