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Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

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Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby uberdwayne » Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:03 am

I've seen this book written by Steven Runge, and it looks very interesting! Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Has anyone here read it or heard of it? What are your initial thoughts?
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Re: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby Markos » Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:28 pm

Hi, Uberdwayne,

A book like this will do very little--if anything at all--to help you become fluent in New Testament Greek. Any time spent reading this book is time you could be spending on doing the only four things that we know WILL move you towards fluency, namely, reading, writing, speaking, and listening to Ancient Greek.

Once you become fluent in New Testament Greek, you will have no need for the insights in this book. You will have internalized what the Greek means, and you will have no desire to put that meaning back into English terms.

A little bit of grammar is of course necessary to learn Greek, but I would stick to what is found in a book like Smyth's Greek Grammar or something even more basic. I have come to believe that even a book like Christophe Rico's Polis gives you all the grammar that you need, and his book is written in Ancient Greek. Rather than come up with meta-language jargon for how οὖν and γάρ function, Rico gives you Greek sentences and has you insert one or the other. This drives home the meaning of these "discourse particles" without ever leaving the target language.

Having said that, I know many people find Runge's book interesting for its own sake, and if your goal in learning Greek falls short of fluency, it might make sense to take a look at it. Many people who study NT Greek are more interested in grammar and linguistics than they are in Greek, and if you are one of these folks, you might well enjoy the book.
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Re: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:22 pm

uberdwayne wrote:I've seen this book written by Steven Runge, and it looks very interesting! Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Has anyone here read it or heard of it? What are your initial thoughts?


There are some sample chapters of this book available for reading.
http://www.ntdiscourse.org/docs/Discour ... sample.pdf

My initial impression was that Runge was trying to make Levinsohn[1] and similar works more accessible to people without much background in linguistics. I cannot give you a reading on how successful he was in doing that. I am always suspect of any book that claims to give you a practical approach to a complex theoretical framework. There are a number of SIL documents[2] on Discourse Analysis available for download in pdf format. I had a copy of Runge's Discourse Grammar four three weeks through InterLibLoan but didn't spend much time in it. Every time a new author comes along to write about text linguistics they give it a new slant, a different blending of multiple theoretical frameworks involved. So it takes a while to get accustomed to a new author's perspective. I didn't stay with Runge long enough to ascertain if the book was successful in attaining the stated objectives.

[1] Levinsohn, Stephen H. Discourse features of New Testament Greek: A coursebook. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 2nd Ed 2000

[2]Analyzing Discourse:A Manual of Basic Concepts
Robert A. Dooley and Stephen H. Levinsohn both of
SIL International and University of North Dakota
Copyright © 2000 by Robert A. Dooley and Stephen H. Levinsohn
http://www.vnbaptist.org/books/christia ... ncepts.pdf
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Re: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby uberdwayne » Sat Jul 13, 2013 10:59 pm

Thanks guys for your replies. I think I'm going to purchase it, after reading parts of the sample, it looks like their may be some useful information in there. As far as reading fluency goes... It may or may not help, but I don't think it can hurt.
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Re: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby uberdwayne » Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:47 am

an update....

So my copy came in the mail on Friday and I've had a chance to read through the first 2 chapters. BLOWN AWAY!!! I've always wondered at the difference between και and δε and Stephen has put it well withing my scope of understanding. δε (I know, it looks funny as the first word of a sentence!), according to Stephen Runge, signifies another development in a narrative or epistle, and και signifies another "point" equal in discourse to the clause before it. so... if δε marks a new development within a discourse then και signals an equal idea within the clause and not signifying a new development.

Sounds complicated, but really it isn't, and I've got the understanding of when you would use δε and και.

His approach is to find patterns that are "Cross lingual" and then use that information to determine what the word means IN GREEK, rather than produce glosses as is the traditional method. So now, when I see δε, I think, "Here's the next development in the story/argument" rather then "ok, is it but? wait, no, its and, wait... maybe we shouldn't translate it" Stephen presents that δε is the unmarked use to present the next development, and, even though there may be the idea of adversion, δε in and of itself does not quantify this, but is strictly contextual. Kinda like certain usages of the participle.

edit* (add) I read through the geneology of Matthew 1 with these distinctions in mind, makes perfect sense now!

So far I would recommend this book. Though I'm only 2 chapters in.

what do you(υμεις) think?
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Re: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby Markos » Tue Sep 03, 2013 4:42 pm

what do you(υμεις) think?


It sounds like Runge is working for you, which is great. As I said earlier in the thread, I know that many people find his approach helpful. I take a different approach to reading Greek, so take what I say below with a grain of salt, as there is really no accounting for taste.

uberdwayne wrote:I've always wondered at the difference between και and δε and Stephen has put it well withing my scope of understanding. δε (I know, it looks funny as the first word of a sentence!), according to Stephen Runge, signifies another development in a narrative or epistle, and και signifies another "point" equal in discourse to the clause before it. so... if δε marks a new development within a discourse then και signals an equal idea within the clause and not signifying a new development.


