[B-Greek] marked vs unmarked?

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Wed Sep 19 16:36:37 EDT 2007

CWC: This was clearly intended for the list but was somehow shunted  
to b-greek-bounces rather than to the proper address for message  
submissions (b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org).

From: "Steve Runge" <srunge at logos.com>
Date: September 19, 2007 4:24:56 PM EDT
To: <b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org>
Subject: [B-Greek] marked vs unmarked?


Generally speaking, like REALLY generally, markedness has to do with  
something standing out in a particular context, kind of like taking a  
highlighter pen and marking something in a book. Applying this  
analogy to B-Greek readers, you are in the position of reading  
someone else's book that has been highlighted; you see the marks but  
do not understand what decisions were made to mark this versus that.

In order to address the question of 'What does it mean?', you need to  
be let in on a little secret: there are actually TWO views/kinds of  
markedness, asymmetrical and symmetrical. Buth is using the  
asymmetrical view (I do as well), so I will start there first.

Here is my description of the asymmetrical view from an SBL  
conference paper.

	"Andrews' (1990) account of markedness proposes an asymmetrical set  
of oppositions where members of the set are either marked or unmarked  
for a particular feature.  Use of a 'marked' form explicitly signals  
the presence of a particular feature in the context.  Use of the  
'unmarked' member of a set does not specify whether the feature is  
present.  It is unmarked for the feature.  From a methodological  
standpoint, we will describe the unmarked member of the opposition  
set as the default, the 'most basic' member.  The default forms the  
canon against which marked forms are identified and described.... To  
summarize, marked structures, by definition, signal the presence of a  
particular feature in the context.  On the other hand, if speakers  
use a default order, they have pragmatically chosen not to signal the  
presence of the feature.  It may or may not be present, but the  
default form is unmarked for it.  Thus, a default expression does not  
inherently mean the opposite of a marked expression; it simply  
implies that the expression is unmarked for the feature in question."

Andrews, Edna. (1990) Markedness theory: The Union of Asymmetry and  
Semiosis in Language. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

To summarize, the asymmetrical view would say that a marked form  
presupposes that the writer has made a decision to signal to the  
reader that some feature is present. This presupposes intentionality  
behind the choice. Had the writer used the unmarked member of the  
set, it would have been ambiguous whether the particular feature was  
present or not.

Now for the symmetrical view:
The 'symmetrical' view says that markedness is established on the  
basis of frequency, with the most frequently occurring form being the  
least marked, and the least frequently occurring being the most  
marked.  Markedness is correlated with importance.  Thus, this scheme  
of markedness creates a scale determined by statistical frequency,  
ranking each member of the set relative to the others. Markedness  
then is correlated to importance: the less frequent something is, the  
more it stands out.

Someone applying the symmetrical view of markedness would need to  
address the issue of what exactly is meant by 'marked' other than  
occurring infrequently and thus somehow important. I have had trouble  
understanding what is being claimed about the thing being studied  
other than frequency/importance. It does not signal the presence of  
Y, as in the asymmetrical model.

The asymmetrical model is based upon the presupposition that the  
writer made a choice to do X, and that the choice X implies a meaning  
Y. Thus, if something is 'required' in a context, then nothing can be  
claimed about intent. The asymmetrical view further claims that the  
decisions were based on a standard system that was in place in the  
language which would enable contemporary readers to properly decode  
the decisions.

Let's go back to Randall's post. The question revolves around  
figuring out what the writer/editor intended by doing what he or she  
did, as well as how would a contemporary reader have 'decoded' what  
was done. Randall described what he understood to be these ordering  
decisions made by the writer/editor, and he described the meaning  
associated with making them.  He made these judgments (ostensibly)  
based on Simon Dik's model of information structure (I think), and on  
Randall's understanding of what represents the default order of  
constituents in Koine Greek.  These two elements, from the  
asymmetrical view, theoretically represent the system that the writer  
used to encode the text and that the contemporary reader would have  
used to decode the text.

A symmetrical explanation of the same text would base its analysis on  
the frequency of the particular order in 4:12, compared to the use of  
that same order within some larger corpus.  I am not sure how the  
symmetrical system correlates to the author/editor and contemporary  
reader regarding intentionality. In fact, I have a few questions  
about how it does.
	-Are they claiming that the writer made a meaningful choice to use a  
less-frequent form?
	-Was the reader expected to discern this choice?
	-If the reader is expected to pick up on the choice, is there a  
language-wide system that is postulated? If not, how could a reader  
make decisions correlating usage to frequency until the entire corpus  
(whatever it is) has been read?  What if a marked form occurs in  
chapter 2?  Would it be recognized?

I do believe that there is a relationship between what is default and  
how frequently something occurs, but it is not a mathematical issue.   
See Andrews' discussion on 'statistical frequency' in her chapter on  
'The Myths of Markedness'. She raises important questions which need  
to be engaged and answered.

Hope this explanation helps, Ted.  This is probably more than you  
were looking for.

Steven Runge, DLitt (Biblical Languages)
Logos Research Systems, Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From: b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek- 
bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Ted & Robin Shoemaker
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2007 9:18 AM
To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [B-Greek] marked vs unmarked?

In a recent post, Randall Buth said that MHKETI ANQRWPWN EPIQUMIAIS  
is "marked" in 1 Peter 4:2.  I've never been clear on what it means  
for some Greek words to be "marked" or "unmarked".  Would some kind  
soul please explain (again) what this concept means, how it is used,  
how it affects the meaning, etc.?
Thank you!

Ted Shoemaker

More information about the B-Greek mailing list