How important is syntax?

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Stephen Carlson
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How important is syntax?

Post by Stephen Carlson » November 17th, 2015, 3:29 pm

I noticed this from a dissertation on particles I was reading:
To ancient scholars, discourse consisted of different-sized units not based primarily on syntactical division, but rather on the sense of completion on the one hand and the speaker’s physical limitations on the other. From the nineteenth century onwards, conversely, the approach to discourse segmentation in ancient Greek texts reveals a strong tendency to regard syntax as the primary structure. This exclusive focus on syntax obscures the important role of particles in the articulation of discourse. A greater sensitivity to the linear presentation of both epic and lyric is needed for an understanding of the function of particles and their host units. The present chapter gathers the relevant evidence, both cross-linguistic and specific to ancient Greek, for the contention that not the sentence or clause, but the discourse act is the basic unit of language use. It is with regard to this smallest subdivision of discourse that the function of particles is to be understood.
Have we overemphasized syntax over other ways of understanding the text?
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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MAubrey
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Re: How important is syntax?

Post by MAubrey » November 17th, 2015, 4:57 pm

What's a discourse act? Is that some sort of odd amalgam of a discourse unit and a speech act?
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Mike Aubrey, Linguist
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: How important is syntax?

Post by Stephen Carlson » November 17th, 2015, 8:07 pm

MAubrey wrote:What's a discourse act? Is that some sort of odd amalgam of a discourse unit and a speech act?
The dissertation, part of a larger funded project on Greek particles run by his spuervisor Anna Bonifazi, is here: http://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/voll ... 1.2014.pdf

I believe his notion of a "discourse act" is based on Kroon, with works with the functional discourse grammar of Simon Dik etc.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: How important is syntax?

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » November 18th, 2015, 4:38 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:I noticed this from a dissertation on particles I was reading:
To ancient scholars, discourse consisted of different-sized units not based primarily on syntactical division, but rather on the sense of completion on the one hand and the speaker’s physical limitations on the other. From the nineteenth century onwards, conversely, the approach to discourse segmentation in ancient Greek texts reveals a strong tendency to regard syntax as the primary structure. This exclusive focus on syntax obscures the important role of particles in the articulation of discourse. A greater sensitivity to the linear presentation of both epic and lyric is needed for an understanding of the function of particles and their host units. The present chapter gathers the relevant evidence, both cross-linguistic and specific to ancient Greek, for the contention that not the sentence or clause, but the discourse act is the basic unit of language use. It is with regard to this smallest subdivision of discourse that the function of particles is to be understood.
Have we overemphasized syntax over other ways of understanding the text?
I have always been in favor of paying attention to structure above the level of the clause. It's all syntax to me. I gave a way my copy of Longacre Grammer of Discourse a decade ago but I seem to recall that he developed in the latter portion of the book a formal framework that might appeal to people with a math or perhaps computational linguistics background.

On particles broadly defined, if you want to read Attic Tragedy you should recon on spending a lot time studying particles. We really need a new reference work on this since Denniston wrote for students who came up through private boarding schools in the UK in the early 20th century where sixth form students were reading Agamemnon[1]. I tried to recall what was assigned in public highschool fifty years ago, all I could pull up was Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter and Shakespeare if you were in honors english. Agamemnon didn't exist.

[1] See the intro to Agamemnon Denniston & Page.
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C. Stirling Bartholomew

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