[B-Greek] Descriptions of function based on translation

frjsilver at optonline.net frjsilver at optonline.net
Tue Jul 10 20:49:54 EDT 2007


I meant to write:  MALISTA, KURIE KARLE!

Old habits die hard!

Father James Silver

----- Original Message -----
From: "Carl W. Conrad" 
Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 11:59 am
Subject: [B-Greek] Descriptions of function based on translation
To: Steve Runge 
Cc: greek B-Greek 

> 
> On Jul 10, 2007, at 10:02 AM, Steve Runge wrote:
> 
> > Carl,
> >
> > I did not expect that the idea of backgrounding would be an 
> > epiphany for you. I work with a seminary student, and a 
> consistent 
> > frustration he has expressed is focusing more in translation 
> that 
> > meaning/function. Quite often, preverbal participles are 
> > translated into English as main verbs, since English does not 
> use 
> > the participle nearly to the extent of Greek. This is 
> especially 
> > the case in Luke and Matthew, and possibly one of the reasons 
> why 
> > people find these gospels so much more complex than John. In 
> > describing the function based on the translation, students 
> often 
> > miss what is obvious to you. The 'translation' framework is 
> lousy 
> > for description, since it often leads to the idea that there 
> are 
> > different kinds of adverbial participles, some are more like 
> main 
> > verbs, others are not. This is why I have appreciated the 
> patient 
> > discussion that you and Elizabeth have had over the past week 
> to 
> > illustrate your explanations from the data.
> 
> And here you've touched on a pet peeve that I've probably 
> expressed 
> to a dismaying extent on B-Greek: the fact that American NT 
> Greed 
> pedagogy is geared to the production of translations far more 
> than to 
> understanding -- and the grammars such as Wallace's GGBB (and 
> software like the "syntactic database" items that I know Logos 
> has, 
> with syntactic terms derived from Wallace) tend to be based upon 
> 
> translation strategies rather than upon understanding the Greek 
> constructions. I deplore this. I sometimes wonder if the sort of 
> 
> composition exercises such as are still required in better 
> graduate 
> Classics programs -- where one translates whole paragraphs of 
> classic English prose into good Greek -- might be more useful 
> for the 
> purpose of helping students of NT Greek understand the 
> fundamental 
> differences between modes of expressing similar content in the 
> two 
> languages. I'm currently reviewing a Reader for Koine Greek that 
> is 
> really first-rate in its thorough attention to detail, but 
> nevertheless seems to take as the bottom line of successful work 
> the 
> production of an acceptable English version.
> 
> CWC
> 
> > From: Carl W. Conrad [mailto:cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu]
> > Sent: Tue 7/10/2007 3:59 AM
> >
> >
> >
> > On Jul 9, 2007, at 12:37 PM, Steve Runge wrote:
> >
> >> Carl,
> >>
> >> You raised a point that I wanted address:
> >>
> >> "It certainly seems to be the case; that these dative participial
> >> clauses at the beginning of a sentence function very much 
> like the
> >> so-called genitive "absolute" constructions. I don't know whether
> >> this would be useful or not, but I'm now wondering whether even
> >> nominative participial phrases in agreement with the subject of
> >> main clauses don't generally display these same characteristics."
> >>
> >> I think that you are dead on in your inclination to look for a
> >> common function of preverbal participles. As a starting 
> point, it
> >> is worth asking what difference it would have made if each of these
> >> participial actions had been conveyed using indicative verbs. 
> In
> >> other words, based on the context what difference is there between
> >> use of the participle versus a main clause mood such as the
> >> indicative. I would contend that use of an indicative mood would
> >> place the 'participial' action on the same par with the main clause
> >> action. All would have similar weight, from a morphological point
> >> of view. If this is true, then what is the effect of using a
> >> participle? Levinsohn (2000:181-190) has argued that it has the
> >> effect of 'backgrounding' the participial action with respect to
> >> the main verb.
> >>
> >> What do I mean by backgrounding? It would be like having a 
> line of
> >> soldiers at attention and having some of them take a step back.
> >> Those who step back are pushed into the background somewhat
> >> compared to those in their original position. At the same time,
> >> those that have not moved end up in a slightly more prominent
> >> position than those backgrounded, even though they have not moved.
> >> The text I have used to illustrate this is Mark 5:25-27, 
> where the
> >> writer uses 7 separate participial clauses to establish the needed
> >> circumstantial information for the reader to understand the main
> >> clause action: the woman touching Jesus. English does not use
> >> participles like this, and thus many of them are rendered as main
> >> verbs in translation.
> >>
