[B-Greek] The emphasis of the first attributive position
bvabasciano at gmail.com
Sat Aug 4 09:15:42 EDT 2007
The grammars seem to agree that that the first attributive position (article-adjective-noun) places greater emphasis on the adjective than on the substantive (so e.g., Robertson, 776; Wallace, 306; Smyth, section 1157; BDF, section 270). I agree as well, but think this point could be open to misunderstanding. So I wanted to get the opinion of list members. Basically, I would say that the stress is on the adjective from the perspective of description while the stress remains on the susbstantive from the perspective of topic. In other words, the point of using the attributive in such formations is that the writer wants to address or at least highlight a particular aspect of the substantive, indicated by the attributive. But this is still highlighting an aspect of the substantive, which therefore remains the base concept, that which the attributive is being related to. I.e., the substantive remains superordinate and primary as the standard (so to speak) against which the attributive idea is being measured or applied to, even if the writer focuses on the attributive as the aspect of the substantive he wants to bring to light. Yet another way to say it would be that the adjective in such a construction expresses the perspective from which the substantive is to be understood. Grammatically, when the substantive of such a construction serves as the subject of the sentence, it remains the subject, and so grammatically, still the focus of what is being said, even if the most important feature of the substantive in view for the writer's purpose at the moment is indicated by the attributive.
To give some examples to try and flesh out what I am saying, when Matt 4:5 speaks of Satan taking Jesus into the holy city, the holy character of the city receives emphasis over the city-ness (so to speak) character of it, or maybe better, over the fact that it was a city. What's important or highlighted about the city is its holy character. However, it is still the city that is primarily being spoken of. And if the Matthew went on to say something like, "and he showed him every part of it", it would be the city that is in view, not its holiness, even though its holiness would be in the background as a (or the) distinguishing feature of the city. Or in Luke 6:45, Jesus speaks of the good man bringing out good from the good treasures of his heart. Obviously, the important thing about the man here is that he is good. That goodness is highlighted as the distinguishing characteristic of the man in question over the fact of his "male-ness". But it is still the man that is primarily spoken of. It is just that he must be considered in relation to his goodness. He is distinguished as a man by his goodness. If Jesus went on to speak of him, it would be the man, distinguished by his goodness, that he would be referring to, and not his goodness or good in general. Or for the attributive position used with words other than adjectives, when Acts 26:3 speaks of the customs of the Jews (lit. TWN KATA IOUDAIOUS EQWN), "customs" is still the base concept being spoken of, the topic so to speak of the statement, whereas their Jewish character is the distingishing feature of the customs being highlighted. The construction does not shift the topic of the statement to Jews or Jewishness. (or would you say that the principle about the first atreibutive position does not necessarily apply to usages in which a prepositional phrase is in the attributive position?)
What do you think. Do you agree?
Thanks you and may God bless you,
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