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

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

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » May 22nd, 2015, 10:56 am

Jonathan Robie wrote: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.
Yes, I agree. What I was saying about English is specific to English., and does not carry over to Koine. Even early on, and with simple sentences, the best teaching for Koine will demonstrate possible variations in word order. And again, I concur with what you say about not getting too tangled up with "abstract explanations and theories" about word order at the beginning.

Sorry for nattering on about Frank Smith again, but his book (Understanding Reading: A Psycholinguistic Analysis of Reading and Learning to Read. 6th ed.) made a huge impression on me. One of the things he says in this regard is that in a certain sense you can't teach but only make possible the conditions for learning. Thus, mother points to cat and says "cat". It is left to the child to work out all of the very complex observations which distinguish "cat" from everything else, and once the child 'gets' this, then he/she will try it out on other beings / things (test the hypothesis). Its not hard to see why Randall recommends this book. This is a nice picture of real language learning experience.
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RandallButh
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by RandallButh » May 22nd, 2015, 11:07 am

Saying sentences in different orders in order to see them in different orders will teach that word order is irrelevant.

Sentences need to be in a meaningful context and correct to the context.

When reading John 1, students should not have every nuance explained in English, ugh, but they should be told implicitly or explicitly that the Greek communicates its proper nuances as given and that changing orders changes the flavor somewhat. Readings can highlight known or presumed focal consituents.

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

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 22nd, 2015, 11:16 am

RandallButh wrote:Saying sentences in different orders in order to see them in different orders will teach that word order is irrelevant.

Sentences need to be in a meaningful context and correct to the context.

When reading John 1, students should not have every nuance explained in English, ugh, but they should be told implicitly or explicitly that the Greek communicates its proper nuances as given and that changing orders changes the flavor somewhat. Readings can highlight known or presumed focal consituents.
I think we're agreeing rather than disagreeing, I don't think long explanations in English are needed. I do think it's important to make it clear that different orders are possible, and that ἐν ἀρχῇ is highlighted here to introduce a series of statements about what happened ἐν ἀρχῇ. Perhaps it would be more efficient to give just three permutations in this case:
  • • ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος
    • ὁ λόγος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ
    • ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ ὁ λόγος
In general, I think comparing examples in Greek is much more helpful than long explanations in English. I prefer examples found in existing Greek texts or derived fairly directly from them. Systematic presentation of examples relevant to a particular point of grammar is very helpful. And I think people need lots of examples, many more than they usually encounter.

But I'm an amateur at this. Randall is an expert.
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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, 11:26 am

Stephen Hughes wrote: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.
To a considerable degree I think this is because, as you say later, case endings are predictable while word order is not. We tend to ignore what is predictable and watch for what might change.
Psalm 139:14 - LXX 138:14 - wrote:ἐξομολογήσομαί σοι ὅτι φοβερῶς ἐθαυμαστώθην θαυμάσια τὰ ἔργα σου καὶ ἡ ψυχή μου γινώσκει σφόδρα
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RandallButh
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by RandallButh » May 22nd, 2015, 11:39 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:
RandallButh wrote:Saying sentences in different orders in order to see them in different orders will teach that word order is irrelevant.

Sentences need to be in a meaningful context and correct to the context.

When reading John 1, students should not have every nuance explained in English, ugh, but they should be told implicitly or explicitly that the Greek communicates its proper nuances as given and that changing orders changes the flavor somewhat. Readings can highlight known or presumed focal consituents.
I think we're agreeing rather than disagreeing, I don't think long explanations in English are needed. I do think it's important to make it clear that different orders are possible, and that ἐν ἀρχῇ is highlighted here to introduce a series of statements about what happened ἐν ἀρχῇ. Perhaps it would be more efficient to give just three permutations in this case:
  • • ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος
    • ὁ λόγος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ
    • ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ ὁ λόγος
In general, I think comparing examples in Greek is much more helpful than long explanations in English. I prefer examples found in existing Greek texts or derived fairly directly from them. Systematic presentation of examples relevant to a particular point of grammar is very helpful. And I think people need lots of examples, many more than they usually encounter.

But I'm an amateur at this. Randall is an expert.
You are on the right track when you listed three options. I would go one step further and limit it to two:
ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος
ὁ λόγος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ

A third might have fit:
ὁ λόγος ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν
but that makes the "beginning" to be the most salient, new information rather than the starting point of the discourse (setting, contextualization) as in the actual text. (Not to mention the echo with Genesis 1.1.)

