The Greek Verbal System and Aspect Prominence

A new article by Nicholas J. Ellis, Michael G. Aubrey, and Mark Dubis has recently appeared in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society discussing the need for revising the terms we use to discuss the Greek verbal system. You can download the article from Academia.edu.

Their proposals have grown out of the work they have done with BibleMesh and are influenced by the work of other scholars such as Stephen H. Levinsohn and Randall Buth as well as conversations with Christopher Fresch and Steve Runge.

Here is the abstract:

Verbal systems can give prominence to tense, aspect, or mood. The morphology of the verbal system within biblical Greek provides important evidence to suggest that Greek is an aspect-prominent language, though one that also incorporates tense within the indicative mood. Certain traditional grammatical labels inappropriately treat Greek as though it were instead a tense-prominent language like English (e.g. the use of “present” or “tense formative” outside of the indicative mood). We need to reform our descriptive labels and general conception of Greek accordingly. In doing so, the simplicity and beauty of the Greek verbal system emerges, offering pedagogical advantages for teachers of Greek and challenging exegetes to properly account for Greek’s particular configuration of tense, aspect, and mood.

The well-informed discussion Ellis, Aubrey, and Dubis provide is long overdue. The terminology we use to label particular forms and their usage play a large role in informing interpretation of those forms. More accurate nomenclature will lead to better understanding and greater efficiency in describing the language.

I have added this article to the bibliography here at Greek-Language.com with notes to the names of each of the authors.

Inheritance and Inflectional Morphology

LeBlanc, Inheritance and Inflectional MorphologyIn Inheritance and Inflectional Morphology MaryEllen A. LeBlanc addresses inflectional morphology in four languages: Old High German, Latin, Early New High German, and Koine Greek. The section on Koine Greek comes in the sixth chapter (of eight). This is volume 94 of Peter Lang’s “Berkeley Insights in Linguistics and Semiotics.”

The book is an updated version of LeBlanc’s doctoral dissertation submitted at the University of California Berkeley in the Spring of 2014.

Here’s the abstract from Peter Lang:

Inheritance, which has its origins in the field of artificial intelligence, is a framework focusing on shared properties. When applied to inflectional morphology, it enables useful generalizations within and across paradigms. The inheritance tree format serves as an alternative to traditional paradigms and provides a visual representation of the structure of the language’s morphology. This mapping also enables cross-linguistic morphological comparison.
In this book, the nominal inflectional morphology of Old High German, Latin, Early New High German, and Koine Greek are analyzed using inheritance trees. Morphological data is drawn from parallel texts in each language; the trees may be used as a translation aid to readers of the source texts as an accompaniment to or substitute for traditional paradigms. The trees shed light on the structural similarities and differences among the four languages.

The dissertation is available in two different places online:

I’ve added the book to the online bibliography.

 

Reflections on Lexicography: Explorations in Ancient Syriac, Hebrew, and Greek Sources

ReflectionsOnLexicographySix articles from the recent Gorgias Press release of Reflections on Lexicography: Explorations in Ancient Syriac, Hebrew, and Greek Sources deal specifically with Hellenistic Greek Lexicography. This volume was produced for the International Syriac Language Project. Here is a list of the papers in the section entitled “Reflections on Greek Lexicography.”

  • A Linguistic-Cultural Approach to Alleged Pauline and Lukan Christological Disparity (Frederick William Danker) (page 267)
  • Contextual Factors in the Greek-Spanish Dictionary of the New Testament (DGENT) (Jesús Peláez) (page 289)
  • The Greek-Spanish Dictionary of the New Testament (DGENT): Meaning and Translation of the Lexemes; Some Practical Examples (Lautaro Roig Lanzillotta) (page 301)
  • The Genitive Absolute in Discourse: More Than a Change of Subject (Margaret G. Sim) (page 313)
  • Now and Then: Clarifying the Role of Temporal Adverbs as Discourse Markers (Steven E. Runge) (page 327)
  • ‘Therefore’ or ‘Wherefore’: What’s the Difference? (Stephen H. Levinsohn) (page 349)

This volume is number 4 in Gorgias Press’ series, Perspectives on Linguistics and Ancient Languages.

