Direct Objecthood

Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 29th, 2013, 5:28 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:I think it is a rather strong claim to deny they exist in Greek, for which I'd like to see a theoretically informed argument and accompanying evidence.
I realise it might be a shocking thing. The situation here, however, is that we are in the beginning of a discussion about what is actually in Greek and what is being read into it. Callling for a proof in the first round will only earn you eveyone's buy in money. What I'm suggesting is another way of analysing Greek - its nominal usage and its case system. What is called "transitivity" in Greek seems to be an optional functionality in verbs that deal with their broader context. That is to say it is not a feature in itself, but is an extention / option that can be added to a certain type of verb (the -μι/-ω verbs). First, we need to discuss what is the difference between -μαι verbs and -μι/-ω verbs. Then to discuss whether there is a different relationship to the cases in either case - whether case relationships are determined by verbs or if they are what they are in themselves. What we have in Greek are verbs surrounded by elements that are in particular cases and or other function words.

"Transitivity" is a theoretical construct - various verbs and cases are not - they are in the language. There is not way of marking a verb in Greek as transitive, it is just a verb. Of course at a gut-level, "If it has an object it is transitive then it is transitive" is a fair enough argument, but in reading the language, there are seeming sometimes so-called "direct-objects" and sometimes there aren't, and often without apparent logic to it. There is no requirement to add an "it" in many places. It remedy that must be applied to Greek after asserting that there are transitives is to say that the context carries the object when a verb is transitive, but there is no explicit object with it. Arguments to correct a rule are often signs that the rule is not so great.

In the forms of the language, there is a distinction which we are distinction between -μαι verbs and -μι/-ω verbs which we are discussion in parallel to this thread. Here we seem to be discussing the relationship of the verb to the cases. The concepts of "transitivity" and "object" seem to be hand in glove with one another - to have transitivity you must have objects and when you have objects you have transitivity. I would say that both of those concepts don't seem to be in the language. Carl hasn't directly commented on transitivity, but he has questioned "objecthood".

This is not the thread tp discuss them, but we are questioning "deponents" (which I suggest are verbs that are viewed as not being able to function in the context of everything) and "passives" (which I see as a contained context - meaning that nothing gets out - where an input is put into the system from outside). I think it would be better to allow the discussion to mature a little before asking for a proof.

The misnomers "direct" and "object" in the heading of the thread more or less call for a proof, I realise, but if you read through what Carl and I are discussing is not the terminology, but the way we see the language working in itself. I think that is a first on the forum, people who learned Greek through grammar some long time ago, now discussing the language itself, without too much reference to the grammar, just drawing on the impressions and experience of reading many texts over many years. Terminology is a means to describe what is going on. In some cases we are rearranging the terminology and in other cases trying to find better terms. It is a process that will take time.

I think this will be a valuable discussion, there is no need to nip it in the bud.
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 30th, 2013, 1:06 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:I think it is a rather strong claim to deny they exist in Greek, for which I'd like to see a theoretically informed argument and accompanying evidence.

I think this will be a valuable discussion, there is no need to nip it in the bud.

Well, OK, but I didn't find your longish response the least bit helpful and it didn't really address any of my concerns. I'm all in favor of new ways of looking at things, but being told that Greek is special is not an argument in my book. Every language is special, but not every language is sui generis.
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 30th, 2013, 5:43 am

Stephen Carlson wrote: I didn't find your longish response the least bit helpful and it didn't really address any of my concerns.

Yes, perhaps when they took me to Blarney they meant give it a peck, but I misunderstood and smooched.

The short answer might be, "If you don't want to help with the cooking, wait at the table."
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 30th, 2013, 7:52 am

I've been trying to come up with a way to express that a "limitation on a verb's action" is not helpful replacement for direct objecthood, Let take a look the following example:

(1) ὁ Πέτρος τύπτει τὸν Ἰωάννην.

In (1), I suppose it can be said that τὸν Ἰωάννην limits the verb's action in telling us who Peter was beating, but it is also true that ὁ Πέτρος limits the action in telling us who's doing the beating. In fact, the verb τύπτει limits the relationship between Peter and John by telling us that the relationship involves beating. So mere limitation is not enough of a criterion; one can squint hard and find "limitation on a verb's action" on any argument in a predication. That does not tell me that direct objects don't exist in Greek.

