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New Book on the Article

Posted: January 17th, 2014, 3:50 pm
by Stephen Carlson
Ronald Peters, a 2012 Ph.D. from McMaster, has written a book on the article and it's being published by Brill (i.e. not priced for personal purchases). Here is the blurb:
The Greek Article
A Functional Grammar of ὁ-items in the Greek New Testament with Special Emphasis on the Greek Article

Ronald D. Peters, Great Lakes Christian College
In The Greek Article, Ronald D. Peters presents a grammar of the Greek article and relative pronoun, categorized as ὁ-items, which was formulated using the principles of Systemic-Functional Linguistics. This categorization stands in contrast to previous grammars, which have categorically associated the article with the demonstrative pronoun. Thus, the present work represents a significant paradigm shift in the study of the Greek article.

Unlike previous approaches that have too often yielded internally inconsistent and contradictory rules of usage, this approach results in a description of the article’s function that is uniform across all occurrences. Simultaneously simple and robust, this grammar promises to pay significant dividends for exegetes and translators of the Greek New Testament.

Table of contents
1 - Historical Overview
2 - The Common Function of the Article and Relative Pronouns: Methodology
3 – Defining and Non-Defining Relative Clauses
4 – Relative Clauses as the Head of a Nominal Group
5 – Ho- Items in μὲν... δὲ Structures
6 – The Function of the Article Defined
7 – The Article with Individual Parts of Speech
8 – The Article with Groups
9 – The Article with Nouns
10 – The Article as a Structural Element
11 – Conclusion
I admit that the promise of a "paradigm shift" sets off a red flag for me but that could just be the publishing blather; nonetheless, I'm sufficiently interested in the article that I'll probably read it if it comes to a library near me. Has anyone heard anything about this book or know of this work?

Re: New Book on the Article

Posted: January 18th, 2014, 4:22 am
by Stephen Carlson
There was a panel on the article at last year's ETS, with Peters above as well as Steve Runge. Here was the program:
Understanding the Function of the Greek Article
A Discourse/Functional Approach to the Greek Article
Ronald D. Peters (Great Lakes Christian College)

Abstract: This author has made the argument that the Greek Article should be categorized alongside the relative pronoun, not demonstrative pronoun. When the article is employed, the speaker or writer indicates that the information necessary for identification is being provided and is grammaticalized by the head term. In these instances, the head term is subjectively characterized as concrete, as belonging to immediate experience as an actual thing or associated with a specific instance. By contrast, particularly with regard to nouns, the absence of the article indicates the speaker or writer’s subjective characterization of the head term as abstract, as not belonging to immediate experience as an actual thing or associated with a specific instance. In his work on Figure and Ground, Stephen Wallace argued that elements of discourse that are more concrete represent figures in the discourse, while more abstract elements are part of the grounding of the discourse. Wallace’s work was developed by Jeffery T. Reed, who argued that concrete elements are more salient, while abstract elements are less salient. By employing these principles, this paper will illustrate how the identification of articular elements of discourse may be used to determine which elements are more salient, indicating what is uppermost in the speaker or writer’s mind. This is especially helpful with regard to the use of the article with proper nouns in narrative discourse. In these instances, the article is used to foreground those participants that are considered more salient by the speaker or writer; they are figures in the discourse. The absence of the article indicates that participants so identified are less salient; they function as a part of the grounding of the discourse. This data produced by this analysis will yield insights of significant exegetical value.

The Greek Article: A Cognitive-Functional Approach
Steven E. Runge (Logos Bible Software/Stellenbosch University)

Abstract: This paper provides a unified understanding of the article by describing its function as primarily cognitive rather than grammatical. From this perspective, articular reference signals "identifiability," i.e. that the writer assumes the reader possesses knowledge of the referent, and is able to distinguish it from among other competing referents. Chafe states, "An identifiable referent is one that is (a) assumed to be already shared, directly or indirectly, by the listener; (b) verbalized in a sufficiently identifying way; and (c) contextually salient" (1994:94). Identifiability may be established textually (i.e. previous reference), situationally (i.e. from the immediate physical context), or inferentially. Understanding this last method of inference is the key to unifying our understanding what seem to be disparate uses of the Greek article.