That's one way of looking at one part of the distinction between δέ and καί. There is some truth to it. But:

1. the concepts of "new development" versus "equal idea" are too vague and subjective to be of much use. In most cases, one could argue effectively on either side whether the information being presented is new or equal.

2. There are zillions of exceptions to the rule. There are zillions of cases where καί clearly marks new information, and zillions of cases where δέ clearly presents information equal with what just preceded it. So, with so many exceptions, I'm not sure how helpful the distinction is.

3. Different authors has a clear predilection to use one connective more often than the other. Individual style drives these choices so much that again, a general rule like this is not really much help. I think that both Homer and Xenophon on the one hand, and Mark and John on the other, use δέ and καί pretty much in the same way, but the former two use δέ much, much more often. So for them, καί can be used as a way to break up monotony in a way it cannot be used for Biblical writers who use καί much more often, (probably due to influence from the Semitic languages.)

4. Without question--absolutely without question--there is often no difference in meaning between the use of δέ and καί. You will very often find the same author switching back and forth indiscriminately.

4b. Very often, a variant reading, or a Gospel parallel, or an intra-lingual version, will use δέ in one version and καί in another version of the same passage. If Runge is correct that there is a meaningful difference between new and equal information, different Ancient authors disagreed on which was which.

5. I am 100% convinced that the choice of δέ and καί in narrative was primarily stylistic, not semantic. The Greek had to deal with a situation we do not have to face. He couldn't just string sentences together without connectives like we do. He had to use the connectives over and over again, and so he developed an ear for doing so in a way which sounded good and avoids monotony. It's just like the tenses. After a string of aorists, the author would throw in a historical present or a perfect to break things up. Same with the use of καί after a string of δέ's. I'm less convinced, because I cannot prove it, but I think there are also simply times where δέ would not flow as well within a given cluster of syllables, so the author (subconsciously?) chose a different connective. Sometimes this would be καί.

6. I think Smyth's explanation of the difference between δέ and καί is both more accurate and less verbose. I don't see a reason to invent new jargon when Smyth's classes of particles do the job just fine. The most important thing that Smyth says about these classes is "These classes cannot always be sharply distinguished: some particles fall under two or more classes." I am 100% convinced that both δέ and καί in writers ranging Homer to the Greek NT, can mean the same thing not only as each other, but even mean the same thing as, say, οὖν or γάρ or ἀλλά, if the context supports it. In fact, it is always the context, never the particles themselves, which determine the ultimate meaning of a text. Particles don't have meanings. Meanings have particles.

7. I am skeptical of this whole "information theory" approach to analyzing Greek, because I don't think people naturally write or read this way. I don't think people pause to consider whether they are giving or hearing "new information" or "back ground information." Approaches like Runge's, I think, see Greek as something to be broken up and analyzed instead of something to be internalized through natural fluency. Again, it is largely a matter of taste whether an approach like this will serve you well.

Does Runge address the issue of variant readings?
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Re: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby uberdwayne » Tue Sep 03, 2013 5:58 pm

Interesting thoughts! In the bit of reading I've done, I find that δε, if it introduces another developement, και generally links ideas within that developement. The geneology of Matthew 1 shows this. I am certainly not insinuating that this happens all the time as language is often used beyond its "norm"; if there is such a thing!

But you made an interesting point in one of your Developments (Pun fully intended!)

Markos wrote:4b. Very often, a variant reading, or a Gospel parallel, or an intra-lingual version, will use δέ in one version and καί in another version of the same passage. If Runge is correct that there is a meaningful difference between new and equal information, different Ancient authors disagreed on which was which.


and of course to answer your question, I have not seen him so far discuss any variant readings! It does not look as though he will, but if he does I will let you know! If he doesn't, I will be very dissapointed, as this is one of the few areas that offer objective concrete facts.

To me, the most frustrating thing about reading these grammars, is often they will cite other works, such as Levinson, Robertson, funk, Wallace, et al. as evidence of they're stance! Even worse, when you site these references, often they site the one who sited them! Its a tangled web of citations, and very often the objective facts are left out. I think what we may end up with in this book is another man's opinion whom has a bunch of other people who agree with him. Its not all bad though, and I still don't retract my glowing recommendation, but we do need to take our "grain of salt" with us!

At the very least, having an insight into how "Development" works has really helped me! I'm certain that I've had an unconscious knowledge of this (after all, I do speak a language), but having it brought forward has certainly helped :)

in point 6. you write
Markos wrote: In fact, it is always the context, never the particles themselves, which determine the ultimate meaning of a text. Particles don't have meanings. Meanings have particles.