But in (1), Peter and John are differently marked, with different cases, and this differential case marking that fits into a pattern with many other--indeed, transitive--verbs, in that we can call ὁ Πέτρος the subject and τὸν Ἰωάννην the direct object. If direct objecthood is a no-no, I have no clue what it should be replaced with. The notion of "limitation" does not distinguish between Peter and John.
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby cwconrad » August 30th, 2013, 9:11 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:I've been trying to come up with a way to express that a "limitation on a verb's action" is not helpful replacement for direct objecthood, Let take a look the following example:

(1) ὁ Πέτρος τύπτει τὸν Ἰωάννην.

In (1), I suppose it can be said that τὸν Ἰωάννην limits the verb's action in telling us who Peter was beating, but it is also true that ὁ Πέτρος limits the action in telling us who's doing the beating. In fact, the verb τύπτει limits the relationship between Peter and John by telling us that the relationship involves beating. So mere limitation is not enough of a criterion; one can squint hard and find "limitation on a verb's action" on any argument in a predication. That does not tell me that direct objects don't exist in Greek.

But in (1), Peter and John are differently marked, with different cases, and this differential case marking that fits into a pattern with many other--indeed, transitive--verbs, in that we can call ὁ Πέτρος the subject and τὸν Ἰωάννην the direct object. If direct objecthood is a no-no, I have no clue what it should be replaced with. The notion of "limitation" does not distinguish between Peter and John.


I thought that many people who talk about this sort of constructions prefer the term "direct complement" over "direct object." At any rate, one of the things that disturbs me about the notion of transitivity is the assumption that the action of the verb has an impact upon an external object. In traditional grammar, a simple sentence like ἠκούσαμεν τὴν φώην σου, we say that ἀκοῦσαι is a transitive verb and that in this clause it takes φώνην as its "direct object." But the φώνη is not at all impacted by the process of ἀκοῦααι. So, we can't really say, can we, that verbs of perception take direct objects? It seems to me that we have a syntactic structure here, a relationship between the verb and its "complement" or "object" that doesn't really involve transitivity.

Incidentally, is it really true that "direct objecthood" is something discussed by philosophers? I would think that "objecthood" might be a philosophic term, but "direct objecthood"?
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 30th, 2013, 10:46 am

cwconrad wrote:I thought that many people who talk about this sort of constructions prefer the term "direct complement" over "direct object."

OK, I can't recall reading those who prefer the term direct complement, but the term itself is so innocuous I'm not sure I would have remembered reading it. It is not really clear to me what would be the benefit of the change in terminology, though.

cwconrad wrote:At any rate, one of the things that disturbs me about the notion of transitivity is the assumption that the action of the verb has an impact upon an external object. In traditional grammar, a simple sentence like ἠκούσαμεν τὴν φώην σου, we say that ἀκοῦσαι is a transitive verb and that in this clause it takes φώνην as its "direct object." But the φώνη is not at all impacted by the process of ἀκοῦααι. So, we can't really say, can we, that verbs of perception take direct objects? It seems to me that we have a syntactic structure here, a relationship between the verb and its "complement" or "object" that doesn't really involve transitivity.

Transitivity is probably best thought of as a prototypical notion. Åshild Næss has a book on the topic, titled appropriately enough, Prototypical Transitivity (TSL 72; Benjamins, 2007). Basically, at the center of the concept are those Agent-Patient cases (such as "I broke the window" which is even more appropriate than my example earlier in the thread), and the further away one gets from this, the fuzzier the concept become and the less applicable it may appear to be. Your Experiencer-Theme example is a case in point, where the Animate participant is affected by the experience of the perception, while the Theme stimulus is not.

Though the Agent-Patient semantics helps us to identify what the prototypical transitive construction is going to look like in a particular language, it is best to bring in syntactic criteria to flesh out how the notion plays out for the more peripheral constructions. I understand the SIL definition of a direct object I quoted to be essentially that of a prototypical definition of the concept. We get the prototype first up in "the usual grammatical characteristics of the patient of typically transitive verbs" and then we have a bunch of suggested syntactic criteria to go from there.

In the way the prototypical definition is set up, transitivity is not a necessary property for a construction to have a direct object. The construction just has to sufficiently resemble one.

cwconrad wrote:Incidentally, is it really true that "direct objecthood" is something discussed by philosophers? I would think that "objecthood" might be a philosophic term, but "direct objecthood"?

Uh, no, just "objecthood" is used by the folks in the philosophy (as far as I am aware).
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Re: So called "Direct Objecthood"

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 30th, 2013, 1:03 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:I think it is a rather strong claim to deny they exist in Greek, for which I'd like to see a theoretically informed argument and accompanying evidence.
Stephen Carlson wrote:I didn't find your longish response the least bit helpful and it didn't really address any of my concerns.

