Culy on Double Case Constructions

In the most recently published articles for Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, Volume 6 (2009), Martin Culy has written an article titled Double Case Constructions in Koine Greek. Its quite good. He approaches the issue from the perspective of Classical Transformational Grammar & Relational Grammar, which is interesting in of itself. Relational Grammar isn’t seen much ancient Greek studies, so its nice to read from that perspective – not to mention that we haven’t really seen any linguistic approach to such constructions in some time.

So go read the article, its quite good.

Personally, I would not approach Greek from any sort of framework that requires syntactic derivation (as both Transformational Grammar and Relational Grammar do) simply because Greek voice cannot be adequately explained from such a perspective. Specifically, English has an Active-Passive voice system where voce alternation can be easily via syntactic derivation. But Greek is an Active-Middle-Passive system (or better, an Active-Middle/Passive system) where distinctions between the voice cannot be explained derivationally unless you allow for an overwhelming number of exceptions in the form of the so-called “Deponent” verbs.

Now when I write all of that, I don’t mean to suggest that Culy’s conclusions are incorrect. I think he’s done some very good things here and I think its mostly right. All it really means is that since I would approach this subject from a different framework, my analysis (which I won’t show here, but does exist) would look somewhat different, even though the conclusions themselves would essentially be quite similar.

And for his own purposes, the use of Transformational or Relational Grammar as a framework is perfectly fine. I only write my words above to say that different linguistic frameworks are designed for different things and no framework has a monopoly on the right analysis. And that’s a point that Culy actually makes himself, albeit indirectly. In the last pages of the article, Culy suggests some “interpretive implications” for double accusatives. And to whom does he turn for his implications? Not to Chomsky (Transformational) or any advocate of a Formal syntactic theory. No. Rather, Culy turns to Talmy Givón’s Functional-Typological approach to Syntax, completely different theoretical framework for showing the significance of his initial analysis.

Again, the article is here: Double Case Constructions in Koine Greek (

The whole journal issue is here:

6 thoughts on “Culy on Double Case Constructions

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  1. You stated, “I only write my words above to say that different linguistic frameworks are designed for different things and no framework has a monopoly on the right analysis.” This is a key point, as some would view Systemic Functional or other things as capable of all things, yea even bringing about world peace. These theories are like tools, designed primarily for certain things. Importing a framework to Greek that was primarily designed for highly structured languages like English is something like trying to use SAE on metric bolts: it works some of the time, but other times it strips the nut.

    1. I had a couple extra characters in there. Sorry about that.

      It’s fixed now and I’ve provided a copy paste link too and a link to the entire issue as well – just in case.

    1. I’ve done work on Greek using Lexical-Functional Grammar, a generative framework developed by a number of linguists who didn’t like where Chomsky was taking Transformational Grammar back in the1970’s, and I’ve also done some work on Greek using Role and Reference Grammar, which is a sort of hybrid theory that borrows from both a variety of functional theories that have been popular in Europe as well as more mainstream generative grammar.

      Both these frameworks reject the sort of “deep struction” that Chomskyan theories are generally known for and also the autonomy of syntax in relation to other aspects of Grammar.

      Autonomy of syntax…how do I explain what that means…think of it this way:

      Pragmatics – Semantics – Syntax

      Functional Theories (e.g. Functional Grammar) begin with pragmatics and work to the right whereas Chomskyan theories begin with Syntax and try to work to the left. Theories like Role and Reference Grammar or Lexical Functional Grammar attempt to start more in the middle and work their way outward or try to look at all three together at the same time. There are a variety of other similar frameworks as well that are closer to the middle: Head-driven phrase structure grammar & the Simpler Syntax Hypothesis, and then there are a variety of linguists who are quite eclectic in their approaches, using whatever seems best for whatever their studying at the time.

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