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Word Order -- Need Help

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Word Order -- Need Help

Postby gfross » Sat May 28, 2011 8:25 am

Hansen and Quinn in their _Greek: An Intensive Course_ present one view of word order; Anne Mahoney in her _First Greek Course_ presents a conflicting view. Whose opinion should I follow?

I'll start with the easier of the two: HQ. In Section 17, HQ says the following:
----------------------------
Consider the following variations on the idea "Homer educates his brother."

(a) ὁ Ὅμηρος τὸν ἀδελφὸν παιδεύει.
(b) παιδεύει ὁ Ὅμηρος τὸν ἀδελφόν.
(c) τὸν ἀδελφὸν ὁ Ὅμηρος παιδεύει.

The first example can be considered neutral word order. The subject more often than not does precede the verb, as does the direct object. The second example puts greater emphasis on the verb; it would be a good answer to the question, "What does Homer do?" "Homer educates his brother." The third puts emphasis on the direct object; it would be a good answer to the question, "Whom does Homer educate?" "Homer educates his brother." "It is his brother Homer educates."
-----------------------------

I am familiar with this type of "emphatic" word order from my study of Latin.

OK. Now here is what Anne Mahoney has to say in Chapter II, Section 7 "Word Order and Syntax":
------------------------------------------------
The three phrases "the woman," "the teacher," and "sees" can be arranged in six different ways:
[The numerals are not in Mahoney's book; I have added them for ease of discussion. gfr]

(1) ἡ ἄνθρωπος τὸν διδάσκαλον βλέπει.
(2) ἡ ἄνθρωπος βλέπει τὸν διδάσκαλον.
(3) τὸν διδάσκαλον ἡ ἄνθρωπος βλέπει.
(4) τὸν διδάσκαλον βλέπει ἠ ἄνθρωπος.
(5) βλέπει ἡ ἄνθρωπος τὸν διδάσκαλον.
(6) βλέπει τὸν διδάσκαλον ἡ ἄνθρωπος.

All six of them basically mean "the woman sees the teacher"....

Because word order does not carry grammatical information, it is free to do something else in Greek. In Greek, word order may have a pragmatic function, relating to how the sentence fits into the larger context. In general, what comes first is what the sentence is about, the Topic (the capital letter indicates that the word has its linguistic sense). Next is the essential new information the sentence is trying to convey, the Focus. And if we have not seen it yet, the verb comes next. Thus we can think of the basic word order as Topic, Focus, verb.

When there is an expressed subject, this is often the Topic. If the subject is the same from one sentence to the next, it is usually not repeated, so a new subject is usually new information. In a sentence like the third one above, the direct object comes first, so we assume this is the Topic, given information, and the subject is Focus, new information. This sentence might answer a question like "who sees the teacher?" -- it's the woman who sees him, rather than the man. In the fourth sentence, the direct object is first again, but the verb is second, so we assume this is the essential new information, the Focus. This sentence might answer a question like "what is the woman doing with the teacher?"
----------------------------------------------------------

To see the conflict in viewpoints, let's put (c), the third sentence of HQ, next to (3), the third sentence of Mahoney, and then restate what question each is supposed to answer.

(c) τὸν ἀδελφὸν ὁ Ὅμηρος παιδεύει. HQ: answers the question "Whom does Homer educate?"
(3) τὸν διδάσκαλον ἡ ἄνθρωπος βλέπει. Mahoney: answers the question "Who sees the teacher?"

Thus for (c) Mahoney would say it answers the question "Who educates the brother?" whereas for (3) HQ would say it answers the question "Whom does the woman see?"

The viewpoints are exact opposites, it seems to me. So I'm confused. If I ask the question Τίς τὸν ἀδελφὸν παιδεύει; am I going to expect the answer Ὁ Ὅμηρος τὸν ἀδελφὸν παιδεύει à la HQ, or am I going to expect Τὸν ἀδελφὸν ὀ Ὄμηρος παιδεύει à la Mahoney?

