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

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

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 21st, 2015, 6:48 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote: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.

...

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.
In my opinion the paragraph is mostly fine, and the second and third sentence are hardly unusual. Only the fourth sentence ("Very strange is the English language.") crosses the line into Yoda-speak.
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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, 8:08 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:In my opinion the paragraph is mostly fine, and the second and third sentence are hardly unusual. Only the fourth sentence ("Very strange is the English language.") crosses the line into Yoda-speak.
OK, so suppose I edit it as follows:
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. There's a lot I don't know about English.
Do you agree that these departures from SVO are "marked"? How would you interpret their meaning? I'm trying to apply what people do with Greek discourse to a language that I think I understand as a native speaker.
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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, 11:49 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
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.
What I am speaking about is "basic" concepts which will allow the practitioner to compose a reasonably sophisticated sentence / dialogue / narrative. The information and the sense of the information in your paragraph can be stated in simple VSO quite readily.

I do not agree with this. I do not know if English word order is simple or (if it is) not (simple). I can (not) make the sentences in this paragraph fit SVO order. English is strange, and there is much that I do not know about it. .... Thomas? Yes? I am Thomas.

If we agree that beginning to use the language (ie compose) is a key element in internalizing it, then I think you can go a long way down this road in English with a relatively simple word order paradigm. As far as recognizing more subtle structures, I don't think that presents too much of a problem at all, as we know that it is one thing to recognize, but quite another to produce, In fact, the 'recognizing' becomes a powerful instructor as you begin to gain some confidence in your compositions. You don't need to be sophisticated at the start - just correct.

Because not much work has been done in this area until quite recently, it seems like you are thrown off the deep end as a beginner and must somehow try to cope with a bewildering range of word order appearing in sophisticated texts, when what you really need is "The Three Bears". That is what Randall provides in his intro series of videos, and what Paul is doing in his teaching, but there needs to be much more, a progression in sophistication, and some basic guidelines and resources (like phrase books, word order guidelines, common idioms, etc.). Athenaze goes further, and yet is still very basic.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » May 22nd, 2015, 12:23 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
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.
Thank you. I was planning on reading Levinsohn somewhere along the way, so maybe this is a good time. Such a loss that seminaries are no longer teaching the languages thoroughly. In my part of the world little weight is placed on learning either Hebrew or Greek in training for the ministry. Even the "little Greek" is fading.
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RandallButh
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by RandallButh » May 22nd, 2015, 3:04 am

Such a loss that seminaries are no longer teaching the languages thoroughly. In my part of the world little weight is placed on learning either Hebrew or Greek in training for the ministry. Even the "little Greek" is fading.
This is also understandable.

One might ask when were the seminaries teaching the languages thoroughly? Two-three hundred years ago it was the prep schools and colleges that taught the language, and thoroughly according to their lights, that is, only Latin or English were spoken media, but not Greek. Fast forward to a situation where the typical professor has much less facility: the language now has much less appeal and payback. Who wants to spend hundreds or thousands of hours on something in order to label grammatical tags that are already available on software?
The answer is to raise the bar. Greek must become a fully internalized language for those at the top of the learning pyramid. And this must be built outside of seminaries because seminaries do not have room for 3000 hours of Greek immersion.

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Stephen Hughes » May 22nd, 2015, 3:59 am

I think word order and to a lesser degree tense are fundamental to learning, not the agreement if the numbercase system. I have little knowledge and no mastery of it, but it serms clear enough that that is the area in which authours are able to exercise creative freedom. The numbercase system is mastered by children long after they have acquired word order skills.
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RandallButh
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by RandallButh » May 22nd, 2015, 4:22 am

Stephen, I think that we are agreeing.

Typical Greek training inverts everything so that the focus is on agreement endings and identification. That is never internalized, but by focussing on it the word order and tense used is not internalized either. Which leaves the student with little to show for hundreds of hours of work. Which leads to a diminished value for "Greek learning".
Raising the bar means getting into the semantic warp and woof of the language, with enough use to eventually internalize the little nuts and bolts at the other end.
How do you feel about 3000 hours immersion?

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Stephen Hughes » May 22nd, 2015, 5:33 am

The more I read, the less I see the endings. Most of them are stating the obvious anyway.

I understand that you are referring automaticity when you say internalise, but I find that intetnalising knowledge is not enough. It needs to be used in meaningful social situations.

3,000 hours = 4 hours a day for 2 years would be possible under some circumstances - my Sanskrit teacher lived in an ashram for a couple of years speaking the language (not the reason he was there though) and my Latin teacher spoke Latin convetsationally, and one of Coptic teachers spoke it at home- so long as they didn't infringe on the normal course of life.Learning from a teacher who knows the language is easier than looking at the texts together.

Use of technologies that remove distance from between people might increase the possibilities.
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RandallButh
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by RandallButh » May 22nd, 2015, 6:29 am

The more I read, the less I see the endings. Most of them are stating the obvious anyway.
Well put, and important. The same is true with listening. The endings are obviously heard and sound forces a linear presentation (not much dyslexia), but one doesn't consciously focus on them, one pictures the what is being described. Unless something is missed, and then one may question, "did you say/mean ...?"

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 22nd, 2015, 10:20 am

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote: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.
What I am speaking about is "basic" concepts which will allow the practitioner to compose a reasonably sophisticated sentence / dialogue / narrative. The information and the sense of the information in your paragraph can be stated in simple VSO quite readily.
True. And the same is true of Greek sentences. I sometimes rewrite complicated Greek sentences to simplify them and put them in an order that is easier to understand. In my Sunday morning classes, if someone is having difficulty reading a sentence, I often restate the sentence out loud in Greek, reordering the clauses and leaving out some unneeded phrases while keeping the parts that make up the main structure of the sentence. A simple example from last Sunday that comes to mind: someone was struggling with this clause:
καὶ τοὺς χρείαν ἔχοντας θεραπείας ἰᾶτο.
I asked, what does χρείαν θεραπείας mean? He could answer that. Then I asked, what would καὶ τοὺς χρείαν θεραπείας ἔχοντας ἰᾶτο mean? The light went on. He is new to the class, so he decided to start reading Luke from the beginning and catch up. The first sentence of Luke is rather tricky:
1 Ἐπειδήπερ πολλοὶ ἐπεχείρησαν ἀνατάξασθαι διήγησιν περὶ τῶν πεπληροφορημένων ἐν ἡμῖν πραγμάτων, 2 καθὼς παρέδοσαν ἡμῖν οἱ ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς αὐτόπται καὶ ὑπηρέται γενόμενοι τοῦ λόγου, 3 ἔδοξε κἀμοὶ παρηκολουθηκότι ἄνωθεν πᾶσιν ἀκριβῶς καθεξῆς σοι γράψαι, κράτιστε Θεόφιλε, 4 ἵνα ἐπιγνῷς περὶ ὧν κατηχήθης λόγων τὴν ἀσφάλειαν.
I didn't reorder that, but I did give him this simplified version:
Ἐπειδήπερ πολλοὶ ἐπεχείρησαν ἀνατάξασθαι διήγησιν ἔδοξε κἀμοὶ καθεξῆς σοι γράψαι, κράτιστε Θεόφιλε
Using that as a framework, he was able to figure out how the rest fit in. I think students can learn how to do this kind of rewriting and simplification, and I find it a useful skill.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Because not much work has been done in this area until quite recently, it seems like you are thrown off the deep end as a beginner and must somehow try to cope with a bewildering range of word order appearing in sophisticated texts, when what you really need is "The Three Bears".
For a beginner who is learning to read, I think the most important things to learn are probably along these lines:
  • To understand a clause, identify the verb, it's subject(s), object(s), and adjuncts
  • In a clause, V,S,O, and adjuncts can occur in any order (teachers should provide sentences in a wide variety of orders)
  • To understand a sentence, understand the relationships among verbs in its clauses
For that, you don't need to teach abstract rules about the order of these components, give them lots of experience with real sentences first. Some of that may involve writing sentences like example sentences that use various VSO orders and various relationships among clauses. People aren't ready for the rules until they've had quite a bit of real world language experience.

A lot of beginning grammars seem to present clauses with little variety in the order of VSO. I think that's unfortunate, because the variety of orders that occur in real texts is one of the things that throws people off, the beginning grammars don't always prepare them for that. Goetschius does this well.

Even in the very beginning, I think we should expose people to various clause orders, e.g. if you start by teaching John 1 as your first text, why not show permutations of the sentence?
  • ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος
  • ὁ λόγος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ
  • ἐν ἀρχῇ ὁ λόγος ἦν
  • ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ ὁ λόγος
  • ἦν ὁ λόγος ἐν ἀρχῇ
  • ὁ λόγος ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν
I think that helps people deal with the various word orders they will encounter in real texts. But I'd also keep it simple when explaining the meaning of word order, and not be too ambitious with the description. Let them wrestle with real language rather than abstract explanations and theories.
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