Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Practices

Biblical Greek morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics
RandallButh
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by RandallButh » May 20th, 2015, 11:11 am

Close your eyes! Hold your nose! And jump! :D
There is some good news. Languages are internalized in what I call a spiraling phenomena. They self-correct to some degree as one moves forward without fossilizing.

Basically, as some pieces of a system are absorbed, a person encounters input that is different from what was expected and the sensitivity that has been developed allows one to recognize the difference and to grow and learn. It's OK to say "I goed to the store" as long as one pauses when they stumble across "I went to the store" and thereby grow.

More practically, consider aspect. A speaker/writer/encoder of Greek is forced to make an aspectual choice with every sentence and clause that is produced. That will greatly enhance sensitivity to aspect and will make for more astute readers. Even Hebrew speakers during the Second Temple were affected. Mishanic Hebrew showed a dramatic increase in the the הוה+participle construction. they had become more sensitive to aspect through contact with Greek (not through Hebrew itself, since Hebrew had difficulty expressing aspect).

Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » May 20th, 2015, 1:28 pm

Randall Buth wrote: There is some good news. Languages are internalized in what I call a spiraling phenomena. They self-correct to some degree as one moves forward without fossilizing.

Basically, as some pieces of a system are absorbed, a person encounters input that is different from what was expected and the sensitivity that has been developed allows one to recognize the difference and to grow and learn. It's OK to say "I goed to the store" as long as one pauses when they stumble across "I went to the store" and thereby grow.
It sounds like what Frank Smith calls “testing the hypothesis” with reference to children. If you never say “cat”, you may not discover that the big one with the loud sharp ‘purr’, and different smell doesn’t fall under category “cat”. Note to self: add “dog” – try it out on the ones that go “baa”.
Randall Buth wrote: Even Hebrew speakers during the Second Temple were affected. Mishanic Hebrew showed a dramatic increase in the the הוה+participle construction. they had become more sensitive to aspect through contact with Greek (not through Hebrew itself, since Hebrew had difficulty expressing aspect).
I had no idea the "הוה+participle construction" influence happened so early. My Hebrew prof used to bemoan the fact that modern Hebrew had gone so far down this road under the influence of the prevailing languages of the age.

One thing that would be helpful in learning the norm (such as it is) and the range of possibilities for word order would be to find some decent collation of different arrangements in the GNT. So far I have not been able to find a very complete collation.

BDF has a bit of a collection under “13 WORD AND CLAUSE ORDER” (§§ 472-478). I also found Allison Kirk’s monograph to be helpful in that she cites a wide variety of different examples. (see Word order and information structure in New Testament Greek --- also note -- discussion on B-Greek: New Dissertation on Koine Word Order (Allison Kirk, Leiden).

Are there any other more complete collations which document ‘themes and variations’ in GNT word order?
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RandallButh
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by RandallButh » May 20th, 2015, 2:42 pm

Randall Buth wrote:
Even Hebrew speakers during the Second Temple were affected. Mishanic Hebrew showed a dramatic increase in the the הוה+participle construction. they had become more sensitive to aspect through contact with Greek (not through Hebrew itself, since Hebrew had difficulty expressing aspect).
I had no idea the "הוה+participle construction" influence happened so early. My Hebrew prof used to bemoan the fact that modern Hebrew had gone so far down this road under the influence of the prevailing languages of the age.
I was speaking, of course, about imperatives הוֵה, since the הָיָה +participle was First temple, normal Hebrew for marking both time and aspect.
By difficulty of expressing aspect, I was referring to the phenomenon where תבוא would normally refer to "she will come, arrive PERFECTIVE" not to "she will be on the way, will be coming, IMPERFECTIVE". Hopefully, your Hebrew prof made that clear, too. Yiqtol does not mark aspect in the future. :shock:

Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » May 20th, 2015, 4:55 pm

Hopefully, your Hebrew prof made that clear, too
Dr. Mosca would be disappointed at my backsliding and would no doubt take me to task for giving all my time to an upstart language like Koine Greek!

