Word Order in John 13:6

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Word Order in John 13:6

Postby Jeremy Spencer » March 8th, 2013, 12:49 pm

ἔρχεται οὖν πρὸς Σίμων Πέτρον. λέγει αὐτῷ, Κύριε, σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας;

I was wondering about the placement of μου prior to νίπτεις. Does the Greek text grammatically move the possessive pronoun forward as a matter of emphasis? Does Peter's question, and its phrasing in Greek grammar, imply a contrast between Peter's feet and those of the other disciples? Related questions: if Peter had asked, Κύριε, σύ νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας μου; how would the question be different, or how would it be heard differently? Your thoughts?
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby cwconrad » March 8th, 2013, 12:58 pm

Jeremy wrote:ἔρχεται οὖν πρὸς Σίμων Πέτρον. λέγει αὐτῷ, Κύριε, σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας;

I was wondering about the placement of μου prior to νίπτεις. Does the Greek text grammatically move the possessive pronoun forward as a matter of emphasis? Does Peter's question, and its phrasing in Greek grammar, imply a contrast between Peter's feet and those of the other disciples? Related questions: if Peter had asked, Κύριε, σύ νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας μου; how would the question be different, or how would it be heard differently? Your thoughts?


Stephen Carlson has all the real answers about enclitic pronouns. I would just note that I've noted a tendency for personal pronouns in a clause to appear in direct sequence and that, in this particular instance, the σύ is emphatic and the antithesis between the second and third persons indicated is a sharp one.
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby Justin Cofer » March 8th, 2013, 1:42 pm

Jeremy wrote:ἔρχεται οὖν πρὸς Σίμων Πέτρον. λέγει αὐτῷ, Κύριε, σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας;

I was wondering about the placement of μου prior to νίπτεις. Does the Greek text grammatically move the possessive pronoun forward as a matter of emphasis? Does Peter's question, and its phrasing in Greek grammar, imply a contrast between Peter's feet and those of the other disciples? Related questions: if Peter had asked, Κύριε, σύ νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας μου; how would the question be different, or how would it be heard differently? Your thoughts?


I would recommend Steve Runge's Greek New Testament Bundle, which includes along with his helpful discourse grammar an annotated Greek NT which annotates and identifies discourse markers.

I am attaching a print screen of the verse in question.

Runge.png
Runge.png (238.25 KiB) Viewed 2099 times


Runge annotates σύ as a topicial frame.

Topical frame—The fronting of some thematic element of the clause (often the grammatical subject) in order to establish a specific frame of reference regarding the theme of the clause that follows. Topical frames are used to:

• introduce brand new participants or concepts
• draw extra attention to changes in topic, sharpening comparisons or contrasts



Steven E. Runge, The Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament: Glossary (Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2008).


Runge annotates μου ... τοὺς πόδας as the main clause emphasis.

Main clause emphasis-Other—Describes the placement of the most important element(s) of the main clause in a position of prominence to attract extra attention to it based on something besides word order. This kind of prominence can be achieved through the use of a point-counterpoint set. Alternatively, if only one portion of a clause element is fronted for emphasis’ sake, the remainder of this element also receives emphasis by virtue of its grammatical relation to the fronted portion. The scope of the emphasis extends over the main clause on the same level of the discourse outline.

Steven E. Runge, The Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament: Glossary (Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2008).
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby Stephen Carlson » March 8th, 2013, 3:35 pm

Enclitic pronouns, especially dative and accusative pronouns but also genitive pronouns, tend to be positioned after the first word in an intonation unit. They are unaccented and tend to be attracted to the most phonologically prominent word in the intonation unit and follow right after it. This is known as "Wackernagel's Law" and it was originally noticed in Homer (and Vedic Sanskrit), but David Goldstein's recent dissertation shows that it is very much in effect in Herodotus. According to my research, it continues to be applicable to Koine Greek (though there are some edge cases that involve some theoretically unusual/interesting issues, but these are not applicable here.)

So in σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας; I would not say that μου is emphasized, but rather that σύ is so emphasized that it pulls the unaccented enclitic μου forward to the Wackernagel position. In terms of information structure, which the word order often indicates, it seems to me that σύ is the narrow focus of the clause. In other words, I would identify σύ as belonging to the assertion and μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας to the presupposition, as if Peter said, "Lord, are you the one who's going to wash my feet?" As a guest, someone was going to wash to Peter's feet, but he was surprised that Jesus was one to do it.

