George Blaisdell maqhth at
Wed Oct 10 14:53:44 EDT 2001

George Blaisdell
Roslyn, WA

>From: "Paul Schmehl" > In Greek, the point [of a sentence] is clearly in 
>view with the     > > opening word[s], so that the 'items to the left'... 
>have [what] ... > > I prefer to call 'carry', for they carry over across 
>the discourse, > > [or sentence] in that they so often set the theme or 
>purpose or     > > direction of what follows.

>I guess I just need
>help understanding this principle better.

>I'm well aware that Greek uses word order for emphasis, but all >languages, 
>I think, have "normal" ways of expressing things and then >"abnormal" ways 
>of expression that provide emphasis.

I agree.  I [with you] do not agree that 'words to the left' are naturally 
emphasized in Greek.  They just function somewhat differently from the 
opening word[s] in English.  Your example [following] can illustrate the 
principle by way of contrast in English:

>For example, in English we might say, "Stop that now!", and one *might*
>conclude that the emphasis is on the word "now" or one might conclude >that 
>there is no particular emphasis.

'Stop' is a complete sentence.

'Stop that' is a complete sentence.

'Stop that now' is a complete sentence.

In English, this is a natural progression.  A thinking out loud, as it were.

>However, if I rephrased it, "Now stop that!", one might conclude the 
> >emphasis was on the word "stop".  Perhaps one might call the former >word 
>order "normal" and the latter "abnormal", because the position of >"stop" 
>has been altered.

'Now' is not a complete sentence. [It is an attention getter.]

'Now stop' and 'Now stop that' are both complete sentences, so the emphasis, 
if any, shifts to 'stop' and 'that'...  The 'Now' becomes dimunitive, losing 
the force of its time designation due to its unsupported and thereby 
incomplete first position in utterance.

Change the order again to "That now stop!"

Bad English.  Almost gobbledygook.  As a run-on sentence, it fails.  It 
COULD make sense if it were divided thus: "That!"...  "Now!"...  "Stop!" But 
only in context...  But I believe, and am willing to be corrected, that this 
word order in Greek would not be unusual at all, and would require of the 
hearer to hold in cognitive suspension until the last word the first word 
and as well the second.  The whole does not make up a complete thought until 
the last word is uttered, so that the first and second words are cognitively 
'carried' in memory to the third, which allows them all to fall into place 
as a cognitive whole.

In English we like the sentence to make sense as we go along, and in Greek, 
we like to hold so far unrelated words in mind until the end that gives them 
the specifics of relationship intended by the speaker.  The Greek is more 
like a mystery story, where the clues, apparently unrelated words, are 
assembled in no particular order until the end, when the order makes sense 
in the denouement.  People who talk like this in English are normally 
avoided! [grin!]

Oral culture - Mnemonics play a role, where active engagement of the 
listener in the ongoing development of not yet understood tension helps a 
memory that is actively working right along with the speaker's word order 
for it to become whole.

>Second, my plea for input:

>Wouldn't Greek also have a "normal" word order?  And wouldn't that 
> >"normal" word order have no particular emphasis?  ISTR that I was >taught 
>that "normal" Greek word order is SOV, with the verb generally >taking the 
>later position in a sentence.

This illustrates the principle above.

S = no sentence.
O = no sentence
V = Sentence [finally!]

See how the tension builds?  And this is just a normal Greek thought 

>So, for example, in Acts 1:1 we read,


>which in "normal" English we might say

>"I wrote the first account, beloved of God, concerning all that Jesus 
> >began to both do and teach...",

whereas the Greek has it,

>"The first account I wrote, concerning all, beloved of God, that Jesus 
> >began to both do and teach..."

>Now, I don't get the sense that there is any emphasis in this Greek at all. 
>It seems to be "normal" to me.  So the "principle" that things to the left 
>are emphasized seems inapplicable to me here.

I do think that W QEWFILE is a proper name, and is the intended recipient of 
the epistle, and is announced as such in the first sentence, by his 
centrality within it:  ["O Theophilus"]  I would think that this is simply a 
polite way of opening a letter TO someone, by addressing them centrally in 
the opening sentence.  And notice how as this sentence unfolds linearly, it 
requires of the reader that [s]he keep words in unresolved cognitive 
suspension until the last two infinitives, which bring it all into a now 
understood whole...

So that right or wrong, this is how I basically understand Greek word order, 
and I hope I have been clear.  Your question concerning the common and 
normal way of Greek expression, so as to establish a kind of base-line 
against which we can then examine the emphases entailed by variations from 
it, is best left to better minds than mine...


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