Dative case as the direct object?

Alan Bunning
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Dative case as the direct object?

Post by Alan Bunning » December 14th, 2017, 11:16 am

The dative case is normally associated with an indirect object. But many grammars state that for some verbs the dative case is the direct object, for words involving trusting, obeying, serving, worshipping, thanksgiving, belief, following, rebuking, helping, pleasing, commanding, etc. However, it is beginning to appear to me that this is merely an artifact due to English translational bias in the selection of glosses, and not from the Greek language itself. For example, δουλεύω is normally translated in English as “serving” and if it has an object it always takes the dative case. So “δουλεύειν δυσὶ κυρίοις” is normally translated “to serve two masters”. However, if I pick a different gloss such as “submitting” or “giving service” then I can view the verb as being intransitive and treat the dative as an indirect object, translating it as “to submit to two masters” or “to give service to two masters”. As far as I can tell this works for all of the verbs that supposedly take the dative case as a direct object.

Consider another example with ἀφίημι, where “ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα” is translated as “forgive to us the debts” (Matt. 6:12). Here ἀφίημι is clearly transitive with both the accusative and dative cases operating as expected; the dative telling us who is being forgiven, and the accusative telling us what is being forgiven. But then in other verses where ἀφίημι only has the dative, a shift has occurred and it is now translated with the dative becoming the direct object such as (Matt. 6:15) “ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις” translated as “but if you do not forgive men”. Here it looks like ἀφίημι is transitive and the dative “men” (who is being forgiven) is now the direct object (which no mention of what is being forgiven). But again, if I choose a different gloss, I could consider the word to be intransitive with the dative being the indirect object, such as “but if you do not give_forgiveness to men” or leave the gloss the same and treat the direct object as supplied “but if you do not forgive sins to men”.

So the only difference between how these verbs taking the dative case are viewed appears to be based on which English glosses are assign for them. I can view them as transitive verbs with the direct object being in the dative case, or I could view them as intransitive verbs with the dative taking its normal role of being the indirect object. So if this is indeed solely attributed to English translational bias thrust upon the Greek language, then I would be inclined to translate them with the dative taking its traditional role as an indirect object. If I am understanding this correctly, I would rather follow the traditional Greek syntactic roles, rather than imposing an English bias on the verbs. Indeed, when the Greek is translated in other languages, the perfect word those in those languages may naturally facilitate the pattern to translate them as intransitive verbs taking an indirect object. Should their Greek grammars read differently than the ones written in English? What am I missing?
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Dative case as the direct object?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » December 14th, 2017, 12:31 pm

For Matthew 6:15, quite a few manuscripts add τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν. As it is, they should be supplied by way of elipsis from vs. 14.

It's better to use somewhat different metalanguage to describe how the dative is used, such as dative complement.
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Alan Bunning
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Re: Dative case as the direct object?

Post by Alan Bunning » December 14th, 2017, 12:41 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
December 14th, 2017, 12:31 pm
For Matthew 6:15, quite a few manuscripts add τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν. As it is, they should be supplied by way of elipsis from vs. 14.
I should have picked a better example such as Matthew 18:21 where there is no accusative in the picture. There are many examples that demonstrate my point.
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Paul-Nitz
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Re: Dative case as the direct object?

Post by Paul-Nitz » December 17th, 2017, 10:38 am

Alan Bunning wrote:
December 14th, 2017, 11:16 am
What am I missing?
You're not missing anything. I think you are simply taking those particular Greek verbs (the ones that match with the dative) on their own terms. But consider whether the idea about the more-or-less transitive sounding English glosses is helpful or more confounding. For me, I'd simply think about the meaning of these special verbs as it relates to the basic meanings of functions of the cases. For example, if you serve someone (εἰ δουλεύεις τινι), the Accusative idea just doesn't fit. It doesn't feel like motion, either literal or figurative.
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Mark Lightman
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Re: Dative case as the direct object?

Post by Mark Lightman » December 17th, 2017, 4:44 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:
December 17th, 2017, 10:38 am
For example, if you serve someone (εἰ δουλεύεις τινι), the Accusative idea just doesn't fit.
ἀνθρώποις μὲν δουλεύωμεν, ἀνθρώπους δὲ μὴ παραθῶμεν. :lol:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Serve_ ... ht_Zone%29

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk01eeKMD_I
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Dative case as the direct object?

Post by Stephen Carlson » December 17th, 2017, 6:37 pm

Does "direct object" even have a rigorous definition? My impression is that it's basically a school grammar term, and not something that you'd see in more sophisticated linguistics.