Hmm, another idea occurred to me. If someone (not Homer) and I have already been talking about Homer's brother, say, and I want to know who is teaching him (the brother), would I ask the question as follows: τὸν ἀδελφὸν τίς παιδεύει; ( = With regard to the brother, about whom we have already been talking, who is teaching him?). And if so, would the expected answer be τὸν ἀδελφὸν ὀ Ὄμηρος παιδεύει ? If both of the above (question and answer) are correct, then Mahoney is right and HQ is wrong.

The reason I ask is that I am doing question and answer drills in Greek to fix the forms of τίς τί in mind. These interrogative pronouns, in their various cases, seem to be the first word in a question most, if not all, of the time -- at least, in first-year grammars. But according to Mahoney, the Topic (about which one has been talking) should come first, not the new information (Focus). However, τίς and τί are always asking for new information about the topic, and thus they really should be in the position of the Focus, shouldn't they? If we've been talking about some guy, and I ask, "Who's teaching him?" shouldn't that be expressed in Greek as αὐτὸν τίς παιδεύει; and not as τίς αὐτὸν παιδεύει; ?

Thanks for any help you can give me on this issue. Although I took four semesters of college Greek, that was a long time ago (40 years and more), so I have forgotten a lot and am now going through Mahoney's _First Year Course_ (which I really, really like) to relearn everything I've forgotten. So please gear your remarks to my level of Greek (but since I have a M.A. in linguistics, you can be sophisticated with regard to grammatical terms, etc.).
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Re: Word Order -- Need Help

Postby NateD26 » Sun May 29, 2011 10:20 am

I think it's not always easy to find the exact reason for a certain word order
and often, both interpretations by Mahoney and HQ may be plausible.

Consider this passage from Plato's Apology (20c-d):
ὑπολάβοι ἂν οὖν τις ὑμῶν ἴσως: “ἀλλ᾽, ὦ Σώκρατες, τὸ σὸν τί ἐστι πρᾶγμα; πόθεν αἱ διαβολαί σοι αὗται γεγόνασιν; οὐ γὰρ δήπου σοῦ γε οὐδὲν τῶν ἄλλων περιττότερον πραγματευομένου ἔπειτα τοσαύτη φήμη τε καὶ λόγος γέγονεν, εἰ μή τι ἔπραττες ἀλλοῖον ἢ οἱ πολλοί. λέγε οὖν ἡμῖν τί ἐστιν, ἵνα μὴ ἡμεῖς περὶ σοῦ αὐτοσχεδιάζωμεν.”

When our university professor tried to explain the first underlined question, he read it
similarly to your reading of τὸν ἀδελφὸν τίς παιδεύει, that is, that τὸ σὸν πρᾶγμα functions as
accusative of respect and τί ἐστι (αὐτό) is the question.
Note then, that by reading this way, there was no need to repeat the Topic, as you call it, the second time.

Now, on my second reading, I decided to read it as a simple question,
that is, τί ἐστι τὸ σὸν πρᾶγμα;,
even if the word order is somewhat convoluted here -- perhaps this would be the colloquial
way of asking this, seeing that Socrates channels a possible question from one of the jurists --
and still there wouldn't be any reason to repeat the Topic.

At least that's how I see it. I hope the more experienced users would join the discussion. :)
Nate.
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Re: Word Order -- Need Help

Postby gfross » Sun May 29, 2011 12:46 pm

NateD26 wrote:I think it's not always easy to find the exact reason for a certain word order
and often, both interpretations by Mahoney and HQ may be plausible.

Consider this passage from Plato's Apology (20c-d):
ὑπολάβοι ἂν οὖν τις ὑμῶν ἴσως: “ἀλλ᾽, ὦ Σώκρατες, τὸ σὸν τί ἐστι πρᾶγμα; πόθεν αἱ διαβολαί σοι αὗται γεγόνασιν; οὐ γὰρ δήπου σοῦ γε οὐδὲν τῶν ἄλλων περιττότερον πραγματευομένου ἔπειτα τοσαύτη φήμη τε καὶ λόγος γέγονεν, εἰ μή τι ἔπραττες ἀλλοῖον ἢ οἱ πολλοί. λέγε οὖν ἡμῖν τί ἐστιν, ἵνα μὴ ἡμεῖς περὶ σοῦ αὐτοσχεδιάζωμεν.”

