[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
"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
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
-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.
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.?
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