Predicative/attributive - position and function

Al & Patty Jacobson abj at
Wed Jan 24 01:53:23 EST 2001

Iver Wrote:

"It seems to me that we have three options for the analysis of these NP
(1) Posit two or more NPs in apposition, a weak one if you prefer, but
nevertheless several NPs in succession.
(2) Say that the article in TO DENDRON TO KALON is just repeated with no
purpose than to show that KALON is a constituent of the NP rather than being
outside the NP and function as a predicate.
(3) Say that the article functions to rankshift the following clause in
order to
make it part of the NP. This rankshifting is in most languages including
done by a relative pronoun, but in Greek it seems to be done by the article
a function like a relative pronoun.

The first of these options I don't like, because it seems too complicated
and it
would result in an inordinate amount of appositional NPs. Such appositions
any language tend to be rare and special cases. It also splits up the head
from its various modifiers/attributes.
The second option I am now abandoning, partly because of your second
This leaves me with the third option. So let me defend that one.

In most if not all languages it is possible to have a whole clause function
part of a NP. I mentioned above "never-before-studied languages". The
are used to make a whole clause an attribute of the head noun, but the more
common (grammatically correct?) form would be "languages which/that have
before been studied". This whole thing is one NP. The head noun is modified
by a
whole clause, and the relative pronoun "which/that" functions to indicate
the clause is part of and modifies the head noun.

Let me quote from Gal 1:11, which I used in a lecture today:
The gospel (which/that) is proclaimed by me is not according to people

In English, if I say "I preach the gospel" it is a full clause NP(subject)
If I say 		   "the gospel I preach" it is an NP. The same words, but the
different order indicates that the first is a clause, the second is an NP.
rankshifting marker "which/that" is not even needed in English, because the
order is fixed, so the order alone gives enough grammatical clues that this
an NP with a rankshifted clause in it.

My suggestion now is that the article can function as a rankshifter in
This description can take care of a whole variety of rankshifted clauses,
including a very short clause consisting of only an adjective in the
position, e.g.
TO DENDRON TO KALON would then be analysed as "the tree which (is) good"
DENDRON TO KALON would then be "a tree which (is) good."

This makes sense to me, because it fits with the relative function of the
article in Greek. I would be interested in whether you think it will work. I
have overlooked something, and as I say I am thinking aloud here, not
the results of finished research.

This does not mean that such constructions have to be translated with a
clause in English. If the rankshifted clause only consists of an adjective
it is
simpler to move it into the adjective position before the noun in English
say  "the good tree" or "a good tree". Consider also more complex

	  The faithful witness, the first-one (raised) of the dead

This could be taken as three NPs, the last two in apposition to the first as
suggested by the UBS and Nestle-Aland Greek text. Or it could be taken as
one NP
(the faithful witness) followed by another NP in apposition. English would
prefer that as witnessed by most translations. Or it could be taken as one
complex NP with two rankshifted clauses modifying the head noun. I doubt it
makes much difference in Greek. In the Sabaot language I mentioned earlier
as a
never-studied-before-we-did language, there is no attribute position of
adjectives whatsoever, so this would become "the witness who is faithful who
the first...". We can have a whole string of such relative constructions in

Here ends the story, as they say in Sabaot. I think we are closer together
the end than when we started.

Iver Larsen
Kolding, Denmark
alice-iver_larsen at"


IMHO you are more on the mark with the third option, since the definite
article in Greek was originally a demonstrative (this is very evident from
early Greek literature [I'm talking Homeric Greek, etc.)]), and also was
used as a personal pronoun, then used substantively closely with relative
clauses.  The article and the words it accompanys in a phrase or
construction are often translated as/with a relative clause in the NT and
later Greek literature.  And, as a correction or modification to my prior
comments on apposition in my inaugural e-mail to this list serve, clauses
and phrases certainly can be in apposition, and I've seen a few examples of
such phrases in some Greek examples in this chain of discussion over the
last couple days.  Of course this is not the only way the article functions
now, and you try to explain the function as "rankshifting".

Older grammarians attempted to categorize the usages and to make
generalizations from what they found.  One is struck with the detail in
their attempts to analyze and classify the usage of, e.g., the definite
article.  I find much of what they said useful and insightful; others don't.
Though I would never claim their work could not be improved upon, it strikes
me, nevertheless, that many of them had what significantly fewer today seem
to have: a real familiarity with language and content of the ancient texts -
the broad range of texts, not just New Testament.

This lead me to a point I have not yet read in the discussion (and I do mean
that "I" haven't yet read; I don't imply that no one has said it; I have not
read every single line of every single message on this listserve!): Namely
the place of experience in the language.  It is my belief and my experience
that the more one reads of a language, the more one recognizes and grasps
the acceptable and non-acceptable usages, the common usages and the rare
usages, the instances of generalized or specialized meaning in use of a
particular word by users of the language.  One tries to gain this
experience, in a sense, through the use of concordances, word studies, etc..
But I don't believe that such approaches are entirely adequate (at least
very rarely are they) if the  inquirers do not read widely in the language
and have at least some experience of the language and the vocabulary as it
is used in various genres and in connection with a wide range of subject
matter.  It seems to me that this is the only way to really get in touch
with the various nuances a word has and/or develops over time (or in certain
linguistic or literary environments [as, e.g., environments where users are
not predominantly native Greeks]).

More information about the B-Greek mailing list