[B-Greek] The elusive language of grammar (was '"result" expressed by adverbial participles?')

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Tue Apr 20 11:06:20 EDT 2010

On Apr 20, 2010, at 10:39 AM, Bryant J. Williams III wrote:
> Dear Carl,
> I am reminded of the following quote:
> If you are unable to speak in terms that the masses are able to understand, then
> you really have not understood the subject you are talking about.
> This is a constant struggle to do even with telling others about the gospel; let
> alone talking about Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic or ....

Yes, I agree to a considerable extent. But I think that it may ultimately require the communicative skills of a poet to share insights involving more than concrete referents; it requires an ability to invent metaphors that are what Homer called ἔπεα πτερόεντα [EPEA PTEROENTA]. And I really do believe that talking about how language works is much more difficult than we readily admit.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Carl Conrad" <cwconrad2 at mac.com>
> To: "Mark Lightman" <lightmanmark at yahoo.com>
> Cc: "B-Greek" <B-Greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 6:48 AM
> Subject: [B-Greek] The elusive language of grammar (was '"result" expressed by
> adverbial participles?')
>> On Apr 19, 2010, at 8:15 PM, Mark Lightman wrote:
>>> Carl wrote:
>>> <I would raise the question -- rhetorically, of course, but with purpose or
> maybe
>>> with  result -- take your choice ;-) Are these distinctions offered by
> Wallace in
>>> GGBB more convincing or more readily intelligible than those in the
>>> treatises of academic Linguists that have been recommended in this forum?>
>>> I guess not, no.  Neither groups of Analytic distinctions are convincing or
> intelligible.  Neither,
>>> I fear, will lead to Fluency, nor have much value once Fluency is obtained.
> Neither will cause
>>> you to live longer.  It will just seem longer.  :)
>>> Mark L
>> The question was posed rhetorically, but it is a real question and an
> important one
>> that I've been pondering increasingly of late, partly as a consequence of our
> not-very-successful
>> efforts to talk intelligently about the positives and negatives of traditional
> Greek grammar and
>> Linguists' explanations of how Greek works.
>> Many of us agree (and perhaps more do NOT) that ancient Greek pedagogy should
> have
>> "fluency" or "internalization" of the language in students as its objective.
> Many of us are
>> also convinced (but probably a minority in this instance also) that
> grammatical analysis
>> does NOT help very much if at all in bringing about "flency" or
> "internalization" -- in
>> the sense of ability to read and comprehend written Greek or hear and
> comprehend spoken
>> Greek readily.
>> NEVERTHELESS -- B-Greekers keep meeting like this, and it's a primary reason
> for the
>> very existence of the B-Greek forum, because -- we want to talk with each
> other about
>> the meaning of particular Biblical Greek texts. How are we to do that? What is
> the metalanguage
>> that we are to use to discuss such questions as "expressing result by
> adverbial participles"?
>> I have made no secret of the fact that I find Smyth's grammar, although its
> focus is on
>> classical Attic Greek (with helpful remarks on Homeric and other dialects) the
> single most
>> useful resource for reference to in discussion of the kinds of questions that
> are most often
>> raised on B-Greek; I also find BDF helpful quite often. I don't really much
> like GGBB,
>> precisely because it endeavors -- excessively, in my opinion -- to categorize
> and subcategorize
>> usages in terms of contextual factors, thereby inventing new terms and
> formulating elaborate
>> explanations of usage, some of which it is too easy to disparage and satirize
> (e.g. "aporetic
>> genitive"). On the whole, however, I have said before that I really think
> Wallace's GGBB
>> is, on the whole, a useful reference work and one that surely seems right more
> often than
>> wrong in its judgment -- but I still don't really like it. The big grammar of
> AT Robertson
>> is one that most of us (but probably not all)  esteem highly, but we would
> not, I think,
>> ever imagine that it's the "last" or even the "latest" word on grammatical
> issues.
>> There are those who have very little use for any of these resources and look
> primarily to
>> Linguistics for the formulation of useful explanations of how Biblical Greek
> works, even
>> if they readily admit that Linguists employ a dismaying range of glossolalia
> that is
>> offensive to the eye and ear and that requires of non-specialists an
> investment of time
>> and effort to understand that many are just simply unwilling to pay. Certainly
> those
>> who are content with interlinears or parsed Greek texts and translations to
> convey the
>> sense of the Greek are not going to invest much either in traditional grammar
> or in
>> Linguists' analyses of how Greek works; they are content to rely upon what is,
>> essentially, the predigested interpretative work done by others.
>> Our problem is that we really do not have a satisfactory language or shared
>> understanding for sharing with each other our understanding of how the
> elements
>> of the texts we are examining work. Does anyone think that we really do have
>> either of these things? My own deeply disturbing conviction is that we tend to
>> talk about Biblical Greek passages by employing all-too-vaguely-grasped terms
>> and accountings for syntactic relationships and lexical identifications that
> will not
>> stand up to even a very mild Socratic elenchus ("What do you REALLY mean when
>> you use words like 'tense' or 'voice'?"). In my opinion, for what it's worth,
> this
>> is the REAL "elephant on the list."
>> On the other hand, if all of us B-Greekers were, with respect to talking about
>> Biblical Greek, "of one language, and of one speech," would there be a reason
>> for the existence of B-Greek?
>> Carl W. Conrad
>> Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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