Current Studies in Greek Word Order: Some Musings

I was reading Dik’s book Word Order in Greek Tragic Dialogue in Amazon’s preview, curious about what she says about Devine and Stephen’s work (Discontinuous Syntax: Hyperbaton in Greek, 1999), which came out after her first book on word order in Herodotus (Word Order in Ancient Greek: A Pragmatic Account of Word Order Variation in Herodotus,1995).

Looking through the discussion, it seems like her second book is likely going to be the more important work simply because she has a larger number of other recent books to argue and dialogue with. What I’ve read has been so-so. There’s some good and some bad – I think she’s wrong to reject D&S’s combination of pragmatics and semantics for their explanation of adjective orderings (she prefers pragmatics only with at least one caveat), but I think (only intuitively, I haven’t checked) that her criticism of D&S’s claim (that adjective ordering differences between Herodotus and Thucydides is best explained by dialect difference) is spot on. With that said, D&S tend to make many more typological comparisons than Dik ever does, which is a clear strength to their book. And then there’s the issue of price. You can get D&S for less than $20 used while either of Dik’s books go for at least $75. Who knows, that might end up being the factor in who wins the debate – though at the same time, Dik is infinitely easier to read than D&S.

What is interesting, and I’m curious if Stephanie Bakker will continue the trend (see below), is that Dik in her 2007 book consistently follows D&S’s terminology for the different types of discontinuous phrases in Greek syntax – e.g. Y1 Hyperbaton (AXN) & Y2 Hyperbaton (NXA).

There are more books coming out on the subject though. Stephanie Bakker (any relation to Egbert J. Bakker?) is writing a book on the Noun Phrase in Greek (The Noun Phrase in Ancient Greek: A Functional Analysis of the Order and Articulation of Np Constituents in Herodotus). And according to Dik (Word order, 2007; page 88), Rijksbaron is currently researching definiteness in Greek and S. R. Slings is currently working on a functional analysis (as opposed to D&S’s generative analysis) of Hyperbaton in Greek. I don’t know how I feel about this. I think that D&S are generally correct in their explanation of hyperbaton. Why can’t we simply work from different theoretical perspectives and build on each other? Framework rivalry is always such nonsense.

Finally, what is up with Herodotus? Why is he so popular for word order studies? I don’t know…

So all in all, it looks like the next ten years are going to be quite productive for Classical Greek word order studies.

I hope we actually get somewhere with all of this writing (yes, that’s cynicism you hear).

And I hope some of it spills over into the Hellenistic Period (more cynicism – though I do hope to make my own contribution to this subject at some point in the relatively near future – 3 to 5 years).