When our university professor tried to explain the first underlined question, he read it
similarly to your reading of τὸν ἀδελφὸν τίς παιδεύει, that is, that τὸ σὸν πρᾶγμα functions as
accusative of respect and τί ἐστι (αὐτό) is the question.
Note then, that by reading this way, there was no need to repeat the Topic, as you call it, the second time.

Now, on my second reading, I decided to read it as a simple question,
that is, τί ἐστι τὸ σὸν πρᾶγμα;,
even if the word order is somewhat convoluted here -- perhaps this would be the colloquial
way of asking this, seeing that Socrates channels a possible question from one of the jurists --
and still there wouldn't be any reason to repeat the Topic.

At least that's how I see it. I hope the more experienced users would join the discussion. :)


I hope they do, too. Your quote was beyond my level of Greek, I'm afraid. I need simpler examples, if they exist. But thanks for your effort!
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Re: Word Order -- Need Help

Postby jswilkmd » Mon May 30, 2011 3:56 am

Don't forget, too, that certain word orders may be necessitated by the meter in lyric and epic poetry and, when reading such genres, I wouldn't put too much significance into whether the word order conveys emphasis.
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Re: Word Order -- Need Help

Postby theodoros » Mon May 30, 2011 11:16 pm

I wonder who ignorant wrote the horrible word «η άνθρωπος». In the hole Greek literature there isn’t such a word. The woman is η γυνή. Ορά rather βλέπει. Παιδεύω has the meaning of educate. Teach is διδάσκω. For the word order:
Όμηρος παιδεύει τον μαθητήν. Answers the question: What is doing Όμηρος now.
Τον μαθητήν Όμηρος παιδεύει. » » » Whom Όμηρος teaches.
Παιδεύει Όμηρος τον μαθητήν. » » » Where those cries come from (!)
But it is not necessary. Greek is not Latin or German. And don’t use articles everywhere. If you write: Ο Όμηρος παιδεύει τον μαθητήν you mean the certain Όμηρος ( and not someone else) teaches. Use generally articles where in English use “the” and don’t use where you write “a”. My advice to beginners is: Read, read, read texts, not study. Don’t care if you can’t understand the most and don’t stay in a word. It is better to memorize short phrases of a writer rather artificial examples, silly most of them. I use Modern Greek keyboard that has only οξείαν. Sorry for my English.
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Re: Word Order -- Need Help

Postby gfross » Tue May 31, 2011 2:38 am

jswilkmd wrote:Don't forget, too, that certain word orders may be necessitated by the meter in lyric and epic poetry and, when reading such genres, I wouldn't put too much significance into whether the word order conveys emphasis.


Good point! Thanks!

Since the quotes I gave are from the beginning chapters of first-year AG prescriptive grammars, with the focus on prose, not poetry, I assume that the authors were trying to be as simple as possible with their "rules" and examples. It'll be a long time before I begin reading any lyric or epic poetry. :)
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Re: Word Order -- Need Help

Postby gfross » Tue May 31, 2011 4:06 am

theodoros wrote:I wonder who ignorant wrote the horrible word «η άνθρωπος». In the hole Greek literature there isn’t such a word. The woman is η γυνή.