He was actually speaking, I think, about the modern Hebrew use of the personal pronoun + the participle to effect not only present tense, but other tenses also. I don't know modern Hebrew, and my Biblical is feeling a bit distant these days, so I'm on thin ice, even close to the shore!
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RandallButh
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by RandallButh » May 20th, 2015, 5:45 pm

You better not read Genesis. The pronoun plus participle is how a person signals the actual present tense (not habitual, modal, etc.): the action being present at the time of speech. Gen 37: et aHai ani mevaqesh. "I am looking for my brothers."

Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » May 21st, 2015, 1:58 am

If I might summon us back to the topic here, I think that when you look at the resources available - or rather LACK of resources available - to the learner or instructor who wants to head down the road of approaching Koine as a real language, then perhaps it is not too surprising that people have been slow to go there.

Think about the resources I can access easily - many of them free or at a very modest cost - to teach/learn composition in English, French, Spanish etc. But for Koine Greek, I can't even find a work which does a reasonable job of categorizing and collating the different examples of word order in the GNT.

There may be such resources out there, and I keep hoping I'll hit the mother load just over the next hill, but so far it appears teaching/learning materials are mighty sparse. It is true that one will gain a knowledge by much interaction with the text, and by trial and error, but that is a much slower, more onerous (and perilous) path to walk than what I would face in learning virtually any modern language.

Is there a single publication available on composing Koine Greek narrative / dialogue which does a reasonably adequate job of guiding the learner through the basics?
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 21st, 2015, 11:17 am

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:If I might summon us back to the topic here, I think that when you look at the resources available - or rather LACK of resources available - to the learner or instructor who wants to head down the road of approaching Koine as a real language, then perhaps it is not too surprising that people have been slow to go there.
I agree, and I think the most promising development is that people are beginning to modestly collaborate across what had been silos in the past. For instance, the communicative people, ESL folks, and computer geeks are starting to talk. Maybe in 10 years ...
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Think about the resources I can access easily - many of them free or at a very modest cost - to teach/learn composition in English, French, Spanish etc. But for Koine Greek, I can't even find a work which does a reasonable job of categorizing and collating the different examples of word order in the GNT.
I think most of us haven't been exposed to materials that would adequately teach how word order is used in English or German, much less Koine Greek, especially in conjunction with literary and discourse analysis. This is a fairly advanced topic. I doubt that it will be the first for which there are adequate materials. And it's hard to be sure about conclusions in papers that look at just one passage at a time or a bunch of sentences without much context, especially in forms of Greek I can't read easily. Classicists have a real advantage here ... but Koine Greek seems to be a little different in its use of word order than earlier Greek.

Let me try a few hypotheses that others can feel free to poke holes in, verify or discredit with examples, etc.
  • In most clauses, S is implicit. In any clause with an explicit S, that S is marked.
  • SVO and VSO are both quite common in Koine Greek, some writers prefer one over the other, but neither seems to be particularly marked
  • Moving O before V seems to be marked.
  • Moving O before an explicit S is interesting, I suppose that means both O and S are marked? I'm not sure how to think about that.
  • Phrases are much more fixed in their word order than clauses. Departures from standard phrase word order are likely to be particularly marked.
  • A marked component may indicate a variety of things - emphasis, topic, focus - and you have to read in context to see why a component is marked. This isn't a matter of mathematical computation, and you should be careful not to overreach when interpreting word order. Interpretation is often subjective.
How much of that is true?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » May 21st, 2015, 2:23 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:... I think the most promising development is that people are beginning to modestly collaborate across what had been silos in the past. For instance, the communicative people, ESL folks, and computer geeks are starting to talk. Maybe in 10 years ..
.
A grassroots movement. The best kind in many ways. Work by Paul, Louis, and others, along with the B-Greek forum is a great encouragement.
Jonathan Robie wrote: I think most of us haven't been exposed to materials that would adequately teach how word order is used in English or German, much less Koine Greek, especially in conjunction with literary and discourse analysis. This is a fairly advanced topic. I doubt that it will be the first for which there are adequate materials. And it's hard to be sure about conclusions in papers that look at just one passage at a time or a bunch of sentences without much context, especially in forms of Greek I can't read easily. Classicists have a real advantage here ... but Koine Greek seems to be a little different in its use of word order than earlier Greek.
At an elementary level, English does not present a real difficulty with word order. With respect to word order (only) I can become quite fluent in English at a basic level by following a simple ‘hard-wired’ SVO order along with a few easily managed and predictable exceptions. To be sure, “Full fathom five thy father lies…” or “Then saith he to me …” will take some time, but the learner can get up and running with SVO, special consideration for interrogatives, and very few additional rules.

