Word Order in John 13:6

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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby Iver Larsen » March 13th, 2013, 10:06 am

Mike,

I was talking about ancient Greek, not modern English, and I do not assume that what applies to English also applies to Greek.

You mention Dooley and Levinsohn. Their section 6.6 is very brief and only deals with English. In chapter 11.3 they have one example from Greek, but they explicitly state that focus here is positionally marked. This is not phonology.

Anyway, I am sure we won't come to agreement, but that is still helpful to know.
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby Stephen Carlson » March 13th, 2013, 10:28 am

Iver, some information about ancient Greek phonology, including its interaction with pragmatics, can be found in Devine and Stephens, The Prosody of Greek Speech (Oxford UP, 1994). I realize that this book may be hard to get a hold of in Africa, but it's to let you know that we've consulted detailed and relevant research on the topic instead of naively misapplying English to Greek.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby MAubrey » March 13th, 2013, 10:37 am

Iver Larsen wrote:Mike,

I was talking about ancient Greek, not modern English, and I do not assume that what applies to English also applies to Greek.

You mention Dooley and Levinsohn. Their section 6.6 is very brief and only deals with English. In chapter 11.3 they have one example from Greek, but they explicitly state that focus here is positionally marked. This is not phonology.

Anyway, I am sure we won't come to agreement, but that is still helpful to know.


Iver,

I was talking about language, not modern English or ancient Greek. I also do not assume that what applies to English also applies to Greek. What I do assume is that what applies to Tagalog, Polish, Sanskrit, Warlpiri, Mudburra, Warumungu, Garrwa, Wambaya, Yukulta, and many other languages may very well be extremely relevant to Greek. The fact that focus is positionally marked says nothing one way or the other about whether it is also marked by intonation. This isn't an "either-or" situation. In section 11.3 of Dooley & Levinsohn, you seem to have missed two extremely important points. The first is their statement: "Only a few languages, mostly tonal, do not use intonation as a signal of focus" (page 33), and the second is the fact that nowhere do they say that Greek *only* uses word order to mark information structuring relations.

If the use of intonation as a signal of focus is so nearly universal, then its a perfectly reasonable starting point to say that it does so in Greek, particularly when there's no evidence to the contrary. To begin from the opposite direction seems to me rather...well...I don't know. It does make sense to me why you would do that...

Mike
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby MAubrey » March 13th, 2013, 10:38 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:Iver, some information about ancient Greek phonology, including its interaction with pragmatics, can be found in Devine and Stephens, The Prosody of Greek Speech (Oxford UP, 1994). I realize that this book may be hard to get a hold of in Africa, but it's to let you know that we've consulted detailed and relevant research on the topic instead of naively misapplying English to Greek.


There's also:
Sydney Allen's Accent and Rhythm: Prosodic Features of Latin and Greek: A Study in Theory and Reconstruction, 1973
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby RandallButh » March 13th, 2013, 10:45 am

MAubrey wrote:
Iver Larsen wrote:Mike,

I was talking about ancient Greek, not modern English, and I do not assume that what applies to English also applies to Greek.

You mention Dooley and Levinsohn. Their section 6.6 is very brief and only deals with English. In chapter 11.3 they have one example from Greek, but they explicitly state that focus here is positionally marked. This is not phonology.

Anyway, I am sure we won't come to agreement, but that is still helpful to know.


Iver,

I was talking about language, not modern English or ancient Greek. I also do not assume that what applies to English also applies to Greek. What I do assume is that what applies to Tagalog, Polish, Sanskrit, Warlpiri, Mudburra, Warumungu, Garrwa, Wambaya, Yukulta, and many other languages may very well be extremely relevant to Greek. The fact that focus is positionally marked says nothing one way or the other about whether it is also marked by intonation. This isn't an "either-or" situation. In section 11.3 of Dooley & Levinsohn, you seem to have missed two extremely important points. The first is their statement: "Only a few languages, mostly tonal, do not use intonation as a signal of focus" (page 33), and the second is the fact that nowhere do they say that Greek *only* uses word order to mark information structuring relations.

If the use of intonation as a signal of focus is so nearly universal, then its a perfectly reasonable starting point to say that it does so in Greek, particularly when there's no evidence to the contrary. To begin from the opposite direction seems to me rather...well...I don't know. It does make sense to me why you would do that...