For me, both theoretically informed arguments and accompanying evidence mean almost nothing. In the hands of a skillful arguer any evidence can be made to mean whatever they would want it to. I am a reader of the New Testament and a occasionally (only as a last resort) a teacher. I'm interested in whether a system of analysis aids reading, lets a greater number of people (students with an interest in the NT) have access to texts in Greek.

Is it a clever well-constructed argument to say:
Stephen Carlson wrote:(1) ὁ Πέτρος τύπτει τὸν Ἰωάννην.

In (1), I suppose it can be said that τὸν Ἰωάννην limits the verb's action in telling us who Peter was beating, but it is also true that ὁ Πέτρος limits the action in telling us who's doing the beating. In fact, the verb τύπτει limits the relationship between Peter and John by telling us that the relationship involves beating. So mere limitation is not enough of a criterion; one can squint hard and find "limitation on a verb's action" on any argument in a predication. That does not tell me that direct objects don't exist in Greek.

But in (1), Peter and John are differently marked, with different cases, and this differential case marking that fits into a pattern with many other--indeed, transitive--verbs, in that we can call ὁ Πέτρος the subject and τὸν Ἰωάννην the direct object. If direct objecthood is a no-no, I have no clue what it should be replaced with. The notion of "limitation" does not distinguish between Peter and John.
but what does that tell us except that you extended the idea of limitation to three different type of (what you call limitation) and said that (what I called) limitation is (what you called) limitation, so it is the same, so you can't understand what the difference is... Duhh!

Regardless of the circularity of your argument, I would like to suggest that the verb ῥαπίζει (beat directly) would be better for your example than τύπτει (beat (perhaps with a tool)), so that it can stay as a 3 parts without the possibility of someone introducing a tool (καλάμῳ) later in discussion. Actually, come to think of it, after my experience with MAbrey and my following down the line of argument, I will directly change your verb to one I am comfortable in using, such as νουθετεῖν (admonish)

ὁ Πέτρος νουθετεῖ τὸν Ἰωάννην.

The verbal form νουθετεῖ contains a number of pieces of information definitions - it tells us directly that the person doing it / starting it is singular and they are not in the conversation. The lexical information in the verb tells us that action we are considering between the persons involved is "admonishing".

The nominative case forms ὁ Πέτρος - is one that can add "will" to an action and which can remain unaffected by the action (this is the biggest weakness in the case system and one of the points of the Greek grammar system that annoys me most because it least accurately expresses the world - the idea of the input into the action over-rides the usual fact that doers are often changed by the actions they do. This is not limiting the action it is providing impetus for the action.

The accusative case forms τὸν Ἰωάννην - shows us the extent of the action that we are considering (he may or may not be speaking publicly so the actual admonition may be for many people). In the case of the infinitive after certain verbs which construct a context where we can see the accusative is used for both Peter and John, and the true nature of action where doer and donee are both change can be expressed.

In other examples, we can see other things too. Take for example Ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης the day goes on regardless of what else goes on in the world of men, it is just taken as a reference point. μιμηταὶ δὲ τῶν διὰ πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας κληρονομούντων τὰς ἐπαγγελίας Heb.6:12 where the virtues are uninvolved in the action but are reference points to judge how things are going by. ἐπέστησαν ἐπὶ τὴν οἰκίαν Acts 11:11 where the extent of the reference for the verb is in the accusative with the ἐπί giving a little more information.

The alternative argument you could have used would have been to have said that, "So, you are saying that the other cases don't limit...". For people who react in that way - with logic of opposites - it is sometimes a bit difficult to slow them down enough for them to notice who said what, and that I said one thing and their mind constructed another, but in the end they get it. In saying that the accusative limits, I am only saying that the accusative limits, I'm not saying that anything else for it or any other case does or doesn't happen.

I haven't been able to find an example of where an accusative with a verb is not a limitation or end-point, or couldn't be taken with a clearly understood sense by taking it as that. Thre are some fossils of genitives used in older uses other than the referential sense. Many datives take the ἐν to indicate that the thing is not what we are really supposed to be concerning ourselves with. Other than that it is pretty straightforward for reading and understanding (and teaching the language) not having objects (direct, indirect or prepositional phrases) in the grammar system and by implication no intransitive / transitive distinction.

