Sentence Diagramming

Sentence Diagramming

Postby A R Wentt Jr » May 28th, 2013, 7:38 pm

As I struggle with word order and such in working through translation, my mind turns to the question of sentence diagramming. When in the self-study of Greek would one recommend that one pursue the discipline of diagramming? And what text, texts or media are most instructive in this pursuit?
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Re: Sentence Diagramming

Postby Jesse Goulet » May 28th, 2013, 8:20 pm

A R Wentt Jr wrote:As I struggle with word order and such in working through translation, my mind turns to the question of sentence diagramming. When in the self-study of Greek would one recommend that one pursue the discipline of diagramming? And what text, texts or media are most instructive in this pursuit?


I'm not sure diagramming is of much use, because I believe one should be able to learn how to understand a given sentence/passage as it stands written, for that is the way it was meant to be read and understood. It seems to me that diagramming (some call it "phrasing") is mostly for the purpose of outlining for a sermon, or for putting together the parts of a difficult passage. If it's for difficult passages, then I believe phrasing should be used early on, and only on passages that are too difficult for the level that you are at, and as a last resort.

Nevertheless, I just finished Mounce's graded reader, and he emphasizes phrasing a lot.
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Re: Sentence Diagramming

Postby Stirling Bartholomew » May 28th, 2013, 9:35 pm

A R Wentt Jr wrote:As I struggle with word order and such in working through translation, my mind turns to the question of sentence diagramming. When in the self-study of Greek would one recommend that one pursue the discipline of diagramming?


I have frequently noted that the people who are the most vocal in panning syntax analysis, diagramming being a subset thereof[1], are often aged veterans with decades of linguistic analysis behind them, who can effortlessly swap in and out a dozen radically different analytical models ... but these people will try to convince you that analysis really isn't all that worthwhile even though they have spent the majority of their career doing some sort of analytical work with ancient language texts. I gave up anything like diagramming many moons ago, but the first time through the book of Hebrews I did employ some sort of notation to help represent the levels of hypotaxis. A friend of mine of Russian heritage who spoke fluently half a dozen dialects of Spanish refused to preach on Hebrews in Spanish or English until he had the whole epistle diagrammed in greek. I admired that sort of fortitude but I personally don't have it. I am right now wrapping up a close reading of Agamemnon which has taken nine months and I have not diagrammed one line of the text. I suspect the time to start diagramming is when you find yourself in a text the complexity of which you find overwhelming and incomprehensible. I don't think there is any magic moment to start or stop diagramming. You will give it up naturally when it is no longer necessary.



[1] the style here is intentionally modeled after bearded bill of asheville site:www.ibiblio.org "bearded bill"
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Re: Sentence Diagramming

Postby Stephen Carlson » May 29th, 2013, 1:35 am

I think the major Bible software packages (well, at least Bible Works) will have a module for sentence diagramming, if not interactive then at least giving you one person's interpretation of the syntax.
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Re: Sentence Diagramming

Postby cwconrad » May 29th, 2013, 8:00 am

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:
A R Wentt Jr wrote:As I struggle with word order and such in working through translation, my mind turns to the question of sentence diagramming. When in the self-study of Greek would one recommend that one pursue the discipline of diagramming?


I have frequently noted that the people who are the most vocal in panning syntax analysis, diagramming being a subset thereof[1], are often aged veterans with decades of linguistic analysis behind them, who can effortlessly swap in and out a dozen radically different analytical models ... but these people will try to convince you that analysis really isn't all that worthwhile even though they have spent the majority of their career doing some sort of analytical work with ancient language texts. I gave up anything like diagramming many moons ago, but the first time through the book of Hebrews I did employ some sort of notation to help represent the levels of hypotaxis. A friend of mine of Russian heritage who spoke fluently half a dozen dialects of Spanish refused to preach on Hebrews in Spanish or English until he had the whole epistle diagrammed in greek. I admired that sort of fortitude but I personally don't have it. I am right now wrapping up a close reading of Agamemnon which has taken nine months and I have not diagrammed one line of the text. I suspect the time to start diagramming is when you find yourself in a text the complexity of which you find overwhelming and incomprehensible. I don't think there is any magic moment to start or stop diagramming. You will give it up naturally when it is no longer necessary.