Thanks, theodoros, for your observations! The woman who wrote ἥ άνθρωπος is Anne Mahoney, the author of First Greek Course, a Lecturer in Classics at Tufts University. I have no idea why she chose to use the feminine article instead of the masculine, except perhaps to show that ἄνθρωπος can mean "woman" as well as "man". According to the 1924 edition of the Liddell & Scott Ancient Greek-English Lexicon, which I have on my iPod Touch, as well as Lexiphanes, which I have on my iPhone, ἥ ἄνθρωπος was used several times to mean "woman": Pi. P. 4.98, Hdt. 1.60, Isoc. 18.52, and Arist. EN 1148b20. There is also one reference in which it was used to contrast with γυνή: Aeschin. 3.137. It was also used by several other authors, but in a negative connotation. If you want to know why Mahoney used it, you'll have to ask her.

theodoros wrote: Ορά rather [than; gfr] βλέπει.
I looked these two up in the two dictionaries above, and both gave, along with many other meanings, one meaning of them as "see [someone, something]". Both verbs are listed in the vocabulary of Chapter Two with "see" given as the translation. Again, since this is a first-year textbook, I think Mahoney wanted to keep things simple. She also wanted to give the student an -άω verb to work with. Why she chose ὁράω, I don't know. You'll have to ask her.

theodoros wrote: Παιδεύω has the meaning of educate. Teach is διδάσκω.
Thanks for drawing my attention to the difference in meaning. That was my error.

theodoros wrote: For the word order:
Όμηρος παιδεύει τον μαθητήν. Answers the question: What is doing Όμηρος now.
Τον μαθητήν Όμηρος παιδεύει. » » » Whom Όμηρος teaches.
Παιδεύει Όμηρος τον μαθητήν. » » » Where those cries come from (!)
But it is not necessary. Greek is not Latin or German.


Thank you for your input!

theodoros wrote: And don’t use articles everywhere. If you write: Ο Όμηρος παιδεύει τον μαθητήν you mean the certain Όμηρος ( and not someone else) teaches.
I understand what you are saying. However, again, what I am doing is simply quoting (and imitating the syntax of) H & Q and Mahoney. I was curious about the use of the definite article with "Homer", so I took a look at Smyth's Greek Grammar to see what this very eminent authority had to say about its use. In Section 1136, Smyth discusses the use of the article in Attic Greek with proper names. He says that one of its uses occurs when the name is "specially marked as well known", e.g., ὁ Σόλων (Demosthenes 20.90), οἱ Ἡρακλέες (Plato Theaetetus 169 b). Since I imagine that when first-year textbooks mention "Homer", they are referring to the most well-known man with that name and not to a Homer who lives down the street, ὁ Ὅμηρος is acceptable Attic Greek. heh

theodoros wrote: Use generally articles where in English use “the” and don’t use where you write “a”.
Thank you. That is one convention (rule) I do understand.

theodoros wrote: My advice to beginners is: Read, read, read texts, not study. Don’t care if you can’t understand the most and don’t stay in a word. It is better to memorize short phrases of a writer rather artificial examples, silly most of them.
I agree with the "read, read, read" part. However, I also enjoy studying grammar, syntax, and word order. Artificial examples are often "silly"; I agree. Nevertheless, I find them extremely helpful when I am beginning the study of a new language.

theodoros wrote: I use Modern Greek keyboard that has only οξείαν. Sorry for my English.
No problem. I understood what you wrote. :) Thanks again for your comments!
Last edited by gfross on Tue May 31, 2011 4:32 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Word Order -- Need Help

Postby gfross » Tue May 31, 2011 4:27 am

My understanding of word order is somewhat clearer now that I have read the Greek in the Chapter Two "Conversation" section of Mahoney's First Year Greek. In that section are many question-and-answer units of discourse, most of them beginning with a question word, the rest with ἆρα, e.g., τίς, τί, τίσι, ποῖον, ποία, πῶς, etc. In every example, the question word is the first word of the sentence, and in every answer the answer to the question word appears in the same position as the question word, e.g., τίσι μανθάνομεν; τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς βιβλίοις μανθάνομεν. τί ἔχεις, ὦ παιδίον; ἀκοὴν ἔχω, ὦ διδάσκαλε.

