[B-Greek] Subject, or appositive to the subject indicated bt the person inflection

bitan buth ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
Fri Mar 3 07:14:00 EST 2006

>It seems to me that I have seen in numerous grammar books the idea that
the nominative that is commonly called the subject of a finite verb is
actually an appositive renaming and specifying the subject indicated by
the verb's personal ending. I am not aware of any widespread tendency,
though, to insist on this complication in naming the use of the
nominative with 3rd-person verbs. Any grammarian who insisted on calling
it an appositive to the subject contained in the verb's person
inflection, it seems to me, would have no need at all of a
nominative-case usage category named "subject."
But what about 1st- and 2nd-person verbs? For example, Eph 4:13 has
MECRI KATANTHSWMEN hOI PANTES... ("until we all arrive"). I don't see
any grammatical reason that I should not call this nominative the
subject, even though English does not provide a construction in which
"all" can function directly as subject of a first-person verb. It seems
to me that the person information that fills the English subject slot is
in Greek contained in the verb ending, freeing the Greek subject slot to
accept a subject specifier that the English slot cannot accept without
losing the person information. A colleague of mine takes the opposite
view, that a nominative with a 1st- or 2nd-person verb cannot be
construed as its subject. I have not yet found the question directly
addressed in any of the half dozen or so Koine grammars on my shelf.
I would appreciate any educated opinions and especially any pointers to
any sort of grammar or linguistics literature where the question is
treated explicitly.
Blessings in Christ! (Acts 3:26),
Randy Leedy
Rleedy at bju.edu

You've raised a good question related to a 'seam' in the fabric of Greek
when related to the fabric of English. 
You  should also note that Greek does not call a form like PANTES a
'subject' but calls it ORQOS 'upright' or ONOMA-STIKH, that is, a NAM-ing
case, or in Latin-English a 'nominative'. It was necessary in Greek to avoid
the English notion of Subject, because an agent or experiencer or doer of an
event could turn up in the genitive, dative or accusative case as well, (and
an ONOMASTIKH could also turn up as a predicate). (As for notion 'subject',
you may not want to go there. Books are written on this in linguistics
because of cross-linguistic complications. The Greek metaphor 'upright' may
be paraphrased as 'starting point', which makes sense as the primary/first
syntactic perspective on a predication.)
Similarly, note that a reflexive like EAUTOUS does not refer to the third
person when it is linked to a first or second person verb. EAUTOUS could be
a syntactic object of a verb like PLANWMEN "we mislead [our-]selves", but
the first person piece of the semantics comes from the verb.

Having said the above, I think I would side with your colleague if forced to
choose sides, yet without calling it a full 'appositive', either. (It is not
truly an appositive: there is no noun phrase to which it is 'placed-besides'
appositionally, and in a verbless sentence the ONOMASTIKH is trully a
subject, not an appositive.)
 Consider the following sentences:
"even [your]-self you-recognise (this)" (Epiktetos book1,dialogue11, end)
The "you" comes from the verb, the "even -self" comes as an addition. One
would not want to call KAI AUTOS the unqualified "subject", but we should
call [SU] the subject.
least most [of us], make mistakes" (Epiktetos book1,dialogue11, middle)


Randall Buth, PhD
Biblical Language Center
c/o margbuth at gmail.com
also, Director, Biblical Studies in Israel
under Rothberg International School,
Hebrew University
ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il

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