[1] the style here is intentionally modeled after bearded bill of asheville site:www.ibiblio.org "bearded bill"


Stirling's (do you no longer go by Clay?) note has deeply warmed the cockles of an old but not yet dead grammarian's heart. In my time I've done lots of sentence diagramming. I even remember the fun of diagramming sonnets of Shakespeare and Elizabeth Barret Browning in high school under the direction of a very good English teacher. I've used it with NT Greek too, but have found it far less helpful. I did find Hebrews difficult and did think long and hard about syntactic relationships of clauses there but I don't think I ever diagrammed any of Hebrews. On the other hand, I've diagrammed the opening sequence of Ephesians many times, never once to my satisfaction: that attempt at analysis convinced me that the sequence was more like a "stream of consciousness" or a non-Homeric bit of λέξις εἰρομένη or a long-winded layman's prayer than a carefully-structured syntactic unit. No less gratifying to me is the account of experience with Aeschylus' Agamemnon, which I have read and reread so many times over the course of several decades; it is, to my mind, the grandest Greek verse ever composed (Homer, of course, being in a category altogeher apart). And no, I never endeavored to do any diagramming of the Agamemnon, although I've spent much time pondering the extraordinary images such as "the sea blossoming with corpses" or the sea being "unquenchable." Not least stirring to me was the evocation of "Bearded Bill of Asheville." I remember well posts from "Bearded Bill" popping up in the old B-Greek mailing list and made it a point, while vacationing in what is now my reirement home in western NC, to get in touch with Bearded Bill and to spend an afternoon with him in Asheville, where he had retired from teaching at U.N.C. Asheville. He was a fascinating man and an extraordinary conversationalist, and it's been years since I have thought of him -- but suddenly it all swims back into recollection.

Stephen mentions the diagramming features of Biblical software packages. Accordance has an option to diagram Greek or Hebrew texts but doesn't do it for you; on the other hand Accordance does have a recently-developed syntactic tree analysis for the GNT; Logos has the Open Text syntactic analysis of the GNT, but as Stephen notes, however helpful such analyses may seem, they are some particular person's or group's interpretation of the passage, and there may often be points in such analyses that others would question. I am myself not really one of those described as "aged veterans with decades of linguistic analysis behind them, who can effortlessly swap in and out a dozen radically different analytical model". Aged veteran indeed, with decades of linguistic analysis behind me, but certainly not knowledgeable or comfortable with any single "analytical model." I've come to believe that we can't do any analysis at all until we have already basically understood a text or utterance. Analysis may help but I don't think there' any analytical model that will convert a complex text or utterance into a wholly intelligible decoded totality.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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Re: Sentence Diagramming

Postby A R Wentt Jr » May 29th, 2013, 4:02 pm

Esteemed gentlemen,

Weighing the responses thus far received, I take it that none of you particularly cares for the exercise of diagramming. And would thus avoid making it a steady diet in ones pursuit of meaning in a text, even an easy one.

How then is the beginner to tackle or assimilate the meaning of a Greek text? What is important for the orderly arranging of the elements of a sentence in Greek? I use Logos 5 (L5), but I have not as yet utilized the diagramming feature in my study of the Greek. Feeling like a passenger on a ship without a captain; I am at the mercy of the current. Please Help!

As I've mentioned in my other thread, I am using Croy's Primer of Biblical Greek as my base text. My desire is to one day soon have a Lucan command of the Greek ;) . I'm not turned away by effort or challenge, just as long as the promise is results. Thanks for any continuing guidance any of you can offer.
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Re: Sentence Diagramming

Postby SusanJeffers » May 30th, 2013, 8:12 am

I suggest "phrasing" or what some call "contouring" -- especially for beginners, just being able to recognize which words "go together" has to be a first step in understanding sentences...

I just googled
Greek phrasing examples
and got this good introduction:
http://www.ibiblio.org/koine/greek/phra ... -text.html

There's also a book that carries the method farther than I prefer, but still it's a great introduction and gives examples both of Hebrew and of Greek:
Seeing the Text: Exegesis for Students of Greek and Hebrew
by Mary Schertz and Perry Yoder

The title "Seeing the Text" refers to the authors' method of laying out the syntactic structure visually... not really diagramming per se, but using line breaks, indents, font changes, underlining etc to make visible not only the grammatical structure but also parallelism and other literary features.

