What to count (was: Hair-splitting...)

Paul S. Dixon dixonps at juno.com
Wed Jul 14 12:10:17 EDT 1999

On Wed, 14 Jul 1999 13:27:21 +0200 Daniel =?iso-8859-1?Q?Ria=F1o?=
<danielrr at mad.servicom.es> writes:
>(sorry about the delay --busy week here)
>Paul S. Dixon wrote:
>>If the perfect and pluperfect are rare in the Koine, and if the
>>"aorist has effectively assumed their functions in narrative,"
>>then one would certainly expect that such rarity would be
>>evidenced by a comparison of the stats, regardless of the
>>nuances of the perfect (which I don't think have any bearing
>>upon the question).  If not, then what is the source of
>>such suspicions?
>	There is nothing simple in counting grammatical units. If you
>your data to be of some scientific value, you have to use (and explain
>the readers) a number of conventions, usually quite a bunch. Once you
>applied systematically a sound method in a text corpus long enough, 
>you still must face to the question when the discrepancies in the use of

>some linguistic device between two authors is relevant or not: at least
>this last question you can apply the chi square text, to see if such
>discrepancies are due to happenance.

>	Now to your question: I think that if you compare statistics 
>about the use of a given morphological category in two authors (or two
>of authors) as different as Homer and Thucydides, or Thucydides an NT
>*without* having in account further analysis (such as nuances of 
>meaning, and other: see infra) your results will be most probably
>I think I already wrote to the list that the use of the dative in Luke 
>is far larger than the use of the same case in Polybius (in absolute
>using as a sample of the same extension). Does it means that the 
>dative was more productive in Luke, or that the Dative case experienced
>improbable anastasis in Luke's time? No way: you need to further study
the >kind of words that are put in the dative, and the set of functions
they serve 
>(very limited in Luke in both cases), plus the semantic range of the
>etc, to start understanding what the raw number means.

I appreciate what you say.  If we follow the scientific approach
then we will need to be aware of such considerations before drawing
conclusions based on a numbers count alone.  Would you not agree,
however, that in some cases a numbers count alone could yield
significant and telling information?   If we are trying to determine,
for example, whether the aorist tense in the indicative mood is 
increasingly assuming the functions of the perfect and pluperfect 
in the same mood, shouldn't we expect to see this reflected in
the data?  If not, then could you be a bit more specific as to why
not in this particular situation?  Are you suggesting the change
in meanings of verbs could skew the data?  If so, how?

To put it another way, if the data does not suggest this hypothesis,
then what possible basis would we have for suspecting it?

Paul Dixon

Get the Internet just the way you want it.
Free software, free e-mail, and free Internet access for a month!
Try Juno Web: http://dl.www.juno.com/dynoget/tagj.

More information about the B-Greek mailing list