Opentext.org & Traditional Grammar

It might sound odd to hear that one of the problems of Opentext.org’s database is that it depends on traditional categories to a fault. But then, perhaps “traditional” is an unfair description, since the kind of construction discussed below is noted as distinct in the reference grammars (e.g. BDF §412). Perhaps then the better word is “simplistic” or a dependency upon lower level grammars instead of the advanced reference grammars.

Probably the most evident example of this tendency grammar is its treatment of Greek participles. The common explanation of the substantival participle introductory and intermediate grammars is that it functions in the place of a noun and is commonly recognized by the presence of the article. “[I]f the participle has the article it must be either adjectival (proper) or substantival. Second, if it is articular and is not related in a dependent fashion to any substantive in the sentence, then it is substantival.”[1] Now this is generally a helpful working definition, especially for teaching students how to determine the function of a given participle, but it cannot provide explanation for every instance of a substantival participle. The result is that when we move to the world of structural representation this description fails. That is because there is more going on with substantival participles than simply the addition of the article. A close examination of Opentext.org’s representation of one such participle construction in Ephesians 4:24 is quite helpful in showing this point.

Fig. 1image

Note that a prepositional phase, κατὰ θεὸν (by God), appears between the article and the participle. Opentext recognizes that this prepositional phrase modifies the participle and yet follows the traditional understanding of substantival participles by crossing lines to connect the article directly with the participle. But this example suggests that what we actually have is a substantival participial clause functioning in the attributive position of the Noun Phrase.

This is confirmed by the fact that we have the same phenomenon occurring with Greek substantival infinitives. Opentext.org tags at least 338 substantival participles and infinitives with this gap structure.[2] This sort of crosscategorial evidence suggests that what we have here in Ephesians 4:24 is not a specific use of the participle or the infinitive, but rather a unique feature of the Greek article that allows it to turn a variety of different constituent types into substantives. On this understanding of the article, Ephesians 4:24 should look more like Figure 2 below.[3]

Fig. 2image

In this diagram, it is clear that the article is the specifier for the entire participial clause rather than only the participle itself.

[UPDATE] As a result of dialog in the comments, I’ve been corrected that this isn’t actually a problem with Opentext.org, but really framework specific issue. Apparently, there is a distinction made between the specifier node for the article and the rest of the nodes.

If that is the case, and I have every reason to believe it is, then the majority of my criticism is significantly less valid, since there still is a distinction being made somehow. So what I’m wondering at this point is whether 1) the distinction is something that is simply assumed to exist by practitioners of Systemics and not “physically” represented, or 2) the distinction would normally be easily seen in other Systemics work in some way not is missing from Opentext.org or 3) for some reason I’m simply not seeing something in the diagram that makes it clear that not all nodes are equal to each other (which is possible).


[1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan, 1997), 619.

[2] This is from searching for a [clause [conj – not present][clause component [word group [head term [modifier [word 1 – article]] [GAP] [word 2 – participle OR infinitive]]]]]. Since [conj – not present] disallows postpositives such as δέ from being in the GAP, but also rejects hits with non-post positive conjunctions (e.g. καί), there are likely more than 338 hits .

[3] Figure 2 is an adaption of Opentext.org’s representation using Logos Bible Software’s Sentence Diagramming tool. Nowhere in the Opentext database does such a structure appear. In fact there is only one place in Opentext.org where a modifier of any kind connects directly to a clause in Hebrews 4:10. This analysis could also be considered insufficient, since the article is subordinate to the embedded clause itself. It is more likely that the Article is governing the embedded clause as marking the attributive position to the Noun Phrase it modifies.

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