Blessings,

Susan Jeffers
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Re: Sentence Diagramming

Postby cwconrad » May 30th, 2013, 10:48 am

One must realize that grasping the meaning of an utterance or text is not simply a matter of "decoding," although the traditional pedagogy of grammar & translation would seem to make it one. Meaning depends upon a conventionalized arrangement of phrases, on structures and structure-signals. I think it's helpful, as Susan has indicated, to chunk the text in question into phrases as best one can and to endeavor to grasp the sense of each in the order in which it appears sequentially. I would recommend a careful reading of the Introduction of Funk's BIGHG, "How we understand sentences," (http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/project/f ... tro-1.html) and "Learning a Language is learning the Sructure-signals" (http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/project/f ... tro-2.html). While one must, of course, learn the morphology and acquire vocabulary cumulatively, the earlier work in a language will involve recognizing recurrent patterns in the language as spoken and written.

Ultimately the understanding of what a text or utterance means is something quite different from the analysis of a text or utterance into its elements and assignment of reasons for how the parts cooperate with each other to contribute to a meaning of the whole.You really have to understand a text before you can diagram it intelligibly.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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Re: Sentence Diagramming

Postby Shirley Rollinson » May 30th, 2013, 2:03 pm

A R Wentt Jr wrote:Esteemed gentlemen,

Weighing the responses thus far received, I take it that none of you particularly cares for the exercise of diagramming. And would thus avoid making it a steady diet in ones pursuit of meaning in a text, even an easy one.

How then is the beginner to tackle or assimilate the meaning of a Greek text? What is important for the orderly arranging of the elements of a sentence in Greek? I use Logos 5 (L5), but I have not as yet utilized the diagramming feature in my study of the Greek. Feeling like a passenger on a ship without a captain; I am at the mercy of the current. Please Help!

As I've mentioned in my other thread, I am using Croy's Primer of Biblical Greek as my base text. My desire is to one day soon have a Lucan command of the Greek ;) . I'm not turned away by effort or challenge, just as long as the promise is results. Thanks for any continuing guidance any of you can offer.


If you want to have Greek like Luke's - read Luke/Acts every day :-)
Read a short passage aloud - let the sounds sink into your brain (and don't get hung up on pronunciation - give it your best shot, and keep on reading). Read it again aloud - slowly. Try to translate it - puzzle out what it means and how the words fit into the sentences. (Grosvernor and Zerwick is a help here). Read it again, aloud - slowly. Notice common phrases - let them become an automatic reflex (you see μετα ταυτα, you say μετα ταυτα, but your brain says "μετα ταυτα - after these things") Read it again, aloud - getting up to speed. Maybe write out and learn a new word from the passage. Stop for the day before you get tired. Repeat a phrase or new word at times during the day. Tomorrow, go on to the next passage.
I'd suggest trying to get a Markan command of Greek first :-)
Just my two shekels.
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Re: Sentence Diagramming

Postby A R Wentt Jr » May 30th, 2013, 8:51 pm

cwconrad wrote:I would recommend a careful reading of the Introduction of Funk's BIGHG, "How we understand sentences," (http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/project/f ... tro-1.html) and "Learning a Language is learning the Sructure-signals" (http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/project/f ... tro-2.html).


SusanJeffers wrote:I suggest "phrasing" or what some call "contouring" -- especially for beginners, just being able to recognize which words "go together" has to be a first step in understanding sentences...

I just googled
Greek phrasing examples
and got this good introduction:
http://www.ibiblio.org/koine/greek/phra ... -text.html

There's also a book that carries the method farther than I prefer, but still it's a great introduction and gives examples both of Hebrew and of Greek:
Seeing the Text: Exegesis for Students of Greek and Hebrew
by Mary Schertz and Perry Yoder


Shirley Rollinson wrote:If you want to have Greek like Luke's - read Luke/Acts every day
Read a short passage aloud - let the sounds sink into your brain (and don't get hung up on pronunciation - give it your best shot, and keep on reading). Read it again aloud - slowly. Try to translate it - puzzle out what it means and how the words fit into the sentences. (Grosvernor and Zerwick is a help here)


I must thank you all for your sage advice. I have read and reread your comments and appreciate your efforts to set me on the way towards developing a master plan to use in mastering the Greek. I have highlighted some of your pearls I found to be particularly helpful.

I hope that others who peruse this post who find themselves on equal footing with myself will benefit from its content. I write this not to discourage future posters from chiming in, but to emphasize the quality of the posts here in.
Last edited by Jonathan Robie on December 2nd, 2013, 6:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Fixed links
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