I have been reading through Athenaze, and would really like to see something like that produced with more Biblical vocabulary and Biblical themes and background as the context.
Jonathan Robie wrote: Let me try a few hypotheses that others can feel free to poke holes in, verify or discredit with examples, etc.
• In most clauses, S is implicit. In any clause with an explicit S, that S is marked.
• SVO and VSO are both quite common in Koine Greek, some writers prefer one over the other, but neither seems to be particularly marked
• Moving O before V seems to be marked.
• Moving O before an explicit S is interesting, I suppose that means both O and S are marked? I'm not sure how to think about that.
• Phrases are much more fixed in their word order than clauses. Departures from standard phrase word order are likely to be particularly marked.
• A marked component may indicate a variety of things - emphasis, topic, focus - and you have to read in context to see why a component is marked. This isn't a matter of mathematical computation, and you should be careful not to overreach when interpreting word order. Interpretation is often subjective.
How much of that is true?
Great start, Jonathan. I hope we can also develop a simple entry level list of obvious ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. I will gather a few together to get it started.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 21st, 2015, 4:10 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:With respect to word order (only) I can become quite fluent in English at a basic level by following a simple ‘hard-wired’ SVO order along with a few easily managed and predictable exceptions. To be sure, “Full fathom five thy father lies…” or “Then saith he to me …” will take some time, but the learner can get up and running with SVO, special consideration for interrogatives, and very few additional rules.
This I do not agree with. Whether or not English word order is as simple as you say, I do not know. Try as I might, I don't think I can make the sentences in this paragraph fit SVO order. Very strange is the English language. There's a lot I don't know about it.

Of course, those sentences are all decidedly marked. And you don't need to be able to produce them - but you may run into them in reading or listening to English. You can speak perfectly good English sticking with SVO, but you probably do want to learn a few exceptions. If someone asks - Thomas? It's better to answer "it's me", not "I am he".

I don't think you need to use the marked forms in Greek to be reasonably fluent either, but you do need to understand them if you bump into such sentences.

I do wonder how discourse analysis people would interpret English sentences like the ones in the first paragraph. I suspect it's strange to have two or more in a row in English, any one of those sentences sounds fine to me in isolation, but a whole paragraph like that feels wrong. At any rate, I'm not convinced I know how to account for word order in English either, it's a subtle thing. English grammars frequently don't introduce you to all the complexities of the English language, and Greek grammars frequently don't introduce you to all the complexities of the Greek language. For that matter, every map is simpler and less confusing than the terrain that it depicts.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 21st, 2015, 6:21 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Is there a single publication available on composing Koine Greek narrative / dialogue which does a reasonably adequate job of guiding the learner through the basics?
I'm not aware of anything specifically relating to Koine composition, as it is just not part of the curriculum in seminaries and other tertiary institutions. I could suggest Stephen Levinsohn's Discourse Features of New Testament Greek (2d ed., 2000) for an introduction to how Koine discourse is structured, and you could reverse-engineer how to compose Greek from there.
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