So my conclusion is that this is the standard question-word question and answer pattern of Attic Greek prose. Any comments?
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Re: Word Order -- Need Help

Postby Homer74 » Wed Jun 01, 2011 8:31 pm

I read the book 'Greek Word Order' by K. J. Dover (Bristol Classical Press, 2000) a few years back in an attempt to understand the fluidity of Greek word order. Dover begins with words that do have a determined place in the word order (e.g. postpositives and prepositives) and his argument is easy enough to follow.

But when he tries to explain other examples, the argument rests heavily on statistical evidence of actual Greek usage. For example, he says that "[this] is an observable historical fact which could never have been deduced from the definitions" (pg. 14). There is clear tension in his writing between viewing grammar as prescriptive and descriptive. Another example: "Generally speaking, the earlier the Greek, the more closely does M+M+q>Mq M approximate to a rule" (pg. 15).

My question would be whether grammar is ever a case of definitions that writers strictly follow or a later attempt by professional grammarians to understand received texts. I think the example from Plato's Apology is interesting: is Plato writing in this way to convey a colloquial speaking style on behalf of Socrates as if to say 'look - this is what the historical Socrates actually said at his trial'? Or is it something entirely different - a highly polished piece of prose composition by a master of the medium?

So, my answer to the question would relate it more to a particular author - how does a particular writer use word order rather than attempting to extract general rules for the entire corpus.
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Re: Word Order -- Need Help

Postby gfross » Fri Jun 03, 2011 11:22 am

Homer74 wrote:I read the book 'Greek Word Order' by K. J. Dover (Bristol Classical Press, 2000) a few years back in an attempt to understand the fluidity of Greek word order. Dover begins with words that do have a determined place in the word order (e.g. postpositives and prepositives) and his argument is easy enough to follow.

But when he tries to explain other examples, the argument rests heavily on statistical evidence of actual Greek usage. For example, he says that "[this] is an observable historical fact which could never have been deduced from the definitions" (pg. 14). There is clear tension in his writing between viewing grammar as prescriptive and descriptive. Another example: "Generally speaking, the earlier the Greek, the more closely does M+M+q>Mq M approximate to a rule" (pg. 15).

My question would be whether grammar is ever a case of definitions that writers strictly follow or a later attempt by professional grammarians to understand received texts. I think the example from Plato's Apology is interesting: is Plato writing in this way to convey a colloquial speaking style on behalf of Socrates as if to say 'look - this is what the historical Socrates actually said at his trial'? Or is it something entirely different - a highly polished piece of prose composition by a master of the medium?

So, my answer to the question would relate it more to a particular author - how does a particular writer use word order rather than attempting to extract general rules for the entire corpus.


I agree. I thumbed through the Dover book. Found it too erudite for my level of Greek, but I understood basically what he was saying, although it didn't really answer my question. However, Mahoney's grammar eventually did supply me with an answer.

I'm still a first-year student of Greek, so examining the word order of a particular author is way beyond my level. heh

Thanks for your comments.
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Re: Word Order -- Need Help

Postby jaihare » Sun Jun 12, 2011 10:29 am

gfross wrote:I looked these two up in the two dictionaries above, and both gave, along with many other meanings, one meaning of them as "see [someone, something]". Both verbs are listed in the vocabulary of Chapter Two with "see" given as the translation. Again, since this is a first-year textbook, I think Mahoney wanted to keep things simple. She also wanted to give the student an -άω verb to work with. Why she chose ὁράω, I don't know. You'll have to ask her.


In the Greek New Testament, ὁράω is barely used. It used βλέπω all the time, and as if ὄψομαι were the future of βλέπω. Notice also that in the New Testament, βλέπω is transitive (takes an object in the accusative, as above), but in Attic it is mostly intransitive and takes a prepositional phrase with πρός, with the meaning more of "look at" than "see."

As per the original question.... word order is a sticky subject. Just be aware of the possibilities. Don't put too much into variance. As you get into more and more reading, it will seem natural to you when you come across a variant word order. A lot of it is more style than semantics. You need to worry about forms right now, not about syntax (for the most part).

Regards,
Jason
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