Postpositive particles

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vir litterarum
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Postpositive particles

Post by vir litterarum » Tue Aug 22, 2006 10:31 pm

What is the purpose of never placing postpositive particles first? How does this affect the sentence's meaning?

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Wed Aug 23, 2006 12:51 am

If you say in English "I am looking for a person tall wearing a shirt pink who owns a Japanese slow steel green car," the unusual word order doesn't change the nominal meaning (unless you argue that some of the adjectives are becoming adverbs), but I would be a bit confused if somebody said that to me. Same with postpositives in Greek - technically the meaning doesn't change when put elsewhere, but if they are put in a position where they don't belong, I would get confused, so rather than changing the meaning putting postpositives in the wrong place just obscures the meaning.

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Re: Postpositive particles

Post by annis » Wed Aug 23, 2006 3:25 am

vir litterarum wrote:What is the purpose of never placing postpositive particles first?
I'm not sure it's best to say there's a purpose in this. Greek uses word order not for syntax but for what linguists call discourse planning — letting the speaker know what you're talking about, what the most salient new information is, etc. Some such languages, like Greek, use the beginning of the clause for special jobs, and in those languages postpostives seem to pop up regularly. It's as though they avoid wasting the first position on weaker connectives (thought that's a little speculative).

In any case, putting a postpostive first doesn't change the meaning, it's wrong — it never happens. Err... except for a few freaky cases of δή in Homer.
William S. Annis —
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;

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Re: Postpositive particles

Post by Democritus » Wed Aug 23, 2006 8:22 pm

vir litterarum wrote:What is the purpose of never placing postpositive particles first? How does this affect the sentence's meaning?
When Yoda speaks Attic, he puts the postpositives first. ;)

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Post by Alkibiades » Wed Aug 30, 2006 9:26 am

There is no reason for postpositives to occupy the position they do, except for the fact that they do. It's rather like prepositions in English having to come before the noun they relate to. There is no reason for this except that they do and it would be wrong not to put them there. Japanese, for example, has postpositions which come after the nouns, but do the same job as English prepositions, so there is no universal need for it to be like this. It's just the way the language developed.

I'd just like to clarify my use of the word wrong. What I mean is that this is not the way the language normally works and to do otherwise would just cause confusion. In any language system, a user may have a very good reason for wanting to do something different, to cause a special effect: this is what makes / keeps languages alive. It all depends on your purpose.

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