Discourse Use of Καί

Discourse Use of Καί

Postby Daniel Watts » August 9th, 2013, 11:34 am

I realise this thread is way old, but i didnt want to start a new discussion if there was already a thread. {Mod note: Actually, this involves a different sense of the word καί, so I would have split it anyway. --scc}

Im working through Runge's Discourse Grammar and Wallaces Grammar at the same time and am thoroughly enjoying the contrasting approaches. Regarding και, im still trying to assimilate Steve's points about it being 'unmarked' for semantic continuity/discontinuity. Im going to explain what i think is going on, so could someone correct me where im wrong. Thanks.

Basically, traditional Grammars, like Wallace, will give the 'meanings' of και, e.g. 'and', 'but', 'even' etc. On this approach, when we encounter a 'και', we ask, "is this και Connective, Contrastive, Explanatory, Corellative, etc. The problem is that while these labels are helpful when attempting to translate, enabling an English equivalent to be found, none of them really belong to 'και', that is, they explain distinctions that are only made explicit in an English (or other) translation. When an author uses και, they simply mean to express some form of linkage between terms of 'equal status'. It is unmarked for anything other than 'connectivity' i guess.

In this sense, while it is common to talk about the wide semantic range of και and how it is more 'complex' than 'and' (in a quote in a previous post somewhere"), is it not the case that it is actually less complex. An author could drop a και in there and the word itself would not mark any distinction between Connective, Contrastive, Explanatory, Corellative etc as English would. DOes this not mean it actually has less semantic content rather than more? It seems to me like this kind of problem comes from thinking 'και' means X, Y, and Z in English, rather than thinking what και means in Greek.

Also on a different note, according to Runge and Levinsohn, in Koine narrative, και is the default connective between the units in a narrative. However, in seminary i studied Mark's gospel in Greek and was regularly told that και was likely to be a 'semitism' and thus regularly had no 'translatable force' in English. Both lead to the same conclusion (και will not always be translated into English as the default connector for units of English narrative is Asyndeton) but wont the motivation behind the choice to use και effect our analysis of the discourse (if choice implies meaning).
Last edited by Stephen Carlson on August 9th, 2013, 12:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Discourse Use of Καί

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 13th, 2013, 4:04 pm

Daniel Watts wrote:Regarding και, im still trying to assimilate Steve's points about it being 'unmarked' for semantic continuity/discontinuity. Im going to explain what i think is going on, so could someone correct me where im wrong. Thanks.

Does Steve actually say this about καί?
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Re: Discourse Use of Καί

Postby MAubrey » August 13th, 2013, 7:09 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Does Steve actually say this about καί?

Yep:
Runge 2010, 23 wrote:One of the significant mismatches between English and Greek conjunctions is clearly seen in the different senses ascribed to καί. The primary senses are connective (“and”) and adversative (“but”). These two English conjunctions, however, mark an inherent semantic quality that is not marked by either καί or δέ. This quality is captured in the labels connective and adversative, and it can be described more generally as semantic continuity versus semantic discontinuity. This semantic quality that distinguishes and from but is not marked by καί. It may or may not be present. The same is true with δέ. To ascribe this semantic quality to these Greek connectives is to force them into the descriptive box of English, whether it fits well or not. The labels adversative and connective may be helpful in determining an English translation, but they cause confusion when it comes to understanding the function of καί in Greek.
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Re: Discourse Use of Καί

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 14th, 2013, 8:23 am

OK, thanks for the quote. Stephanie Black says that καί is a "procedural, non-truth-conditional signal of continuity" (p. 113), and in other places as signalling "unmarked continuity," so I have to wonder what difference, if any, lies behind Steve's and her formulations, especially in the meaning of the term continuity.
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Re: Discourse Use of Καί

Postby serunge » August 14th, 2013, 9:16 am

Daniel Watts wrote:I realise this thread is way old, but i didnt want to start a new discussion if there was already a thread. {Mod note: Actually, this involves a different sense of the word καί, so I would have split it anyway. --scc}

In this sense, while it is common to talk about the wide semantic range of και and how it is more 'complex' than 'and' (in a quote in a previous post somewhere"), is it not the case that it is actually less complex. An author could drop a και in there and the word itself would not mark any distinction between Connective, Contrastive, Explanatory, Corellative etc as English would. DOes this not mean it actually has less semantic content rather than more? It seems to me like this kind of problem comes from thinking 'και' means X, Y, and Z in English, rather than thinking what και means in Greek.


I am not sure "more or less complex" is the most useful way to frame this, perhaps broader potential range of meaning might capture it better. Since it is less specific than AND,we would expect it to occur in more diverse contexts. The point I was trying to make is that we typically have classified senses of Greek words based on an English counterpart. In this example, και does not signal the same constraints as a single English counterpart. Consideration of contextual factors would be needed to narrow down the possibilities.

Also on a different note, according to Runge and Levinsohn, in Koine narrative, και is the default connective between the units in a narrative. However, in seminary i studied Mark's gospel in Greek and was regularly told that και was likely to be a 'semitism' and thus regularly had no 'translatable force' in English. Both lead to the same conclusion (και will not always be translated into English as the default connector for units of English narrative is Asyndeton) but wont the motivation behind the choice to use και effect our analysis of the discourse (if choice implies meaning).


There was a time when grammarians would attribute similarities between Greek and Hebrew to semiticism. There are indeed Semitic influences to be found, Randall Buth has done a great job sorting out legitimate influence from incidental similarities between the languages. But I do not see how the use of και would affect our analysis. The choice to use the default indicates that there is no special meaning to be derived. Rather departure from the use of και would be the more pressing interest, whether on attributed it to Semitic finfluence or not.
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Re: Discourse Use of Καί

Postby RandallButh » August 15th, 2013, 11:56 am

and in other places as signalling "unmarked continuity," so I have to wonder what difference, if any, lies behind Steve's and her formulations, especially in the meaning of the term continuity.


Allow me to philosophise a bit this morning. Maybe it's one of those moments when the picture of the stairs is going in or coming out.

What lies behind "unmarked continuity" in Stephanie's formulations and in Steve's formulations is the Greek language. So there is no difference at that level. But if they talk enough in English there will be differences.
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Re: Discourse Use of Καί

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 15th, 2013, 3:08 pm

RandallButh wrote:
and in other places as signalling "unmarked continuity," so I have to wonder what difference, if any, lies behind Steve's and her formulations, especially in the meaning of the term continuity.


Allow me to philosophise a bit this morning. Maybe it's one of those moments when the picture of the stairs is going in or coming out.

What lies behind "unmarked continuity" in Stephanie's formulations and in Steve's formulations is the Greek language. So there is no difference at that level. But if they talk enough in English there will be differences.

That's certainly an issue with meta-language, and it doesn't even have to be in English to have the problem.
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