Prominence in Passive Construction with hUPO in Mk 1:9

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at
Thu Sep 27 02:24:21 EDT 2001

George said:
> Yet perhaps prominence is the wrong term.  I have always regarded the
> central term in a sentence as central to the focus of the
> sentence in Greek,
> which is why word endings are so important, so as to establish the
> relationships of connectivity of the words.  In English, these
> connectives
> are pretty much dependent on word order.
> In a sense, the first word in a Greek sentence is the utterly
> most imortant,
> for it introduces the whole sentence, and must be kept firmly in
> mind as the
> rest of the sentence unfolds.  One lets that first word slip out
> of focus at
> one's cognitive peril!  And as well, the final word indeed can act as the
> denouement of a whole chain of words that up to that point are
> not fitting
> together - So that we could easily argue that the LAST word is
> prominent.
> But the core of the sentence is its center - It is the horse that carries
> over into the next sentence.  It carries the focus of the whole of the
> sentence.
> Mike's example of Eph 2:1ff perfectly illustrates this, for this
> is a long
> rhetorical chain that ends in 2:5 with cariti este seswsmenoi, which he
> rightly sees as the culmination.  Yet the chapter goes on, showing the
> contrast of before this event and after it [2:1-2:5 = before, and
> 2:6-2:10 =
> after].  All of which places the core in the middle at 2:5.  And
> indeed it
> is this core [cariti este seswsmenoi] that carries us cognitively
> foreward
> into 2:11ff...  Which in its turn has a core, and so forth...
> This, at any rate, is what I look  for in reading a Greek text,
> and not just
> the GNT.  There always seems to be a turning point in word order, around
> which the words and meanings revolve and bring into focus.  My Greek
> teacher, Dr. Warren at SDSU, used the Anabasus by Xenophon as the
> story that
> illustrates this principle, for the Greeks entered Persia as
> mercenaries - a
> small force - In the service of the Persian king who got killed in battle
> early on, and found themselves hopelessly outnumbered by enemies with no
> friends, and they pretty much gave up hope of survival.  Then comes the
> turning point, where one man rouses his companions to action and
> hope [the
> unnamed Xenophon, the author], and the rest of the narrative
> tells of their
> battling their way out of Persia and back home to Greece.
> He said Greek sentences are built like this story, you see...  They start
> out, reach a turning point, and wrap up the action.

If he really said that, I would have to disagree.

Let me respond to several posts here. I am afraid things get too confusing
when we try to mix things that operate on different levels, so let me
clarify some of the background for my thinking.

Maybe it would be less confusing if we talked about constituent order rather
than word order?

A word consists of a root plus affixes, and the order of the constituents is
fixed, so one cannot talk about variation in order at this level.

A phrase consists of words, and in many phrases the constituent order is
flexible, at least in Greek. This is where the significance of word order
comes into play, since the constituents of a phrase are words.

A clause consists of phrases, so constituent order becomes phrase order.
This is where we talk about VSO etc. Sometimes we loosely talk about word
order in this case, too, but it would be more accurate to talk about phrase
order, even though many times the phrase consists of only one word,
especially the verb phrase.

A sentence consists of clauses. Variation of clause order within the
sentence has to do with relationship between propositions. For instance,
some languages prefer to have the clause indicating reason come before the
clause indicating result. Other languages prefer it the opposite way. As a
translator, I take this into account when moving from one language to
another. Word order does not apply at sentence level.

A paragraph consists of sentences. At this level we are far above where it
is relevant to talk about word order.

A discourse consists of paragraphs. (Some linguists have extra levels
between paragraph and discourse, but for my purposes here they are not

Then there is the rhetorical (mainly Semitic) feature of chiasm which
operates at sentence and paragraph level, rarely if ever at discourse level.
Chiasm should not be confused with prominence indicated by word order, since
word order is only relevant for the levels below, i.e. phrase and clause.
When two clauses or sentences are in a chiastic relationship to one another,
it may affect the order of their constituents, but this is a different
strategy from prominence indicated by word order. To mix those two creates
confusion, IMO.

Thirdly, there is the question of the climax of a story. This operates at
the highest level of discourse. In some stories the climax is at the middle
after an initial build-up and followed by denouement at the end. In many
stories, though, the climax is near the end. The climax is also called the
peak, and some stories may have successive peaks. None of this has anything
to do with word order. Hebrew stories are often told in circles with a brief
overview of the theme and then a replay of the theme in more details.

Iver Larsen

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