"Semantic Priority Grammars"?

Textbooks, Graded Readers, Beginner Resources and links, Teaching aids, etc.

"Semantic Priority Grammars"?

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 24th, 2012, 12:32 am

On page xvi of Dan Wallace's exegetical syntax, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (1996), he points out the existence a certain type of grammar:

Wallace 1996:xvi wrote:Another trend current among grammarians (whether of Greek or other lan­guages) is that of organizing the material by semantic priority rather than by structural priority. Thus, the focus is on how purpose, possession, result, condi­tion, etc. are expressed, rather than on the forms used to express such notions.

Semantic priority grammars are most useful for composition in a living lan­guage, not analysis of a small corpus of a dead language. This is not to say that such an approach has no place in a grammar on ancient Greek, but that an inter­mediate and exegetical grammar is more useful if organized by morpho-syntac­tic features.

It is anticipated that the average user of this work will either lack the ability or the inclination to think through all the ways in which, say, purpose can be expressed in Greek. But that user should be able to recognize forms as they occur in the Greek NT. When he or she sees a ἵνα or genitive articular infinitive in the text, the first question asked will not be, “How can purpose be expressed in Greek?” but “How is this word used here?” The initial questions are thus almost always tied to form. The value of an exegetical grammar is related to its usability in exegesis: since exegesis begins with the forms found in the text and then moves toward its concepts, so should an exegetical grammar.


My interest here is not to debate Wallace's point whether a semantic or structural priority grammar is better, but something more basic. (Personally, I think both have their place.) For the life of me, however, I cannot call to mind any "semantic priority grammars" of Koine Greek. Does such a thing exist, and, if so, what is it?
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
Stephen Carlson
 
Posts: 1856
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Uppsala University

Re: "Semantic Priority Grammars"?

Postby MAubrey » June 24th, 2012, 12:40 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:My interest here is not to debate Wallace's point whether a semantic or structural priority grammar is better, but something more basic. (Personally, I think both have their place.) For the life of me, however, I cannot call to mind any "semantic priority grammars" of Koine Greek. Does such a thing exist, and, if so, what is it?

There are no such grammars of the Koine. Or, if there is, it is overwhelmingly obscure.

As for the general point, a good grammar should do both well, either by having an incredibly well structured index, or as Helma Dik has talked about on my blog a couple times (I don't remember where), a multi-volume grammar where one volume organizes the material by structure and the second by function.
Mike Aubrey
Canada Institute of Linguistics & Trinity Western University Graduate School
MAubrey
 
Posts: 629
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 8:52 pm
Location: British Columbia

Re: "Semantic Priority Grammars"?

Postby RandallButh » June 24th, 2012, 2:07 am

The question is similar to dictionaries.
dictionaries can be listed according to alphabet, according to *root, or according to semantic domain.

In order to know a language in its length and breadth, both structural categories and functional categories must be controlled.
And an accurate, good, and useful categorization by structure will include the distinctions from the different choices and options that were not made.
So τοῦ ἀπαρεμφάτου (τοῦ+infinitive) must be distinguished, e.g., from ἵνα + ῥῆμα (ina-clause). Some of this gets covered in a 'discourse grammar' like Steve Runge's.

To say that τοῦ ἀπαρεμφάτου (τοῦ+infinitive) is a purpose clause is too shallow. In the same way, to say that ἄνθρωπος is a man is too shallow and misleading unless one knows the other options that were not chosen.
RandallButh
 
Posts: 584
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: "Semantic Priority Grammars"?

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 24th, 2012, 12:38 pm

MAubrey wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:I cannot call to mind any "semantic priority grammars" of Koine Greek. Does such a thing exist, and, if so, what is it?

There are no such grammars of the Koine. Or, if there is, it is overwhelmingly obscure.


OK, I was afraid of that. If not for Koine, then, how about for other languages, like English or Latin?

MAubrey wrote:As for the general point, a good grammar should do both well, either by having an incredibly well structured index, or as Helma Dik has talked about on my blog a couple times (I don't remember where), a multi-volume grammar where one volume organizes the material by structure and the second by function.


Yeah, I recently read that remark of hers on your blog and that got me thinking. She mentioned that Christian Lehmann was planning/working on a Latin grammar in that vein, but I can't seem to find any more information about it. (His webpage--if I've got the the right one--does not list the project.)
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
Stephen Carlson
 
Posts: 1856
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Uppsala University

Re: "Semantic Priority Grammars"?

Postby MAubrey » June 24th, 2012, 3:41 pm

R. M. W. Dixon's English grammar is a mix of functional categories and structural categories, though its not thorough-going in either direction. I've perused a few grammars of other languages that are more functional in their arrangement, but I can't remember which they were off the top of my head. I was looking at them at the library.

There are a couple series of published grammars that specify a fixed format for the content and I would expect that they tend toward being more functional in their organization:

Handbook of Amazonian Languages
Routledge Descriptive Grammars Series


The oddest organization I've ever seen in a grammar was Paul Newman's The Hausa Language, which has several dozen chapters all arranged in alphabetical order, which creates a really bizarre reading situation. You can see the table of contents on Amazon here. Very strange.
Mike Aubrey
Canada Institute of Linguistics & Trinity Western University Graduate School
MAubrey
 
Posts: 629
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 8:52 pm
Location: British Columbia


Return to Resources

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest