Good Greek Grammar?

ross purdy rossjpurdy at
Fri Sep 14 16:42:03 EDT 2001


I believe you are essentially right. Bad grammar is bad grammar, but good 
grammar may not adequately describe current usage. Over time, grammar should 
be updated to common usage. In any immediate context, usage needs to conform 
to grammar if it is going to be understood in any larger context.  The point 
is that the one ruling the larger context right at the moment is 
authoritative...a majority rule. But over time, the chicken is a result of 
the egg laid...uhhhhmmmm...which egg has been conformed to the chicken 
having laid it?

The purpose of learning grammar is to express ourselves to be understood. 
But we must understand unorthodox usage to understand others who fail at extra burden...but then again that is what makes language 
exiciting and wonderful and is to be encouraged.

Anyways, koine is essentially a frozen language since it is dead. It is a 
slice out of time. So a good Greek Grammar should describe its usage 
accurately to be authoritative, right? In this case, Grammar will rule since 
it is the only factor that can be dynamic.

Why would we call an odd usage bad grammar? Because it does not conform to 
the observed typical patterns. I do not think the one observed exhibiting 
the odd usage is being condemned for some social indiscretion as much as we 
are trying to identify a hindrance to understanding what was meant. I guess 
a good Greek Grammer would help us to understand even bad Greek Grammar, or 
perhaps we should say an odd usage, since, we want to be able to explain all 
the phonomena in order to understand it all.

Just some unathoritative thoughts.

Ross Purdy

rossjpurdy at

>From: "Matthew R. Miller" <biblicalscribe at>
>Reply-To: "Matthew R. Miller" <biblicalscribe at>
>To: Biblical Greek <b-greek at>
>Subject: [b-greek] Good Greek Grammar?
>Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 15:37:27 -0400
>Hello all,
>Andrew Lloyd Wright said, "Form follow function." I have always believed
>that "Grammar Follows Usage."  Is grammar an arbitrary set of rules,
>separate and apart from usage? Is usage the slave of grammar? Any of us
>who have spent time studying various languages surely have realized that
>the opposite is true: grammar is the slave of usage, and grammar is
>nothing but a reflection of usage. Native speakers do not learn grammar
>then speak; rather, they learn speech, and foreigners reduce their speech
>to grammar as a shortcut to learning. Therefore, whatever the current,
>common, majority usage of the day is in a particular area is the grammar.
>Merely because a speaker does not follow the universal grammar in his
>usage does not mean that he has "bad grammar." For example, in modern
>English, grammar states that "whom" is the dative and accusative form of
>"who." However, in America, 95% of all speakers use "who" for all cases.
>Does this mean that 95% of all Americans use "bad grammar," or that it is
>time for the grammar to change in order to fit usage? I say the latter.
>There comes a time when language changes, and rigid, unbending grammar
>cannot dictate usage. We, 2000 years later, using reconstructed grammar
>from Attic Greek, cannot look at the usage of Galilean fishermen and call
>it "bad." Rather, we should understand that usage determines grammar. Look
>at the modern French language as an example of what happens when people
>(l'Academie Francaise) attempt to freeze grammar and enslave usage: silent
>letters, orthography that does NOT match speech, and even so, modern
>French spoken language is changing! As form follow function, grammr
>follows usage. Thanks, Matt Miller
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