That said, SIL offers a definition here:
A direct object is a grammatical relation that exhibits a combination of certain independent syntactic properties, such as the following:
  • The usual grammatical characteristics of the patient of typically transitive verbs
  • A particular case marking
  • A particular clause position
  • The conditioning of an agreement affix on the verb
  • The capability of becoming the clause subject in passivization
  • The capability of reflexivization
The identification of the direct object relation may be further confirmed by finding significant overlap with similar direct object relations previously established in other languages. This may be done by analyzing correspondence between translation equivalents.
Not all the criteria are applicable to Greek (and I'm not a fan of the (transformational) theoretical assumptions of some of them), but numbers 1, 2, 5, and 6 seem to apply and suggest that a direct object must be in the accusative. But whatever SIL comes up with and whatever is actually taught in classrooms are not necessarily the same.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Dative case as the direct object?

Post by Jonathan Robie » December 18th, 2017, 11:15 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
December 17th, 2017, 6:37 pm
Does "direct object" even have a rigorous definition? My impression is that it's basically a school grammar term, and not something that you'd see in more sophisticated linguistics.
You certainly see it in older grammars like Smyth and Robertson, and it's used in some papers I would consider sophisticated linguistics. One thing that's important here: different schools of linguistics have different approaches to labeling the objects of a verb, and if you mix concepts from different schools you have to be very careful.

Can some of the linguists help us sort this out? Here are some sources I would like to understand together:
The Brill article is short and easy to read. Section 3, "The Semantics of DO", says this:
Mocciaro wrote:Prototypically - but not exclusively - DOs receive an accusative encoding. Ancient Greek, in fact, allows some variation in the choice of case, which reflects different degrees of affectedness of the participant.
It goes on to list examples in Accusative, Dative, and Genitive.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Dative case as the direct object?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » December 18th, 2017, 12:36 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
December 17th, 2017, 6:37 pm
Does "direct object" even have a rigorous definition? My impression is that it's basically a school grammar term, and not something that you'd see in more sophisticated linguistics.
The school grammar definition that I use is that which receives the action of the verb and goes into the accusative case. It might not be according to sophisticated linguistics, but it helps students see how the accusative is being used in various sentences. When we get to verbs taking the dative case, it's time to begin a discussion on how Greek (or Latin) and English do things a bit differently in this regard. These verbs take a dative complement instead of an accusative direct object, but in English, they are normally direct objects of the verbs we tend to use as glosses... :o :shock:
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Dative case as the direct object?

Post by Jonathan Robie » December 18th, 2017, 1:01 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
December 18th, 2017, 12:36 pm
The school grammar definition that I use is that which receives the action of the verb and goes into the accusative case.
This may be a matter of definition. If you are working with a model that says it is only a direct object if it is accusative, then it is only a direct object if it is accusative. If you are working with Mocciaro's model, then direct objects can also be dative or genitive, though accusative is the prototype.

Barry, is Smyth your model here?
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
December 18th, 2017, 12:36 pm
When we get to verbs taking the dative case, it's time to begin a discussion on how Greek (or Latin) and English do things a bit differently in this regard. These verbs take a dative complement instead of an accusative direct object, but in English, they are normally direct objects of the verbs we tend to use as glosses... :o :shock:
What distinction are you drawing between an object and a complement here?
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Dative case as the direct object?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » December 18th, 2017, 3:02 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
December 18th, 2017, 1:01 pm

This may be a matter of definition. If you are working with a model that says it is only a direct object if it is accusative, then it is only a direct object if it is accusative. If you are working with Mocciaro's model, then direct objects can also be dative or genitive, though accusative is the prototype.

Barry, is Smyth your model here?

What distinction are you drawing between an object and a complement here?
My model's a super-model :lol:

I think we need to start strictly with how the constructions are handled in Greek, and not let English or comparisons with other languages get in the way. I have always taught that direct objects are accusatives strictly within the framework of Greek syntax, and that if something else is used that looks like a direct object in translation, we have to conceptualize it differently. Now having said that... :) what exactly is a direct object but an essentially adverbial construction which limits the action of the verb? And for that matter, isn't that what dative or genitive complements (such as with verbs of filling) also do?

In other words, there multiple perspectives for viewing these things, and most of them valid within a certain context. A professional linguist is not necessarily interested in the same things that a teacher of the language is interested in, or someone reading the language for exegetical or literary purposes (although all three perspectives may and should inform one another). My context is teaching and I tend to use what is most helpful to students better to understand the language on its own terms.

I'd also be interested in Stephen's take on this if different from the SIL definitions he quoted, and in Mike Aubrey's perspective.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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