[B-Greek] re: Predicate as topic
R Yochanan Bitan Buth
ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
Sun Jun 26 15:41:33 EDT 2005
I am happy with predicates as topics but have a couple of points on
the general linguistics
>R.L. Trask - A Dict. of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics, 1993
>Topic- That element of a sentence which is presented as already
>the discourse and which the rest of the sentence (the comment) is in
Setting material will often function syntactically like 'topic', i.e.
evoke or generate the same structures as 'topics' do, but it is not
what the sentence is 'about'. That is one reason why I don't like the
linguistic term 'topic' when used in syntax. This leads to point 2,
distinguishing 'marked topics' from 'unmarked' material.
>Helma Dik (Word Order in Ancient Greek, 1995 sections 4.2, 7)
>one weakness in 'standard' Functional Grammar (before '95) is
>function to nominal elements ("terms").
Good so far.
>...In 'standard' Functional Grammar the analysis of a
>predicate initial clause requires an explanation for topic placement
>the main verb.
This sounds like every clause needs to have a [pragmatically marked]
topic or that anything 'topical' is therefore a pragmatic Topic
function. I beg to differ.
'Subjects' are a kind of grammaticalized 'Topic' and syntactically
place or mark 'topical material'.
Pragmatics and functional grammar(s) need to keep pragmatically MARKED
topics distinct from unmarked 'topical' information, including
unmarked Subjects. I argued this in Randall Buth, "Contextualizing
Constituent as Topic, Non-sequential Background and Dramatic Pause:
Hebrew and Aramaic Evidence," in Function and Expression in Functional
Grammar, ed. Elisabeth Engberg-Pedersen, Lisbeth Falster Jakobsen, and
Lone Schack Rasmussen. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1994, 215-231.
Back to pragmatic marking on verbs:
In general, there is an ambiguity in a verb-initial syntactical system
(like both Greek and Hebrew, despite there greatly differing
frequencies of functions) and 'fronted' verbs can be overlooked.
With biblical Hebrew, there are some examples with fronted participles
both as 'topical' and as 'focal'(see Buth, "Verbless Clause..." in
Miller, ed., The verbless clause in BH, Eisenbraun's 1999. I would
call the volitional stuructures in Hebrew where volitional verbs are
joined to vav ('and') without using the seuqential system as another
instance of pragmatic marking on a verb, though more than likely
'Focal' rather than 'topical'.
Randall Buth, PhD
Director, Biblical Language Center
and Director, Biblical Studies in Israel
Hebrew University, Rothberg International School
ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
More information about the B-Greek