The word order σὺ νίππεις τοὺς πόδας μου would have a different information structure. σύ would now be a topic (possibly stated to announce a new topic) and the rest of the clause would have a broad focus. This is the least marked and most usual of the word orders.

Steve Runge's interpretation with σύ as the topic and μου as the emphasis (focus) has some surface plausibility (as if to suggest that Peter is surprised that Jesus, the teacher, is about to wash Peter's, the student's, feet), but as much as I hate to disagree with Steve, it's hard for me to see how an unstressed enclitic pronoun would bear emphasis. (Mike was the one who really made me appreciate this point.) I would expect to see ἐμοῦ instead for this kind of reading.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby Justin Cofer » March 8th, 2013, 5:11 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Enclitic pronouns, especially dative and accusative pronouns but also genitive pronouns, tend to be positioned after the first word in an intonation unit. They are unaccented and tend to be attracted to the most phonologically prominent word in the intonation unit and follow right after it. This is known as "Wackernagel's Law" and it was originally noticed in Homer (and Vedic Sanskrit), but David Goldstein's recent dissertation shows that it is very much in effect in Herodotus. According to my research, it continues to be applicable to Koine Greek (though there are some edge cases that involve some theoretically unusual/interesting issues, but these are not applicable here.)

So in σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας; I would not say that μου is emphasized, but rather that σύ is so emphasized that it pulls the unaccented enclitic μου forward to the Wackernagel position. In terms of information structure, which the word order often indicates, it seems to me that σύ is the narrow focus of the clause. In other words, I would identify σύ as belonging to the assertion and μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας to the presupposition, as if Peter said, "Lord, are you the one who's going to wash my feet?" As a guest, someone was going to wash to Peter's feet, but he was surprised that Jesus was one to do it.

The word order σὺ νίππεις τοὺς πόδας μου would have a different information structure. σύ would now be a topic (possibly stated to announce a new topic) and the rest of the clause would have a broad focus. This is the least marked and most usual of the word orders.

Steve Runge's interpretation with σύ as the topic and μου as the emphasis (focus) has some surface plausibility (as if to suggest that Peter is surprised that Jesus, the teacher, is about to wash Peter's, the student's, feet), but as much as I hate to disagree with Steve, it's hard for me to see how an unstressed enclitic pronoun would bear emphasis. (Mike was the one who really made me appreciate this point.) I would expect to see ἐμοῦ instead for this kind of reading.


Your post is definitely food for thought.

Robertson notes,

It will not do to say that emphasis alone explains every unusual order of words in a Greek sentence. Take Jo. 9:6, for instance, ἐπέθηκεν αὐτοῦ τὸν πηλὸν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς. Here αὐτοῦ is entirely removed from ὀφθαλμούς and is without particular emphasis. It was probably felt that the genitive of the pronouns made a weak close of a sentence. Observe also Jo. 9:10, σου οἱ ὀφθαλμοί (cf. 9:11). Thus also 9:17, 26, 30. Note ἔπεσεν αὐτοῦ πρὸς τοὺς πόδας (Jo. 11:32) and οὐκ ἄν μου ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός (ib.). So σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας (Jo. 13:6) where some emphasis by contrast may exist in spite of the enclitic form μου.

A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Logos Bible Software, 1919), 419-20.



There may be some contrast also in σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας (Jo. 13:6). But the personal enclitic pronouns have a tendency to come early in the sentence without emphasis, as πῶς ἠνεῴχθησάν σου οἱ ὀφθαλμοί (Jo. 9:10).