I have added these articles to the online bibliography.

Structural Lexicology and the Greek New Testament

I have added Todd Price’s Structural Lexicology and the Greek New Testament: Applying Corpus Linguistics for Word Sense Possibility Delimitation Using Collocational Indicators to the bibliography.

The book was published in 2015 by Gorgias Press and sells for $180 at Amazon.com.

I do not own a copy of the book (due to the price!), but here’s what I’ve gleaned from the abstract provided by the publisher and available in the Library of Congress online catalog. If you own a copy of the book, feel free to tell me how far off I am!

ToddPriceBook

Price’s book addresses both lexical meaning and phrase-level meaning in context. After introducing the concept of structural lexicology as developed through the use of computational linguistics, computational lexicography and corpus linguistics, Price explains his method for determining the contextual meaning of New Testament Greek words and phrases through an analysis of their collocations (with what other words does word x tend to appear?), colligations (in its various contexts, with what kinds of words does word x tend to hold grammatical relationships?) and semantic preferences (with what words does word x share key elements of meaning?). His approach emphasizes defining words in context by disambiguating their possible meanings.

He argues, uncontroversially, that an analysis of large (digital) corpora of Hellenistic Greek can advance our understanding of lexical semantics, and he includes numerous case studies in the Greek New Testament applying his method to exegetically problematic texts.

Revisiting Aspect and Aktionsart : a corpus approach to Koine Greek event typology

PangAspectAndAktionsartBrill is publishing a revised version of Francis G.H. Pang’s doctoral dissertation, Revisiting Aspect and Aktionsart: a corpus approach to Koine Greek event typology. Pang completed the dissertation at McMaster Divinity College in May of 2014.

As with all things Brill, the projected price puts the book out of reach for most biblical scholars and seems more directed at library collections: $142 (110).

Here’s what the abstract says at Brill’s website:

In Revisiting Aspect and Aktionsart, Francis G.H. Pang employs a corpus approach to analyze the relationship between Greek aspect and Aktionsart. Recent works have tried to predict the meanings that emerge when a certain set of clausal factors and lexical features combine with one of the grammatical aspects. Most of these works rely heavily on Zeno Vendler’s telicity distinction. Based on empirical evidence, Pang argues that telicity and perfectivity are not related in a systematic manner in Koine Greek. As a corollary, Aktionsart should be considered an interpretive category, meaning that its different values emerge, not from the interaction of only one or two linguistic parameters, but from the process of interpreting language in context.

The Library of Congress entry for the book indicates that there is an online version, but I have been unable to find it.

I will have an entry prepared for the bibliography here at Greek-Language.com later in the day today.

Marking thought and talk in New Testament Greek: new light from linguistics on the particles ἵνα and ὅτι

SimMarkingThoughtAndTalkI have just added Margaret Sim’s 2011 book, Marking Thought and Talk in New Testament Greek: New Light from Linguistics on the Particles ἵνα and ὅτι to the online bibliography.

She presents a new analysis of ἵνα and ὅτι using Relevance Theory. The book is a further development of her doctoral dissertation completed in 2006 at the University of Edinburgh under the title “A relevance theoretic approach to the particle ʻína in Koine Greek.”

It’s wonderful that Wipf & Stock Pub can offer this volume for only $27!

Historical Changes to Basic Word Order in Greek

While constituent order was quite flexible in both Classical and Koine Greek, sound arguments can be made for considering certain orders as more basic than others. In “How Does a Basic Word Order Become Ungrammatical? SOV from Classical to Koine Greek,” N. Lavadas argues that the Hellenistic Koine was pivotal in the eventual disappearance of SOV as a grammatical order. (That order is ungrammatical in Modern Greek.)

  • How Does a Basic Word Order Become Ungrammatical? SOV from Classical to Koine Greek, Studies in Greek Linguistics 35 (2015) pp. 323-335.

You can read the article online at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. I have added it to the bibliography here at Greek-Language.com.