It appears that Runge comes at it from the opposite of your statement, he sees δε as "marked" for development, but "unmarked" for any other semantic "Constraint" (forgive me for the wordiness, if your unsure of what I mean, do ask!) so, in essence, δε is a general marker for development with no specializations. So if there is an adversive idea, its contextual, not actually part of the semantic domain of δε. If the adversive idea is present, it is implicated because of contextual considerations not the semantics of the particle. To Runge, all δε explicitly tells us is "new development."

He doesn't exactly say this, but rather, this is how I understood what it is that he was saying.
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Re: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Sep 03, 2013 6:17 pm

A lot of us were also "blown away" when S. E. Porter's dissertation (1989) appeared. By the late 90s after endless discussion on b-greek we were beginning to have doubts and now ... well you don't find many promoters of vintage '89 Porter. Linguistic theory has a short self life. In the last decade, I was a big fan of Helma Dik's framework, actually purchased her book on Attic Tragedy, but now days, not so impressed with it. I still read everything I can find by Stephen H. Levinsohn. Quite a while back, Runge told me he studied for a while under Levinsohn. However, I suspect not everything in Runge's treatment is a simplification of Levinsohn. It never works like that. Helma Dik departed in major ways from Simon Dik (no relation).
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Re: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Sun Oct 20, 2013 9:58 pm

uberdwayne wrote: I've always wondered at the difference between και and δε and Stephen has put it well withing my scope of understanding. δε (I know, it looks funny as the first word of a sentence!), according to Stephen Runge, signifies another development in a narrative or epistle, and και signifies another "point" equal in discourse to the clause before it. so... if δε marks a new development within a discourse then και signals an equal idea within the clause and not signifying a new development.

Sounds complicated, but really it isn't, and I've got the understanding of when you would use δε and και.


I just encountered this issue in Acts 1:7
(SBLG)
εἶπεν ⸀δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς·

D 05 Bezae
και ειπεν προς αυτους

B 03
ειπεν προς αυτους

I went back and attempted to understand Levinsohn's (Discourse Features 2000, chap. 6) treatment of it in narrative. It isn't that simple. Not even close. However, reading JOSEP RIUS-CAMPS & JENNY READ-HEIMERDINGER on Acts 1:7 you could come away with the same notion that you are presenting here. So it appears to me that there is leveling out of Levinsohn's ideas among those who cite him.

One of the reasons for this, R-C & R-H are citing Textual Connections in Acts - Levinsohn, Stephen H. published 1987, a work from the linguistic dark ages of the 1980s. This is fairly typical of the references in R-C & R-H, the only work I have encountered from the 21st century quoting exclusively from the 1957 first edition of Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich.
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Re: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby uberdwayne » Mon Oct 21, 2013 2:58 pm

It isn't that simple. Not even close.


That, I do recognize. I should have said something along the lines of this idea being a good "general guidline". As we all know, the common maxim, "Rules are meant to be broken" apply to a great extent with language in general. At the same time too, there are other factors which may deviate from this "rule." For example:

1) Some of the conjunctions are very similar in nuance, so it could be possible that the scribe who copied it had a subtle shift in his mind.

2) "δε", at least in my opinion, seems to be the workhorse of conjunctions which can fill a number of roles, a scribe could have used a more explicit conjunction that suited the implicit nuance of "δε" in the manuscript he copied

3) There could be stylistic or euphonic reasons for using one conjunction over the other.

So there is a lot of interference between the "theoretical usage" and its actual usage! At least as i've come to learn it.
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Re: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Mon Oct 21, 2013 4:54 pm

uberdwayne wrote:
It isn't that simple. Not even close.


That, I do recognize. I should have said something along the lines of this idea being a good "general guidline". As we all know, the common maxim, "Rules are meant to be broken" apply to a great extent with language in general. At the same time too, there are other factors which may deviate from this "rule." For example:

1) Some of the conjunctions are very similar in nuance, so it could be possible that the scribe who copied it had a subtle shift in his mind.

2) "δε", at least in my opinion, seems to be the workhorse of conjunctions which can fill a number of roles, a scribe could have used a more explicit conjunction that suited the implicit nuance of "δε" in the manuscript he copied

3) There could be stylistic or euphonic reasons for using one conjunction over the other.

So there is a lot of interference between the "theoretical usage" and its actual usage! At least as i've come to learn it.



There are 100s of exceptions in NT narrative. Levinsohn (Discourse Features 2000, Ch. 5-7, pps. 69-131) spends over sixty pages explaining the exceptions to the rules. There are so many qualifications, it would be tempting to just forget the rules. Adopting a simplified form of the rules will result in a lot of bad exegesis.
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Re: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Postby uberdwayne » Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:29 pm

There are 100s of exceptions in NT narrative.


This alone would almost negate any semblance of a "rule" in regards to discourse and conjunctions! As I understand it, Runge's goal was to find some sort of common meaning to the conjunctions, that, in theory would be the same across any language. Its beginning to look like this view is too narrow, and the role of conjunctions are much more broad than Stephen leads us to believe. Id comment on Levinsohn, but I have not read his material.

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