Constituents in the "wrong places"?

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at
Mon Mar 18 03:11:06 EST 2002

> FWIW, the Byzantine txt and TR have in Mr 4.30b . . .
> with the noun phrase not interrupted.  I don't know which mss support that
> reading.

Thanks, I hadn't noticed the textual variants. The NA text is based mainly
on Aleph, B and C* whereas A C2 D etc have EN TINI PARABOLH PARABALWMEN
AUTHN. They probably also took into the account the harder reading
principle, since the text they chose is certainly odd.

I am inclined to think that the reading in A is more likely original.
> There is something else odd about the notion that this "fronting" of AUTHN
> is for prominence:  I always thought the use of a pronoun *lessened* the
> referent's prominence.  So do we have the referent "kingdom of God" made
> less prominent by the pronoun, and then in turn made more prominent by
> "fronting" that pronoun?  ISTM that if "kingdom of God" being
> made prominent was the intent, TOUTO rather than AUTHN, viz Iver's
paraphrase of
> the nuance
> >(a) "by what parable can we explain this kingdom"  vs
> >(b) "by what parable can we explain it".

Yes, I would agree with the hierarchy of lexical prominence: A full NP gives
more prominence than a pronoun which gives more prominence than a null
reference. And also that hOUTOS (if it occurs before the noun it modifies or
is used substantively) gives greater prominence than other pronoun because
it IS a demonstrative pronoun.
But there are other factors, too. For instance, the major character in Greek
is often carried along by a pronoun and minor characters introduced by NPs.

I believe TOUTO would not fit in this sentence anywhere. My English
rendering was not intended to be translated back into Greek. It was an
attempt to express the nuance in English, but that is difficult since
English does not have easy means to do so.

> But if prominence is proportional to proximity to the front of a
> clause, and inversely proportional to proximity to the end of the clause,
why is not
> PARABOLHi last, and AUTHN first?


These are small nuances, and I cannot say whether Mark could equally well
have written either of these, assuming that he, in fact, did not right
something quite different as noted above.
> Instead, since
> would you say that there is a scale of prominence, with AUTHN having more
> prominence than PARABOLHi, and EN TINI in turn having more prominence that
> both of them?

Yes, this is how I think of prominence, that is, as relative prominence on a

> I have not been disagreeing with Iver so much as thinking aloud.  Moon has
> asked these types of questions about word order before, and I guess what I
> am driving at in my questions is to what extent "fronting" is the
> indicator
> of prominence versus to what extent disruption of constituent structure is
> the indicator, with "fronting" a by-product of that disruption?  Or is it
> the case instead that word order is so free in Greek that there is no
> demonstrable constituent hierarchy and prominence is solely a function of
> proximity to the front of the clause?

Since word order is so fluid in Greek it is difficult to pin down, and there
are many opinions. It is a complex question which cannot be adequately
covered in brief e-mails, and I don't think I have all the answers. We need
to look at word order within the grammatical hierarchy, too, as well as
author preferences. Mark and Matthew, for instance, do not use the same
rules for constituent word order. We also need to think of lexical
prominence as you have mentioned, that is, the mentioning of a pronoun gives
more prominence than a null reference, when there is a choice.
As a basic principle, I think word order is so free that it works better to
think in terms of "fronting indicates prominence" than "disruption
interrupts prominence".

Iver Larsen

More information about the B-Greek mailing list