In general, it is often sufficient to teach with one permutation in order to see why that alternative was not chosen or what the implications are of the actual choice. Not with every sentence, of course, but where an interesting word order as a point for teaching occurs, then analternative can be given for comparison and contrast.

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

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 22nd, 2015, 3:01 pm

RandallButh wrote:You are on the right track when you listed three options. I would go one step further and limit it to two:
ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος
ὁ λόγος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ
Makes sense. Keep the explanations thin, keep people engaged with the text.
RandallButh wrote:In general, it is often sufficient to teach with one permutation in order to see why that alternative was not chosen or what the implications are of the actual choice. Not with every sentence, of course, but where an interesting word order as a point for teaching occurs, then analternative can be given for comparison and contrast.
Makes sense.
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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, 6:14 pm

[quote="Jonathan Robie""]... 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[/quote]
This is great, although your specific example does assume a fairly sophisticated student, not to mention teacher. In other words, it is a considerable distance downstream from 'basic concepts'. I would imagine the students to whom I would be teaching Greek composition as needing a much more basic platform to practice on then those splendid first lines of Luke. Simple narratives where there is no stress about discerning the meaning allow the learner to see different arrangements in a 'relaxed' manner - without having to concentrate on vocab, endings, unusual forms, etc.

I do like the teaching method, though. Good exercise for both student and teacher.
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Wes Wood
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Wes Wood » December 15th, 2015, 11:10 am

RandallButh wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:
RandallButh wrote:Saying sentences in different orders in order to see them in different orders will teach that word order is irrelevant.

Sentences need to be in a meaningful context and correct to the context.

When reading John 1, students should not have every nuance explained in English, ugh, but they should be told implicitly or explicitly that the Greek communicates its proper nuances as given and that changing orders changes the flavor somewhat. Readings can highlight known or presumed focal consituents.
I think we're agreeing rather than disagreeing, I don't think long explanations in English are needed. I do think it's important to make it clear that different orders are possible, and that ἐν ἀρχῇ is highlighted here to introduce a series of statements about what happened ἐν ἀρχῇ. Perhaps it would be more efficient to give just three permutations in this case:
  • • ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος
    • ὁ λόγος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ
    • ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ ὁ λόγος
In general, I think comparing examples in Greek is much more helpful than long explanations in English. I prefer examples found in existing Greek texts or derived fairly directly from them. Systematic presentation of examples relevant to a particular point of grammar is very helpful. And I think people need lots of examples, many more than they usually encounter.

But I'm an amateur at this. Randall is an expert.
You are on the right track when you listed three options. I would go one step further and limit it to two:
ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος
ὁ λόγος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ

A third might have fit:
ὁ λόγος ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν
but that makes the "beginning" to be the most salient, new information rather than the starting point of the discourse (setting, contextualization) as in the actual text. (Not to mention the echo with Genesis 1.1.)

In general, it is often sufficient to teach with one permutation in order to see why that alternative was not chosen or what the implications are of the actual choice. Not with every sentence, of course, but where an interesting word order as a point for teaching occurs, then analternative can be given for comparison and contrast.
Dr. Buth, would you be willing to make similar recommendations about Greek word order and/or clause placement for other common sentence elements? More specifically, what arrangements would you recommend learning (e.g. use SVO or SOV for unmarked sentences) for relative clauses, adverbial clauses, etc? As you have said, it is much easier to notice when differences arise when you are following a general guideline.

Also, I am sorry for the thread necromancy, but I have been able to give this discussion more thought in the last few days.
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Wes Wood
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by Wes Wood » December 15th, 2015, 11:13 am

Of course, my question is open for anyone, but Dr. Buth was the first that I saw who made such specific and helpful suggestions.
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RandallButh
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Re: Word Order in Koine: Freedoms, Constraints, & Best Pract

Post by RandallButh » December 15th, 2015, 1:15 pm

I'm thinking that I already answered this with
You are on the right track when you listed three options. I would go one step further and limit it to two:
ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος
ὁ λόγος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ

A third might have fit:
ὁ λόγος ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν
but that makes the "beginning" to be the most salient, new information rather than the starting point of the discourse (setting, contextualization) as in the actual text. (Not to mention the echo with Genesis 1.1.)
Note that the third option can be called Focus, although it is in second position, and that the first position is providing a framework but not "the most salient point with pre-verbal marking."


rb

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