dative "direct object"

c stirling bartholomew cc.constantine at worldnet.att.net
Fri Oct 18 11:42:25 EDT 2002

on 10/17/02 11:47 PM, Wayne Leman wrote:

> Subjects and objects definitely are squishy (squeamish?) entities that
> linguists have wrestled with, attempting to come up with some kinds of
> definitions that can be more definite. One of the main problems is that they
> are syntactic notions, not semantic, altho there are, of course, semantic to
> syntactic mappings that often obtain, but these mappings will often vary from
> language to language. As a linguist, I do feel there is value in having
> syntactic categories, esp. if they reflect some kind of syntactic
> categorization which seems to have some kind of "truth" in the minds of
> speakers of a specific language. On a more univeral level, the semantic
> categories that Steve mentioned are oftentimes more useful. But most of us
> have been trained more in the syntactic categories than semantic ones, and
> this is definitely true of Greek studies.
> I would not want to refer to a dative direct object. To me that's nearly a
> contradiction in terms. The functionalist linguist Givon does refer to dative
> objects, and I think this is reasonable for Greek.
> In any case, much of the muddiness would be clarified if we were all taught in
> school the difference between semantic and syntactic categories.
> We could then speak about the differences between English sentences pairs such
> as:
> a. "I gave the present to Mary."
> b. "I gave Mary the present."
> In b Mary is the syntactic direct object, even tho she is still the semantic
> recipient, as she is in a.
> There is application to Koine Greek. One of my Bible translation colleagues,
> Dr. Stephen Marlett, wrote his M.A. thesis on phenomena in Koine Greek similar
> to that of the English sentences in a and b, where Greek semantic recipients
> (or similar semantic categories) are syntactically treated as "direct objects"
> (marked with the accusative).


No argument with any of this. As a former early-Chomsky type the distinction
between syntax and semantics is fundamental.

My objection to S-V-O-IO analysis as it appears in popular and recent Greek
Grammars is simply that the analysis is confused and confusing. I come away
from reading these guys with the impression that a poor seminary student is
bound to end up completely muddle headed after using these text books. The
questions that get raised on this list are proof of this.

Beyond this, since exegesis is my main objective semantic analysis is
central to my methodology. In terms of exegesis, S-V-O-IO analysis has very
little pay off. It may be a useful enterprise if one is talking about
language universals.


Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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