Topic - Focus John 2:4b Jesus' reply

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Stirling Bartholomew
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Topic - Focus John 2:4b Jesus' reply

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » August 3rd, 2014, 2:49 pm

[καὶ] λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου.

Jesus' reply ends with a simple predication: οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου. How would you "parse" it terms of topic-focus, topic-comment.

what about the placement of ὥρα in
Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus 463

Χορός

τίς ὅντιν᾽ ἁ θεσπιέπεια Δελφὶς εἶπε πέτρα
ἄρρητ᾽ ἀρρήτων τελέσαντα φοινίαισι χερσίν;
ὥρα νιν ἀελλάδων
ἵππων σθεναρώτερον
φυγᾷ πόδα νωμᾶν.


R.C. Jebb
Chorus
Who is he of whom the divine voice from the Delphian rock has said [465] to have wrought with blood-red hands horrors that no tongue can tell? It is time that he ply in flight a foot stronger than the feet of storm-swift steeds.

I know this will drive Carl to despair seeing Gospel of John set off against lyric in Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus. I guess what I am after is an answer to the question, what if we saw in John 2:4 ἡ ὥρα μου in front of the verb.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Topic - Focus John 2:4b Jesus' reply

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 3rd, 2014, 6:18 pm

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:[καὶ] λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου.

Jesus' reply ends with a simple predication: οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου. How would you "parse" it terms of topic-focus, topic-comment.
I'll give this a try, but I have to say that I use a different system (based on the ideas of Manfred Krifka and to a lesser extent, of Nomi Erteschik‑Shir) in which I view topic and focus as belonging to two different dimensions, which are superimposed on each other for each intonation unit. Usually, topic and focus are complementary but sometimes they are not.

Topic is what the assertion is about. Its complement is comment.Not all assertions have expressed topic; these are all-comment expressions.

Focus is the most informative part of the intonation unit; it signals the presence of alternatives (per Rooth). Its comment is background. I hold the position that Greek is a left-edge language in the focus typology of Daniel Büring. This is probably so because the first full non-grave accent has the highest pitch of an intonation unit, and so it phonologically the most prominent position. Because focus needs to be maximally prominent, there is a strong tendency for focus to be found at the left This means the focus of an intonation unit will be found first. There's also a notion of "broad focus" vs. "narrow focus," reflecting the size of the focus domain. A good sign of broad focus is putting a verb in the left position.

I also hold to Wackernagel's Law wherein clausal clitics are hosted by the most prominent element, which is usually at the left edge of the intonation unit. Their placement is not governed by their information structural status (though by their de-accented nature they are going to be background, given, and usually topical). On the other hand, they are a great guide to finding the left edges of intonation units and therefore focus.

There are probably a host of other concepts and qualifications that don't fit in a forum post. As you can see, I don't follow the template approach of Helma Dik and Stephen Levinsohn (both adapting Simon Dik's approach, I think). though in practice, the elements tend to line up that way on the left periphery.

OK, with this out of the way, onto the text, οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου. The whole thing fits into an intonation unit, so no need to worry those complications. A fronted adverbial element is a good candidate for a narrow focus, and I see no reason here to think otherwise. [Focus οὔπω] [Background ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου].

The topic-comment division here is complementary, a common configuration, and so it is comment-topic. (The newness of ἡ ὥρα μου in this context is pretty interesting: the hearer is expected to accommodate as if was background. This is probably easier for the evangelist's audience than for Jesus's audience.)

I think in the template approach you have οὔπω as Focus, and the rest as Remainder.
Stirling Bartholomew wrote:what about the placement of ὥρα in
Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus
ὥρα νιν ἀελλάδων / ἵππων σθεναρώτερον / φυγᾷ πόδα νωμᾶν.
It is time that he ply in flight a foot stronger than the feet of storm-swift steeds.
Poetry is trickier because you have more places of prominence (e.g, at the beginning of lines) and so constituents don't have to move around so much to be in focus.

There's no main verb (vωμᾶν is a complementary infinitive), so it doesn't have the usual diagnostic for a broad focus but all of it seems new to me, so I'd say it is a broad focus (i.e., the focus domain it the whole thing). It is also all-comment except for the clitic νιν. The words ἵππων and φυγᾷ probably also have some additional prominence relative to the rest of the sentence.
Stirling Bartholomew wrote:I guess what I am after is an answer to the question, what if we saw in John 2:4 ἡ ὥρα μου in front of the verb.
You mean, like ἡ ὥρα μου οὔπω ἥκει? I'd say this would set up a contrastive topic ἡ ὥρα μου - narrow focus οὔπω, leading one to wonder about someone else's hour (maybe John the Baptist's?). In the template approach, ἡ ὥρα μου is Topic, οὔπω is Focus, and ἥκει is Remainder.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Topic - Focus John 2:4b Jesus' reply

Post by Barry Hofstetter » August 4th, 2014, 2:00 am

I'm wondering how I got along all these years without all this stuff. However, for the line from Sophocles, I don't think it's correct to say that there is no main verb. What is understood of course is ἐστί...
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
ἐγὼ δὲ διδάσκω τε καὶ γράφω ἵνα τὰ ἀξιώτερα μανθάνω

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Topic - Focus John 2:4b Jesus' reply

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 4th, 2014, 2:39 am

Not talking about "understood" verbs that are not present in the output.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Topic - Focus John 2:4b Jesus' reply

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » August 7th, 2014, 3:53 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Not talking about "understood" verbs that are not present in the output.