This paper also considers the Greek article from a typological perspective, based on its attested usage to mark something more than simply definiteness. The English article is primarily associated with the grammatical category of definiteness, whereas in Greek it is also used as a marker of (a) specificity and (b) general nominal marker. In English, the indefinite article can refer to either a specific or non-specific entity, as in "I am looking for a book." If I had a specific book in mind, I'd declare "I found it;" if non-specific I'd say "I found one." Greek, on the other hand, uses the article as a specificity marker, e.g. the articular reference to lamp and bowl in Matt 5:15. The use of the Greek article as a simple noun marker explains the article's use with substantival participles, as a substitute personal pronoun, and with articular infinitives.

The Genuine Article: A Grammatical Paper You Have To Hear in Person (Don't wait for the movie)
Denny Burk (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Panel Discussion
Moderator: Daniel B. Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary)
Ronald D. Peters (Great Lakes Christian College)
Steven E. Runge (Logos Bible Software/Stellenbosch University)
Denny Burk (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Re: New Book on the Article

Posted: May 28th, 2015, 9:56 am
by Andrew Chapman
Peters' thesis, with the same title and chapter headings is here: ... 0622,d.d24

From his introduction: will be demonstrated that the article functions as a reduced form of the relative pronoun. This will be accomplished by means of an examination of how structures that incorporate these two elements perform the same or similar functions. We will observe that both parts of speech are used by the speaker or writer to indicate that information is being provided that the recipient is to use for the purpose of identification. In this manner, the Greek article orients the identification of the referent to the speaker or writer. This stands in contrast to the English definite article and demonstratives, which indicate that the recipient possesses the information necessary for identification or direct the recipient to the information respectively. Finally, we will formulate a description of the article's function based on this examination, which will be then applied to the article's usage with various individual parts of speech and group structures.

Simply stated, the Greek article indicates that the speaker is providing the information necessary for identifying the referent to the recipient. As stated above, it orients the identifying information to the speaker, who provides this information to the recipient. By employing the article, the speaker characterizes the head term (that is, the part of speech modified by the article) as concrete, as belonging to experience of an actual thing or instance. In such instances, the speaker indicates that the information grammaticallized by the head term is the identifying characteristic of the referent.

Re: New Book on the Article

Posted: May 28th, 2015, 10:19 am
by Stephen Carlson
Thanks for that Andrew. I'll take a look at time when I have more time.

Re: New Book on the Article

Posted: October 13th, 2015, 7:00 am
by Jonathan Robie
I just spent some time working through his section on the Article with Proper Names (page 292 ff, using the link Andrew provided). Has anyone else read that section? After reading BDF and Robertson on the subject, it was interesting to read an explanation based on characterization and discourse, but I think I would have needed more data to convince me that he's nailed it. Here's what he said:
The function of the Greek article is understood best when it is considered in terms of both characterization and discourse function. Each of these functions informs the other. On the one hand, as proposed in the definition of its function, the article is used to characterize the head term as concrete, as belonging to experience of an actual thing or person, or a specific instance. With regard to nouns, the non-use of the article characterizes the head term as abstract, as not belonging to experience of an actual thing or person, or a specific instance. This categorization is subjective, and orients the identity of the referent to the speaker or writer. There is no indication that the speaker and the recipients share in common the information that is necessary for identifying the referent. On the contrary, by employing the article the speaker indicates that he or she is providing this information, upon which the recipient is dependent for identification.

The motivation for this characterization is often a matter of grounding or indicating salience. Anarthrous elements are employed to establish the ground of the discourse, against which the articular elements or figures are seen. Thus, articular elements are generally more salient than anarthrous elements. However, the matter of salience is not absolute, as if one element is not salient, while another is salient. It is a scale or cline of salience, with certain elements being more salient than others. Likewise, grounding is not an absolute state in discourse. Elements may be moved forward and backward in terms of grounding as the needs of the discourse and the subjective priorities of the speaker or writer demand.

