Richard Rhodes on Definiteness

Jonathan Robie
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Richard Rhodes on Definiteness

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 19th, 2020, 10:46 am

I am listening to a presentation on discourse and frames by Richard Rhodes.

For definiteness, Rhodes proposes that definiteness means that the speaker believes the hearer will know which item is meant. That seems like a very clean way of describing the purpose of the definite article, no? What do you think?
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Richard Rhodes on Definiteness

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 20th, 2020, 12:23 am

It's a bit clearer than the usual way of explaining definiteness, which involves identifiability.

But there are uses of the Greek (definite) article that don't fit into the explanation, for example, Matt 26:51.
Matt 26:51 wrote:Matt 26:51 Καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς τῶν μετὰ Ἰησοῦ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἀπέσπασεν τὴν μάχαιραν αὐτοῦ καὶ πατάξας τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ἀφεῖλεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτίον.
And look, one of those with Jesus reached out his hand and unsheathed his sword. And he struck the high priest’s slave and took off his ear.
As the hearer, I have no idea which ear is meant. The slave had two of them, after all.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Richard Rhodes on Definiteness

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 20th, 2020, 9:17 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 12:23 am
It's a bit clearer than the usual way of explaining definiteness, which involves identifiability.

But there are uses of the Greek (definite) article that don't fit into the explanation, for example, Matt 26:51.
Matt 26:51 wrote:Matt 26:51 Καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς τῶν μετὰ Ἰησοῦ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἀπέσπασεν τὴν μάχαιραν αὐτοῦ καὶ πατάξας τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ἀφεῖλεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτίον.
And look, one of those with Jesus reached out his hand and unsheathed his sword. And he struck the high priest’s slave and took off his ear.
As the hearer, I have no idea which ear is meant. The slave had two of them, after all.
Interesting.

Is there a similarly clear definition that accounts for cases like this? What other cases can you think of?

Or can we account for this using the above definition - which ear? The one that was cut off. That is what is important in this story. But yeah, that might be a stretch.
Stephen Carlson wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 12:23 am
As the hearer, I have no idea which ear is meant. The slave had two of them, after all.
At the beginning and end of the story, at least ;->
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Richard Rhodes on Definiteness

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 20th, 2020, 8:23 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 9:17 am
Stephen Carlson wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 12:23 am
It's a bit clearer than the usual way of explaining definiteness, which involves identifiability.

But there are uses of the Greek (definite) article that don't fit into the explanation, for example, Matt 26:51.
Matt 26:51 wrote:Matt 26:51 Καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς τῶν μετὰ Ἰησοῦ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἀπέσπασεν τὴν μάχαιραν αὐτοῦ καὶ πατάξας τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ἀφεῖλεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτίον.
And look, one of those with Jesus reached out his hand and unsheathed his sword. And he struck the high priest’s slave and took off his ear.
As the hearer, I have no idea which ear is meant. The slave had two of them, after all.
Interesting.

Is there a similarly clear definition that accounts for cases like this? What other cases can you think of?
I'm not aware of a similarly clear definition but my general inclination is to hold that all basic grammatical forms are polysemous, which means that there would not really be a single clear definition in the first place.

Some of the other articles in the same quotation are also challenging. ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα -- which hand did Jesus extend? He had two, after all. τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ ἀρχιερέως -- which slave of the chief priest? I don't think he had just one slave.
Jonathan Robie wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 9:17 am
Or can we account for this using the above definition - which ear? The one that was cut off. That is what is important in this story. But yeah, that might be a stretch.
Maybe the way out is that Rhodes is defining definiteness, but the Greek article does not always encode definiteness, but something else. I think students of Greek are more interested in what the Greek article means rather than what someone's linguistic concept of definiteness means, however.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Richard Rhodes on Definiteness

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 21st, 2020, 9:35 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 8:23 pm
Jonathan Robie wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 9:17 am
Is there a similarly clear definition that accounts for cases like this? What other cases can you think of?
I'm not aware of a similarly clear definition but my general inclination is to hold that all basic grammatical forms are polysemous, which means that there would not really be a single clear definition in the first place.