I also have a problem with "understood" verbs. In contexts where greek doesn't require an explicit ἐστί.. it seems like we are imposing English rules on Greek to say that the verb is "virtually present" when it is not actually present. I suppose this is nit picking. We don't say there is an understood pronoun when we see a finite verb without a subject. Verbless clauses are business as usual in other languages.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Topic - Focus John 2:4b Jesus' reply

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » August 7th, 2014, 4:26 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
[καὶ] λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου.
I'll give this a try, but I have to say that I use a different system (based on the ideas of Manfred Krifka and to a lesser extent, of Nomi Erteschik‑Shir) in which I view topic and focus as belonging to two different dimensions, which are superimposed on each other for each intonation unit. Usually, topic and focus are complementary but sometimes they are not.

Topic is what the assertion is about. Its complement is comment.Not all assertions have expressed topic; these are all-comment expressions.

Focus is the most informative part of the intonation unit; it signals the presence of alternatives (per Rooth). Its comment is background. I hold the position that Greek is a left-edge language in the focus typology of Daniel Büring. This is probably so because the first full non-grave accent has the highest pitch of an intonation unit, and so it phonologically the most prominent position. Because focus needs to be maximally prominent, there is a strong tendency for focus to be found at the left This means the focus of an intonation unit will be found first. There's also a notion of "broad focus" vs. "narrow focus," reflecting the size of the focus domain. A good sign of broad focus is putting a verb in the left position.

I also hold to Wackernagel's Law wherein clausal clitics are hosted by the most prominent element, which is usually at the left edge of the intonation unit. Their placement is not governed by their information structural status (though by their de-accented nature they are going to be background, given, and usually topical). On the other hand, they are a great guide to finding the left edges of intonation units and therefore focus.

There are probably a host of other concepts and qualifications that don't fit in a forum post. As you can see, I don't follow the template approach of Helma Dik and Stephen Levinsohn (both adapting Simon Dik's approach, I think). though in practice, the elements tend to line up that way on the left periphery.

OK, with this out of the way, onto the text, οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου. The whole thing fits into an intonation unit, so no need to worry those complications. A fronted adverbial element is a good candidate for a narrow focus, and I see no reason here to think otherwise. [Focus οὔπω] [Background ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου].

The topic-comment division here is complementary, a common configuration, and so it is comment-topic. (The newness of ἡ ὥρα μου in this context is pretty interesting: the hearer is expected to accommodate as if was background. This is probably easier for the evangelist's audience than for Jesus's audience.)

I think in the template approach you have οὔπω as Focus, and the rest as Remainder.


Stephen,

This is really challenging. Not sure I am up to challenge. Thinking in terms intonation units is somewhat foreign. I think in terms of clauses. My analysis of topic and focus is based on a syntax unit. So right off the bat we are in different worlds. I have been looking at this for several days wondering about it. Read some of the articles you mentioned. In dialogue Helma Dik considers the normal position for a focus constituent as early in the clause, but following an explicit topic. One of the things I am not sure about is adverbs as focus constituents. It seems to me that initial adverbs are consider "settings" and as such they are not candidates for topic, comment, focus.

I would consider ἡ ὥρα the topic. I think Jesus "hour" is understood as part of the shared cognitive framework that is assumed to be active for this discourse segment. In other words I think John wants us to assume that ἡ ὥρα has an identifiable referent for the intended hearers of Jesus statement. The focus would be οὔπω ἥκει. This breaks some of the rules.


thanks for the thought provoking posts.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Topic - Focus John 2:4b Jesus' reply

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 8th, 2014, 9:56 am

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:This is really challenging. Not sure I am up to challenge. Thinking in terms intonation units is somewhat foreign. I think in terms of clauses. My analysis of topic and focus is based on a syntax unit. So right off the bat we are in different worlds. I have been looking at this for several days wondering about it. Read some of the articles you mentioned. In dialogue Helma Dik considers the normal position for a focus constituent as early in the clause, but following an explicit topic. One of the things I am not sure about is adverbs as focus constituents. It seems to me that initial adverbs are consider "settings" and as such they are not candidates for topic, comment, focus.
I understand. The syntactic and prosodic should overlap to a great extent as they here. The clause at question is one intonation unit, so that distinction doesn't affect John 2:4b. Dik's settings and themes would generally get their own intonation unit, which is why they come before the main clause focus. Initial adverbs are considered settings when they establish places, times, or participants for the situation at hand. Negative elements can't really do this establishing work; but they are great candidates for focus.
Stirling Bartholomew wrote:I would consider ἡ ὥρα the topic. I think Jesus "hour" is understood as part of the shared cognitive framework that is assumed to be active for this discourse segment. In other words I think John wants us to assume that ἡ ὥρα has an identifiable referent for the intended hearers of Jesus statement. The focus would be οὔπω ἥκει. This breaks some of the rules.
I agree that ὥρα is an identifiable referent and that it is part of the shared cognitive framework. But I see this work being done by the article ἡ.

One way of looking at focus is to try reconstruct a question under discussion it would answer. If the focus is οὔπω ἥκει, then it would answer the question "What about Jesus's hour?" (A: "It hasn't come yet."). If the focus is just οὔπω, then it would answer the question "When is Jesus's hour coming?" (A: "Not yet"). The connection of Jesus's statement to the context is rather obscure, but the timing of his hour seems more relevant than the nature of his hour.

thanks for the thought provoking posts.[/quote]
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

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