The problem of the article with proper names has been, historically, the most perplexing of all articular structures. Attempts to describe its usage based on syntactical considerations have not produced consistent results. As with all other uses of the article, a functional view that addresses the meaningful effect the article has on the head is the best approach. It must first be recognized that the function of the article is for the purpose of characterization, even with proper names. When this characterization is understood as a function of grounding and salience in discourse, specific instances may be explained by a single, comprehensive description that accounts for all occurrences.
Does this really account for all occurrences? He demonstrates this using only a few. How would I demonstrate that this account is true or false for a given passage - is it falsifiable?

Re: New Book on the Article

Posted: October 13th, 2015, 4:52 pm
by Jonathan Robie
A little more on the article with proper names, from page 295:
The best way to illustrate this usage is to analyze a substantial portion of discourse in which the grounding of participants may be illustrated. First, consider a portion of the transfiguration of Jesus in Matt 17:1-4:

Καὶ μεθ’ ἡμέρας ἓξ παραλαμβάνει ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὸν Πέτρον καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ Ἰωάννην τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἀναφέρει αὐτοὺς εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν κατ’ ἰδίαν. καὶ μετεμορφώθη ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν, καὶ ἔλαμψεν τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ὡς ὁ ἥλιος, τὰ δὲ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο λευκὰ ὡς τὸ φῶς. καὶ ἰδοὺ ὤφθη αὐτοῖς Μωϋσῆς καὶ Ἠλίας συλλαλοῦντες μετ’ αὐτοῦ. ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν τῷ Ἰησοῦ· Κύριε, καλόν ἐστιν ἡμᾶς ὧδε εἶναι· εἰ θέλεις, ποιήσω ὧδε τρεῖς σκηνάς, σοὶ μίαν καὶ Μωϋσεῖ μίαν καὶ Ἠλίᾳ μίαν.

And after six days Jesus took Peter and James and John his brother and led them into a high mountain alone. And he was transformed in front of them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments become bright as light. And behold, they saw Moses and Elijah speaking with him! Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you want, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

In this instance, the grounding of the participants is relatively easy to explain. Only Jesus and Peter are identified with the article. They are the most salient participants; they essentially stand at the front of the stage. In this instance, they are also the only two who speak. The other participants, James, John, Moses, and Elijah, are part of the grounding of the scene. Their function is to provide the backdrop to Jesus and Peter and set the scene for their interaction.
I need help parsing this from some of you with more background in Discourse Analysis. I would have thought that Moses and Elijah are more than just a backdrop, even though they don't say anything.
καὶ ἰδοὺ ὤφθη αὐτοῖς Μωϋσῆς καὶ Ἠλίας συλλαλοῦντες μετ’ αὐτοῦ.
Is that really just backdrop? If so, what does backdrop mean in this context? Do you buy his analysis of this passage?

Re: New Book on the Article

Posted: October 13th, 2015, 5:06 pm
by Stephen Carlson
There is a fairly negative review of Peters's book by Dan Wallace in the Review of Biblical Literature:

I have not read the book yet, so I cannot really comment about its claims or approach with any degree of insight. Unfortunately, I do not expect to read the book in the near future either.

I should point out that it is my impression that Peters's discourse theory follows that of Stanley Porter and therefore uses a set of terminology that is at odds with, if not opposite to, that which Randall Buth, Steve Runge, and many others in the field use.

Re: New Book on the Article

Posted: November 10th, 2017, 3:02 pm
by Matthew Longhorn
Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but I thought that some time may have passed allowing more people to have read this book by now.
I recently read Peters' dissertation on which this book is based and thought that there were some really interesting points; I am however not willing to spend nearly £100 on the book if it isn't viewed positively in academic circles. I have read Peters' response to Wallace in BAGL so am interested in the wider view.

Could anyone let me know whether it is worth forgoing food and clothing for this purchase?

Re: New Book on the Article

Posted: November 10th, 2017, 6:14 pm
by Stephen Carlson
I still have not read the book. I would probably only do so if I were researching an article on the article (heh) and wanted a thorough review of the literature.

Re: New Book on the Article

Posted: November 12th, 2017, 11:00 am
by Matthew Longhorn
Wallace criticises him for not providing a thorough enough interaction with the literature. I did think that Peters' response was reasonable though. Essentially he argues that there isn't much point citing all of the people holding to the more traditional view as they didn't all provide real justifications for their views, he was interested in showing that there is a traditional view of the article.