Looking at the language as a more loosely related set of tendencies rather than very defined meanings allows us to use our not-logical part of the brain to process what we read and hear, like as a real language. Logic has its place then the rest needs to be left to language. That is a bit hard to get used to, but it works.
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Re: So called "Direct Objecthood"

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 30th, 2013, 2:01 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:For me, both theoretically informed arguments and accompanying evidence mean almost nothing. In the hands of a skillful arguer any evidence can be made to mean whatever they would want it to. I am a reader of the New Testament and a occasionally (only as a last resort) a teacher. I'm interested in whether a system of analysis aids reading, lets a greater number of people (students with an interest in the NT) have access to texts in Greek.

Well, I happen to believe in critical thinking, and I'm concerned that this appeal to obscurantism signals that the discussion we're having may not be going to be productive. I really do want to learn new things and new ways of looking at things, but I have to admit I'm biased to things like evidence and logic. Call me crazy for being this way.

Stephen Hughes wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:But in (1), Peter and John are differently marked, with different cases, and this differential case marking that fits into a pattern with many other--indeed, transitive--verbs, in that we can call ὁ Πέτρος the subject and τὸν Ἰωάννην the direct object. If direct objecthood is a no-no, I have no clue what it should be replaced with. The notion of "limitation" does not distinguish between Peter and John.
but what does that tell us except that you extended the idea of limitation to three different type of (what you call limitation) and said that (what I called) limitation is (what you called) limitation, so it is the same, so you can't understand what the difference is... Duhh!

Well, "limitation" is your term. I'm just to trying to make sense of it, and you haven't really defined it. As best I can tell, it is equivalent to "argument" or something, and as such isn't really helpful for understanding the semantics of what's going on in these sentences.

Stephen Hughes wrote:Regardless of the circularity of your argument, I would like to suggest that the verb ῥαπίζει (beat directly) would be better for your example than τύπτει (beat (perhaps with a tool)), so that it can stay as a 3 parts without the possibility of someone introducing a tool (καλάμῳ) later in discussion. Actually, come to think of it, after my experience with MAbrey and my following down the line of argument, I will directly change your verb to one I am comfortable in using, such as νουθετεῖν (admonish)

Yeah, changing the verb to νουθετεῖν moves out examples further from the prototypical Agent-Patient case that the SIL definition of direct object is constructed around. But to claim that direct objects don't exist, you really do have to address the core notion of their definition, which as far as I can tell is pretty standard in linguistic typology.

Stephen Hughes wrote:The nominative case forms ὁ Πέτρος - is one that can add "will" to an action and which can remain unaffected by the action (this is the biggest weakness in the case system and one of the points of the Greek grammar system that annoys me most because it least accurately expresses the world - the idea of the input into the action over-rides the usual fact that doers are often changed by the actions they do. This is not limiting the action it is providing impetus for the action.

This will need to be developed further to make sense. It still needs a coherent notion of "limiting" as well as now of providing impetus. I suppose one can work in a notion of impetus into the prototypical transitive event and go from there (in fact, I have read such treatments), but it also needs to handle intransitive verbs as well. But let's keep the eye on the direct object ball.

Stephen Hughes wrote:The accusative case forms τὸν Ἰωάννην - shows us the extent of the action that we are considering (he may or may not be speaking publicly so the actual admonition may be for many people). In the case of the infinitive after certain verbs which construct a context where we can see the accusative is used for both Peter and John, and the true nature of action where doer and donee are both change can be expressed.

Limitation/extent seems synonymous to me in this context. The relevance of infinitives is not clear to me. Let's keep to the topic.

Stephen Hughes wrote:The alternative argument you could have used would have been to have said that, "So, you are saying that the other cases don't limit...". For people who react in that way - with logic of opposites - it is sometimes a bit difficult to slow them down enough for them to notice who said what, and that I said one thing and their mind constructed another, but in the end they get it. In saying that the accusative limits, I am only saying that the accusative limits, I'm not saying that anything else for it or any other case does or doesn't happen.

This is why the notion of limitation appears not to be fully thought out. To me, every argument limits: subjects, verbs, objects. That's where meaning comes from. Choosing to say one thing instead of another. Limiting our statement to certain words and not others. So your claim that the accusative limits the verb appears to be a truism. Of course it limits.

Stephen Hughes wrote:I haven't been able to find an example of where an accusative with a verb is not a limitation or end-point, or couldn't be taken with a clearly understood sense by taking it as that.

OK, now we have new term, end-point. Is this like the notion in telicity or something else? (Note: not all objects / accusatives define events with end points; some events can go on indefinitely.)
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Re: Direct Objecthood

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 30th, 2013, 4:04 pm

I'm sorry, I thought we were discussing things that we had found in our reading experience that called the grammar that we had once read by into question.
I do not have the clever arguments and definitions that you want, forgive me bowing out in the middle of this discussion.
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