> >> Had the writer used indicative verbs for some or most of the seven
> >> participial actions (as most English translations do), the
> >> 'touching' would not have stood out nearly as blatantly. The woman
> >> 'touching' Jesus ends up being the thing that Jesus specifically
> >> responds to in v. 30: TIS MOU hHYATO TWN hIMATIWN;
> >>
> >> If you are looking for a unifying explanation to describe the
> >> function of pre-verbal participles in the gospels and Acts, I would
> >> suggest starting with the idea of 'backgrounding' as a hypothesis
> >> and testing it. I have found this explanation also covers a good
> >> many of the pre-verbal participles in the Epistles as well.
> >>
> >> Making the main clause action 'stand out' does not make it
> >> emphatic. If you go back to the 'line of soldiers' the line of
> >> those who did not move is the normal position. Having some step
> >> back 'backgrounds' them. Having some of them step forward
> >> 'emphasizes' them by making the stand out from the normal position.
> >>
> >> Hope this helps advance the discussion,
> >>
> >> Steve
> >>
> >> Note: Some folks, like Robert Longacre and Alvierro 
> Niccacci, have
> >> described narrative in terms of mainline and offline, foreground
> >> and background. I am not arguing that use of a participle makes
> >> the action 'background information'. Instead, the action is
> >> backgroundED with respect to the main clause action, making the
> >> main action stand out more than the participial action, 
> compared to
> >> if all indicative verbs had been used.
> >
> > Thanks for these suggestions, Steve. Your appended note 
> unfortunately> illustrates the problem of terminology and jargon 
> that drives me up
> > the wall when I try to read Linguists. I continue to think I'll
> > survive it and perhaps even learn something from what I read 
> of it,
> > but ...
> >
> > After a thrid reading, I find myself reacting ambivalently toward
> > what you say about nominative participial clauses:
> >
> > (1) On the one hand, the preposition of aorist participial phrases/
> > clauses is such a standard feature of ancient Greek narrative prose
> > that anyone who has read much ancient Greek will not find it
> > especially new or enlightening that the action indicated by such
> > preposed participial phrases/clauses is backgrounded with 
> respect to
> > the action of the main clause -- the reader of ancient Greek
> > narrative takes that in without thinking about it; students 
> who have
> > done any serious work in Greek prose composition are even 
> taught the
> > principle in a standard composition primer like North and Hilliard.
> >
> > (2) On the other hand, I doubt whether this usage or preposed
> > participial phrases/clauses is as common a feature of non-narrative
> > Greek prose -- oratory, philosophical discourse and essays 
> such as
> > those of Xenophon and Plutarch. I haven't tested this guess 
> that the
> > usage differs between narrative and non-narrative prose 
> genres, but I
> > think it's pretty likely. I think that some kinds of finite-mood
> > circumstantial clauses preceding main clauses may very well be
> > "backgrounded" -- but that's just a hunch. I do think that genre
> > matters in this regard.
> >
> > (3) I very much appreciate your calling attention to the 
> structure of
> > Mark 5;25-27. It's worth spelling out:
> >
> > Mark 5:25
> > KAI GUNH OUSA EN hRUSEI hAIMATOS DWDEKA ETH KAI POLLA PAQOUSA hUPO
> > POLLWN IATRWN KAI DAPANHSASA TA PAR' AUTHS PANTA KAI MHDEN 
> WFELHQEISA> ALLA MALLON EIS TO CEIRON ELQOUSA, AKOUSASA PERI TOU 
> IHSOU, ELQOUSA
> > EN TWi OCLWi hHYATO TOU hIMATIOU AUTOU.
> >
> > I don't think an Attic prose master could have formulated this more
> > eloquently. That's one reason I find it hard to take seriously any
> > suggestion that Mark's gospel was originally composed in Aramaic.
> > There was a time when I thought Mark's Greek was very rough, 
> but upon
> > careful study and at the suggestion of Edward Hobbs, I came to
> > believe that the rough places in Mark's gospel narrative more likely
> > come from his received tradition, whereas the sequences more likely
> > to have been composed by the evangelist himself are in quite
> > acceptable Greek and even with some rhetorical flair and heavy 
> irony.>
> > Carl W. Conrad
> > Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
> > 1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
> > cwconrad2 at mac.com
> > WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > ---
> > B-Greek home page: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek
> > B-Greek mailing list
> > B-Greek at lists.ibiblio.org
> > http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-greek
> 
> 
> 
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
> 1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
> cwconrad2 at mac.com
> WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/
> 
> 
> ---
> B-Greek home page: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek
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> 



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