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Word Order

Posted: July 6th, 2013, 5:16 pm
by A R Wentt Jr
Anent BIGHG 005.6 Funk discusses the genitive autou (BTW would someone tell me how to write in Greek characters). He refers to his example text 1 Jn 2:11 h skotia etuphlwsen tous ophthalmous autou.

He mentions that Greek word order is important, but plays a different role than in English. Prior to this statement he relates and I quote:
the article always precedes; the genitive autou (pronoun), however, may also come between or before article and noun (and occasionally may be separated from its word group). BIGHG pg. 8; 005.6
I take this to mean that the article always precedes the noun. The genitive, however, may appear either between or before the article and noun. My main question arises from this statement. What effect does this shift in order have on meaning? It would have been helpful if Funk would have pointed the student to a source within or outside of the text that covers this subject of word order and what effect it has on meaning.

I would appreciate it if someone would guide me by answering this question and/or also citing a source that gives a beginner or intermediate coverage of this topic. Thanks,


Re: Word Order

Posted: July 6th, 2013, 7:55 pm
by Stephen Carlson
Well, word order is a pretty difficult subject that only recently has gotten a fair amount of theoretical attention. Previously, what word order conveys had to be internalized by scholars and exegetes through reading a lot of Greek (i.e., more than what's in the NT).

Generally, Greek uses word order to convey how parts of the sentence relate to the larger context. (Technical terms for this include "information structure," "focus," and "topic"; less technical is the term "emphasis"). Since most grammars and teaching materials deal pretty much only with the meaning of the sentence, they tend to overlook these discourse-related effects.

The default order with the genitive after the noun conveys nothing special. This pattern is in the example that Funk quoted.

If the genitive comes between the article and the noun, then it tends to indicate that the genitive is more prominent than the noun, e.g., Rom 3:25 ὃν προέθετο
ὁ θεὸς ἱλαστήριον διὰ πίστεως ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι. This pattern is fairly rare.

If the genitive comes before the noun, what it conveys may depend on the position of other words in the sentence. If the genitive is first in the clause, it may be that the genitive is prominent, for example, Eph 2:10 αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα. Occasionally, an initial genitive is merely contextualizing, for example, Matt 1:18 Τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἡ γένεσις οὕτως ἦν. On the other hand, if the genitive is not first and follows another constituent (usually the verb), then it tends to be the case that the constituent it follows is prominent, e.g., John 19:29 σπόγγον οὖν μεστὸν τοῦ ὄξους ὑσσώπῳ περιθέντες προσήνεγκαν αὐτοῦ τῷ στόματι. This last pattern is perhaps the most common variant order.

I fear that even this explanation has oversimplified the complexities of Greek word order. My advice to beginners is to concentrate on understanding what the sentence means first and then read a lot of Greek in context to begin to internalize how the word order relates to how the discourse is structured.

Re: Word Order

Posted: July 7th, 2013, 8:19 am
by A R Wentt Jr
Dr. Carlson,
ἵνα φανερώσω αὑτὸ ὡς δεῖ με λαλῆσαι. Col 4.4 NA28

I do appreciate your input and advice. I read and reread your post and gleaned much from it. From your explanations I have rightly or wrongly concluded that Greek word order confers a hierarchical feature to its syntax.

Upon your advice I have decided to add readings from either the early church fathers, Philo and/or the Septuagint to my daily readings in the scriptures, paying particular attention to whatever the original lesson seeks to convey.

Oh, and if anyone plans to respond to my request for assistance on posting Greek characters, I believe I've figured it out. Gratefully yours,



I still welcome further posts to this thread. Esp. if you mean to direct the reader to resources that will help broaden and support examples of a particular pedagogical feature covered by the teaching grammar. And if you mean to make it so, please confine yourselves to authentic Koine Greek material. Thank you.