Mike


Mike and others:

Mike's reference is why it is legitimate, crosslinguistically, to distinguish Topic/Frame/Contextualization frontings from Focus frontings in a language, at least until proven otherwise.
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby Iver Larsen » March 14th, 2013, 3:53 am

RandallButh wrote:
Mike and others:

Mike's reference is why it is legitimate, crosslinguistically, to distinguish Topic/Frame/Contextualization frontings from Focus frontings in a language, at least until proven otherwise.


We ran into a discussion of different lingustic theories and presuppositions which was partly because I picked up on a statement that John could (should?) have used ἐμοῦ rather than μου in this sentence in this position if he had wanted to use an emphatic form. When I checked this with actual data instead of relying on grammar books, it became clear - to me at least - that this is an old misunderstanding. How old I do not know. Smyth states it without evidence, but Robertson is ambivalent.

However, I am interested in how you, Randall, would analyze this verse from your perspective. You had a short comment earlier saying that this maybe was an example of marked focus preceding marked topic, but it was not clear to me what you called focus and what you called topic. I assume you mean that σύ is the marked and fronted topic while μου is a marked and fronted focus. Can you clarify to me how you would anlayze this sentence from your perspective? I think that might be helpful. The relevant text was:

Κύριε, σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας;

Is there a topic here? How do you define the elusive "topic" as a technical term? If there is a topic, is it fronted and marked? Is there a focus? Fronted or marked? Is there more than one topic? More than one focus? Might Greek have operated with primary and secondary stress? If so, might μου have had a secondary stress since it is marked by fronting?

Because my approach to language is holistic, I have never been enthusiastic about the suggested dichotomy between topic and comment. I think of a sentence or discourse like a painting or a puzzle or both. Each word has its own unique contribution to the painting, but some are more prominent than others. There is background and foreground and shades in between. (Think of Longacre's discourse descriptions). In Greek with very flexible word order the position of a phrase in a clause or a word in a phrase is an indication of its prominence relative to the other constituents at the same level.
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby RandallButh » March 14th, 2013, 4:38 am

Iver Larsen wrote:
RandallButh wrote:
Mike and others:

Mike's reference is why it is legitimate, crosslinguistically, to distinguish Topic/Frame/Contextualization frontings from Focus frontings in a language, at least until proven otherwise.


We ran into a discussion of different lingustic theories and presuppositions which was partly because I picked up on a statement that John could (should?) have used ἐμοῦ rather than μου in this sentence in this position if he had wanted to use an emphatic form. When I checked this with actual data instead of relying on grammar books, it became clear - to me at least - that this is an old misunderstanding. How old I do not know. Smyth states it without evidence, but Robertson is ambivalent.

However, I am interested in how you, Randall, would analyze this verse from your perspective. You had a short comment earlier saying that this maybe was an example of marked focus preceding marked topic, but it was not clear to me what you called focus and what you called topic. I assume you mean that σύ is the marked and fronted topic while μου is a marked and fronted focus. Can you clarify to me how you would anlayze this sentence from your perspective? I think that might be helpful. The relevant text was:

Κύριε, σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας;

Is there a topic here? How do you define the elusive "topic" as a technical term? If there is a topic, is it fronted and marked? Is there a focus? Fronted or marked? Is there more than one topic? More than one focus? Might Greek have operated with primary and secondary stress? If so, might μου have had a secondary stress since it is marked by fronting?

Because my approach to language is holistic, I have never been enthusiastic about the suggested dichotomy between topic and comment. I think of a sentence or discourse like a painting or a puzzle or both. Each word has its own unique contribution to the painting, but some are more prominent than others. There is background and foreground and shades in between. (Think of Longacre's discourse descriptions). In Greek with very flexible word order the position of a phrase in a clause or a word in a phrase is an indication of its prominence relative to the other constituents at the same level.


There are two questions here, and hopefully easy to clarify.

On John 13:6 the reversal would be SY being Focus and MOY being Topic/Contextualizing Constituent, which is backwards from prototypical frontings.

On "Topic Comment" and "Topic Focus", that blurs two different systems. I, too, am not a fan of "Topic Comment" because that does not elucidate specific word order markings but primarily covers general sentence saliency and normal presentations. 'Topic' 'Focus' on the other hand, primarily deals with Marked Items, or at least it did in the pre-1989 Funtional Grammar. In the Functional Grammar system a FOCUS is an item that has been marked, and typically it is placed before the default core predication template, into what is called a pragmatic position, P1 or P2. So when I talk about "Focus" I am talking about something Pragmatically marked and not simply "Comment". Hope that clarifies some things.
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby Iver Larsen » March 15th, 2013, 7:17 am

RandallButh wrote:
Κύριε, σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας;

On John 13:6 the reversal would be SY being Focus and MOY being Topic/Contextualizing Constituent, which is backwards from prototypical frontings.

