Inconsistent Constructions in

There are a variety of grammatical constructions in the Greek New Testament where seems to fluctuate on its structural representation. The most blatant example of this is the database’s analysis of Greek relative clauses. Of the three types of clauses that delineates: Primary Clauses, Secondary Clauses and Embedded Clauses, relative clauses are labeled as all three.[1] One would expect that relative clauses[2] would only appear as embedded clauses when they function within the Noun Phrase (NP) and as secondary clauses when they function outside the NP they modify. These two types of RC’s are shown in examples (1) and (2) with the relative clause in brackets.[3]

(1) The book [I bought yesterday] was a trade paperback.

(2) Somebody lives nearby [who has a CD-burner].[4]

Now a person might expect that if is going to label RC’s as either embedded or secondary clauses, example (1) would be embedded and example (2) would be secondary. This is because in (1), the relative clause functions directly within the noun phrase, while in (2), the relative clauses is outside the noun phrase in the predicate. But this is not the case when we examine Compare the noun phrases below where the relative pronoun is marked bold and the head noun it modifies is in italics.

(3) προσένεγκον τὸ δῶρον προσέταξεν Μωϋσῆς εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς
Offer the gift which Moses commanded. Matt 8:4

(4) ἐποίησεν δώδεκα οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν
He appointed twelve who he named apostles. Mark 3:14

Both these relative clauses function directly within the NP to which they refer, but in, example (3) is labeled as an Embedded Clause and example (4) is marked as a Secondary Clause. What justification is there for the difference in their analysis? The assigning of syntactic structures must be based upon evidence and there does not seem to be any for the difference in labels in these two examples. Such examples could be multiplied hundred times over. Total, there are 806 relative clauses labeled as Embedded Clauses and 674 as Secondary Clauses.[5]

[1] Represented by the labels, PC, SC, and EC.

[2] “A relative clause (RC) is subordinate clause which delimits the reference of an NP [Noun Phrase] by specifying the role of the referent of that NP in the situation described by the RC (Avery D. Andrews, “Relative Clauses” in Language Typologies and Syntactic Descriptive Volume II: Complex Constructions [ed. Timothy Shopen; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007], 206).

[3] Greek RC’s are even more complicated because of the possibility of discontinuous NPs, which are illicit in English. It could be argued that by tagging relative clauses as more than one different type of clause to begin with causes pragmatically significant constructions to be obscured. This is true for many other constructions as well, particularly where crosses lines to denote syntactic relationships.

[4] Adapted from Andrews, “Relative Clauses,” 206.

[5] There are also 124 relative pronouns which introduced clauses labeled as Primary, though this all of these appear to be justified. In these cases, the relative pronoun function more like demonstratives. See for example, Matthew 5:22, though there is still a question as to whether there are other times where the relative functions like a demonstrative and it is not labeled as a Primary Clause.

4 thoughts on “Inconsistent Constructions in

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  1. Could the distinction they are making be something like that between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses? Your (3) includes a restrictive relative clause, and the sentence makes little sense without it. But your (4) includes a non-restrictive relative clause which is in fact not required for the sentence to make sense. I realise that this is a largely semantic distinction, not clearly marked in the syntax (usually marked by punctuation in English). But is there perhaps a subtle syntactic distinction, marked for example by the καὶ in your (4)? Anyway, is trying to make only strictly syntactic distinctions, or is it also marking semantic ones?

  2. Peter, I just don’t know – and there are examples without a και as in (4). Many of the distinctions they either make or don’t make simply perplex me to no end!

    The amount of analysis put into this database *should* have resulted in a grammar being produced either before the final analysis or during, but nothing was. I honestly don’t get it.

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