A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Logos Bible Software, 1919), 418-19.
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby Jeremy Spencer » March 8th, 2013, 5:42 pm

Thanks for your replies; I've benefitted from all of them! Do you think there is a pointed, purposeful contrast between σύ and μου in this passage, where both precede the verb? Or do you think the grammatical law from Classical Gk. by which the enclitic μου tends to be pulled forward precludes such an antithesis? Some older commentators have observed a major emphasis on σύ and perhaps a lesser emphasis on μου. I'd be interested in your opinions.
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby MAubrey » March 8th, 2013, 6:09 pm

Jeremy wrote:Thanks for your replies; I've benefitted from all of them! Do you think there is a pointed, purposeful contrast between σύ and μου in this passage, where both precede the verb? Or do you think the grammatical law from Classical Gk. by which the enclitic μου tends to be pulled forward precludes such an antithesis? Some older commentators have observed a major emphasis on σύ and perhaps a lesser emphasis on μου. I'd be interested in your opinions.


The explanation of "lesser emphasis on μου" is nothing more than a result of older commentators having no idea of how to account for the enclitic's position otherwise. It was the best they could do. And that's true of Robertson, too. He was trying to account for something that appeared to be inexplicable within his framework. But he was wrong and we've gone beyond him in the past 100 years. Robertson is wrong on this point. The fundamental problem is that its is a contradiction in terms. An enclitic is unaccented and thus, by definition, de-emphasized. You cannot emphasize a word that has not accent. It is phonologically impossible. You can't do it in English and you can't do it in Greek.

As for Steve's analysis, three points.

(1) when he did the anaylsis, he did not take into account second position phenomena (Wackernagel's Law) and thus his analysis is essentially unaware of the phonological constraints in the interpretation of "emphasis." Steve is fully aware of this deficiency after the fact and it will likely be updated at some point in the future.

(2) But even within Steve's analysis, you must recognize the fact that main clause emphasis isn't on μου, but on the entire constituent μου ... τοὺς πόδας. And since the syntactic head of that constituent is πόδας, there is no requirement for μου to be emphasized. that is to say, the "emphasis" is on foot, not my, from his perspective.

(3) In any case, I would argue that his analysis here is wrong. In terms of basic definitions, a topic is what shared/known information between participants, what the clause is about and focus is what is asserted about that topic for a statement and what is questioned about a topic for a question. In terms of the cultural context, the known information is that when people enter a house from the dusty outdoors, a servant is expect to wash those people's feet. And within that context, Peter asks a rhetorical in surprise: Do you wash my feet? Implicational statement: It should not be you, who does the footwashing.

But again, the main point as to the enclitic pronoun is this: you can't emphasis words that are de-emphasized. That's a contradiction. If John had wanted to emphasize both the "you" and "my," there's a form for that: ἐμού. John didn't use that form.
Mike Aubrey
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby serunge » March 9th, 2013, 11:47 am

I guess this is where I wade into this discussion and say something profound. The only quote that comes to mind is John Wayne's "Life is tough; it's tougher if you're stupid." Not wanting to be stupid, I'll agree with the convincing arguments offered by Mike and Stephen. Image

Mike is right about Wagernackel and me. We didn't meet until recently, and I am still trying to get to know him. John was the first book I analyzed on 2006, and I've learned a lot from Mike and others since then. Stephen Levinsohn has been proofing the analysis for about a year, but there is always room for specific recommendations like this. The change has been made to the source data. Not sure when the next update will go out, but this will be in it.

Thanks for the feedback, as always.

Steve
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby Stephen Carlson » March 9th, 2013, 2:58 pm

We are little lucky here because the first person singular personal pronoun has different enclitic and emphatic forms, beginning with μ- and ἐμ- respectively. The second person singular personal pronouns are distinguished editorially with an accent, and the third person pronouns not at all.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby RandallButh » March 10th, 2013, 2:44 am

The order of σύ μου may be another example of that Greek phenomenon where marked Focus precedes marked Topic (contextualizing constituent).

It is important to recognize that philological tendencies like "Wackernagel" still involve choice, and choice involves meaning. In other words, it does no good to say that the fronting of μου is common. One must still explain the choice. In this case, rather than call the fronting the marked Focus, the most salient and marked piece of information, we can call 'you' the most salient and marked piece of information with 'my [feet]' serving as the marked frame of reference, and non-focal.

Alternatively, perhaps Stephen C. is saying that σύ has pulled the μου and that therefore the μου would be marking the σύ as truly Focal, and not just Topical frame of reference (C.C.). That would be an interesting use of a secondary word order shift. It would be good to look at about 10 examples against 10 examples where the μου stays post-verb.
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