[B-Greek] Genitive Absolute - a fresh look

Elizabeth Kline kline_dekooning at earthlink.net
Wed Nov 1 12:22:11 EST 2006

On Oct 31, 2006, at 11:16 AM, Carl W. Conrad wrote:

> Ah, but linguists know things about Greek that nobody else knows.

A good joke :-)

Carl and Cindy,

I agree that the paper is worth reading. The notion that fronted  
participle constructions are used to frame new scenes in a narrative  
isn't new. The distinctions that Fuller is attempting to draw between  
genitive participle constructions and other participle constructions  
used to frame a new scene don't sound very compelling to me.

here is a quote from her paper:

Lois K. Fuller

<start quote page 151>

The contention of this paper is that the so-called ‘Genitive Absolute’
in the New Testament and in Hellenistic Greek generally is not really
about being absolute. Whether or not it is absolute in the sense of not
containing elements also contained in the main clause is irrelevant. 
37 The
function of the form of participle plus noun/pronoun in the genitive
(without any other formal cause, such as a preposition) is to draw the
reader’s attention to certain background information with more
prominence than other circumstantial participles do, maybe because they
are more integrated into the sentence. The information in the GA acts as
an essential frame in which to interpret the information of the main
clause, or of an even larger discourse.

< and on the next page>

The use of the Genitive Construction (GC) is often a grammatical
strategy for bringing an element of background information into  
as a piece of necessary prior knowledge, and alerting the reader
that this information is important for understanding the impact of the
rest of the sentence or even the paragraph or discourse. This is  
true in the narrative parts of the New Testament.

<end quote>

I am not convinced that a fronted genitive participle construction is  
more prominent than any other fronted participle construction used as  
a framing device for a narrative segment. Fuller on one hand tells us  
that the absoluteness of a genitive participle construction is  
insignificant and then she turns around and suggests that the  
absoluteness is what makes it more prominent:  " ... more
prominence than other circumstantial participles ... maybe because  
they are more integrated into the sentence". You can't have it both  
ways. If the prominence of the fronted genitive participle  
construction is contingent on it NOT being integrated into the  
following sentence then we are back to talking about absoluteness and  
making explanations for all the so called exceptions where the  
subject of the genitive participle construction is co-referential  
with a constituent in the main clause.

I have collected some data on this question but it would make this  
post too long so I will post it later.

Elizabeth Kline

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