!!! SNIP !!!
Some of the other articles in the same quotation are also challenging. ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα -- which hand did Jesus extend? He had two, after all. τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ ἀρχιερέως -- which slave of the chief priest? I don't think he had just one slave.
Stephen Carlson wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 8:23 pm
Maybe the way out is that Rhodes is defining definiteness, but the Greek article does not always encode definiteness, but something else. I think students of Greek are more interested in what the Greek article means rather than what someone's linguistic concept of definiteness means, however.
Excellent. This is really bringing clarity to my fuzzy thinking. And Rhodes may well have been clear on this, I was not thinking that clearly.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

MAubrey
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Re: Richard Rhodes on Definiteness

Post by MAubrey » February 21st, 2020, 6:01 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 12:23 am
It's a bit clearer than the usual way of explaining definiteness, which involves identifiability.

But there are uses of the Greek (definite) article that don't fit into the explanation, for example, Matt 26:51.
Matt 26:51 wrote:Matt 26:51 Καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς τῶν μετὰ Ἰησοῦ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἀπέσπασεν τὴν μάχαιραν αὐτοῦ καὶ πατάξας τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ἀφεῖλεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτίον.
And look, one of those with Jesus reached out his hand and unsheathed his sword. And he struck the high priest’s slave and took off his ear.
As the hearer, I have no idea which ear is meant. The slave had two of them, after all.
Is that a critique of Rhodes? Or of identifiability. As a reader, I don't know which one is meant! :D
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Richard Rhodes on Definiteness

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 21st, 2020, 6:23 pm

MAubrey wrote:
February 21st, 2020, 6:01 pm
Is that a critique of Rhodes? Or of identifiability. As a reader, I don't know which one is meant! :D
Rhodes was defining definiteness, not the semantics of the Greek article. I think Stephen was saying that the Greek article can have semantics other than definiteness.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Michael W Abernathy
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Re: Richard Rhodes on Definiteness

Post by Michael W Abernathy » February 22nd, 2020, 1:13 pm

This may not be relevant because I have not read Rhodes, but there is a reason why Matthew says Peter cut off the ear. Hebrew normally assumes that a possessive matches the definiteness of both nouns when they are in a construct state. The Old Testament works around this when only one is definite by adding a lamed with a periphrastic genitive. For example, 1 Sam. 16:18 "a son of Jesse" is literally "a son to Jesse" and Psalm 3:1 "a psalm of David" is literally "a psalm to David." The Septuagint follows this practice using the dative where you might expect the genitive. Matthew does the same in Matthew 5:40 καὶ τῷ θέλοντί σοι κριθῆναι καὶ τὸν χιτῶνά σου λαβεῖν, ἄφες αὐτῷ καὶ τὸ ἱμάτιον· This suggests Matthew said Peter cut off "the ear" because he said "the servant."
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Richard Rhodes on Definiteness

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 22nd, 2020, 4:57 pm

Michael W Abernathy wrote:
February 22nd, 2020, 1:13 pm
This may not be relevant because I have not read Rhodes, but there is a reason why Matthew says Peter cut off the ear. Hebrew normally assumes that a possessive matches the definiteness of both nouns when they are in a construct state.
Well, Greek is not Hebrew, but it does sort of have something similar, called Apollonius's Canon. But there are many exceptions, and I haven't seen a contemporary treatment of the canon and its many exceptions from an identifiability standpoint.
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Michael W Abernathy
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Re: Richard Rhodes on Definiteness

Post by Michael W Abernathy » February 22nd, 2020, 5:23 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote: "Well, Greek is not Hebrew, but it does sort of have something similar, called Apollonius's Canon. But there are many exceptions, and I haven't seen a contemporary treatment of the canon and its many exceptions from an identifiability standpoint."
I wasn't implying that the same rules applied to Greek. I meant Matthew may have copied his use from the Septuagint.
Michael Abernathy
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