On "Topic Comment" and "Topic Focus", that blurs two different systems. I, too, am not a fan of "Topic Comment" because that does not elucidate specific word order markings but primarily covers general sentence saliency and normal presentations. 'Topic' 'Focus' on the other hand, primarily deals with Marked Items, or at least it did in the pre-1989 Funtional Grammar. In the Functional Grammar system a FOCUS is an item that has been marked, and typically it is placed before the default core predication template, into what is called a pragmatic position, P1 or P2. So when I talk about "Focus" I am talking about something Pragmatically marked and not simply "Comment". Hope that clarifies some things.


It clarifies a little, but you did not define topic. Since both σύ and μου are pragmatically marked by fronting, would both then be FOCUS in your system? Or are you saying that one is topic and the other focus? If so, why? It is difficult for me to see the difference between theme and topic, partly because both would be translated the same in my language. I am happy with theme/topic at the paragraph and higher discourse level, but not at clause level. It just doesn't make sense to me to say, e.g. that Jesus/σύ is the topic in this sentence. If I wanted to talk about a topic here it would be the question of who is the one to wash the feet of whom. Every word deals with that topic: The vocative Κύριε which indicates the relationship, the primary focus on Jesus, with the secondary focus on Peter and the washing of feet being predictable from context.

Thanks,
Iver
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Re: Word Order in John 13:6

Postby RandallButh » March 16th, 2013, 2:31 am

OK, let's try to add some detail and clarification.

No I do not see two Focus in the sentence. and I would not say that "You" is the "Topic" of the sentence/clause.

The very reason that I use "Contextualizing Constituent" for this pragmatic function (a.k.a. Topic) is illustrated in your question. When a piece of a clause is used to relate to the larger context and it receives special marking by being placed before the core of the clause (in Greek that means before the verb), then I call it a Contextualizing Constituent. Traditionally, this is called "Topic" in Functional Grammar, but as you have just demonstrated, that label causes confusion because it will often be interpreted according to its English meaning and not accordingly as a technical term and as redefined. This is especially important to clarify in a language where the word for "subject" and "topic" may be the same. Such a language forces the creation of a technical term that does not mean "topic/subject".

Normally in languages, if two items may be specially marked by placing before the core of the clause, the first item so marked will be relating to the larger context and is a Contextualing Constituent while the second marked item will be more salient and carry the most important piece of the communication, a Focus, the point that the sentence was trying to make, and marked. A sentence does not need to have either a marked Focus or a marked CC. They only occur when a default item is given special treatment (marked, non-default). In that sense the word 'marked' in "marked Focus" and "marked Contextualizing Constituent" is redundant and only added sometimes as a reminder these pragmatic items are not default items.
By the way, I assume that in most languages (not all) the difference between a marked CC and a marked Focus can be heard in speech. While both CC and Focus can be marked by word order, being placed before the core of the sentence, the Focus will carry a Focal intonation, too.

Back to John 13:6, it may be read as a reversal of the prototypical marked order:
the SY may be read as the marked, most salient piece of the sentence (Focus, including a Focal intonation), and MOY may be marked secondarily as contextual reference for the sentence (CC, and without focal intonation), in this case providing the more assumed and expected reading "I (would) wash ..."
So the sentence can be read: "you" (surprise, marked Focus) more than "me/my" (expected, marked Contextualizing Constituent) are going to wash feet?

Other readings are possible. For example, one might treat SY as the C.C. and MOY as Focus, but that would require adding a Focal intonation to the fronted MOY, something debated in this thread.
I am caught between two poles on this question. On the one hand I recognize that the Greek accent system was recorded according to rules and not changed for individual contexts so that it is somewhat artificial. On the other hand, where it is possible to read something in accord with the accent system I am inclinded to let it be so read. So here, the enclitic reading of SOY would mean that it is not Focus but a CC. Nevertheless, there are many examples of marked Focus where a default high tone on the final syllable is dropped and written grave because a word follows. If I read such a word as Focus, then I restore its high tone in my reading, even though the written accent is grave. A grave means "potential accent" for whenever the word pops out into its own, something that I claim happens with a Focus pragmatic marking. Technically, if a person were to read a Greek sentence slowly, then all grave accents should be pronounced. They are only dropped (that is, left as grave "no accent") when reading fluently or for Focal readings.
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