Addition to the Bibliography

I have added Chiara Gianollo and Nikolaos Lavidas’ paper, “Cognate Adverbials and Case in the History of Greek” to the Comprehensive Bibliography of Hellenistic Greek Linguistics. While the title implies coverage of a wide range of history, the argument is based on Biblical Greek.

  • Gianollo, Chiara, and Nikolaos Lavidas. Cognate Adverbials and Case in the History of Greek. Studies in Greek Linguistics 33 (2013) pp. 61-75.

The article is available online at the website of the Institute of Modern Greek Studies at Aristotle University at Thessaloniki.

Lesson 27: Pronouns for Direct Conversation (ἐγὼ and σύ)

A few minutes ago I uploaded lesson 27 of my online grammar. There are a couple of reasons this particular lesson is a little unusual.

First, I have not yet uploaded lessons 24-26, so this one is coming out of sequence. I’m doing that simply because this one is much closer to completion than the others, and except for a couple of words that will be unfamiliar, it is quite understandable without having read the three preceding lessons. I have still not added the interactive practice exercises, but I’ll get to that as soon as I can.

Second, those of you who have been using the grammar will notice some clear formatting changes. These are due to the increasing need to make the grammar readable on a smartphone! It’s a bit amazing to me how many people use it that way, but it looks like that’s the wave of the future.

In fact, the entirety of Greek-Language.com is getting a major face-lift this summer, and it’s not just because of smartphones. The basic coding behind much of what’s on the web is quickly becoming obsolete. The net is moving full steam ahead to HTML5 and some serious upgrades to CSS. (If those acronyms are meaningless to you, don’t worry, they are to most people.) Since I wrote the code behind much of what is on the site without the help of any automated web page software, I have serious rewriting to do as HTML4 becomes obsolete. It’s a steep learning curve, but I really enjoy it.

If you notice any mistakes in lesson 27, or if any part of it seems unclear to you, don’t hesitate to point that out as comments below. Challenges from my readers make the grammar better for everyone.

Multilingual Experience and Reading Greek

I had an interesting experience reading the Greek text of Acts 2:1-20 this morning in church.

Yes. I confess to being one of those geeks who takes his Greek New Testament to church. There are quite a few people at my church who have seminary degrees, including studies of the biblical languages, so I’m not that out-of-place in doing this, though I am in the distinct minority. I take it because I enjoy reading the Greek text of any New Testament passages read in worship.

Today being Pentecost, the passage from Acts was read in five different languages, starting with English, and changing languages every verse or so. As the English was read, as usual, I read along in Greek, not paying much attention to the English reading, but when the language suddenly switched to Russian, I was jarred by the sudden lack of mooring for keeping pace with the reader. I had not thought much before about the fact that I usually finish a sentence in Greek at the same time that sentence is completed in the English translation being read aloud. It just seemed normal. But when the language being read aloud was Russian (and I understand no Russian) I could continue reading in Greek, but had no way to judge the pace. From Russian the reading switched to Portuguese. While I do understand a little Portuguese, I found that I was equally unable to keep pace. Then the reading switched to Spanish. Suddenly I could keep perfect time with the reading, then it switched to Mandarin. All ability to keep pace vanished again.

It suddenly hit me that my usual experience of reading in Greek in worship is actually a bilingual experience. I must be paying attention to the English, even though I was not doing so consciously. How else would I keep pace with it? How did my ability to keep pace return when the reading switched to Spanish today? I must have been simultaneously processing the Spanish along with the Greek.

For a short time while I lived in Louisville, Kentucky I had a job as a simultaneous translator for the Western Kentucky U.S. District Court. It hit me this morning that what I do while reading Greek and hearing the text in another language is what used to happen on the job in the court. The two languages would recede into the background, and my work felt more like just repeating what I heard without thinking too hard about how I was saying it.

This is not very different from what I experience with Spanish and English on a daily basis. I regularly have conversations in which some participants speak fluent English and little Spanish while others speak fluent Spanish with little English.  As I navigate these conversations, I don’t actually think consciously about which language to use. I simply respond in the language that seems necessary.

My experience this morning raised questions that I will ponder for some time. In a sense, it felt more like Pentecost than any Pentecost service ever has before.