Discontinuous Syntax Part V

This is a continuation of my series examining Devine and Stephen’s book Discontinuous Syntax: Hyperbaton in Greek. Today’s post consists of much rewriting of about 15 pages I lost back in February when my hard drive died.

See also:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Weak Focus Y2 Hyperbaton[1]

Most commonly, Y2 Hyperbaton will denote weak focus on the initial head noun with the following adjective marking an additional restriction on the head noun. This additional restriction also tends to be weak focus. The first three instances of Y­2 Hyperbaton in the New Testament provide an excellent example of this combination of syntactic structure and pragmatic meaning seen below.[2]

(1) τὸ γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ γεννηθὲν ἐκ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἁγίου
For what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matt 1:20.

(2) ὁ λαὸς ὁ καθήμενος ἐν σκότει φῶς εἶδεν μέγα
The people who live in darkness have seen a great light. Matt 4:16

(3) καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος χεῖρα ἔχων ξηράν.
And behold, a man who had a withered hand. Matt 12:10

In these three examples, the author/speaker provides brand new information to the reader/listener. Example (50) is from the monologue of the angel to Joseph regarding the source of Mary’s pregnancy. The clause consists of the known information shared by both the Angel and Joseph: Mary is pregnant. There is a child conceived (τὸ γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ γεννηθὲν). The predicate of this clause is the completely new, non-contrastive information: the child is from the Holy Spirit (ἐκ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἁγίου).

Example (51) is found within a quotation of Isaiah 9:1-2 in the Gospel of Matthew.[3] The discontinuous phrase appears late enough in the quotation from Isaiah to provide a large enough context for understanding the phrase’s information structure without recourse to the text of Isaiah.[4] The phrase appears following a description of the land of Israel, “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, / the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, / Galilee of the Gentiles— / the people living in darkness have seen a great light / on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (TNIV). In the greater context of the Gospel, the writer has just described Jesus as traveling through these regions, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. Verse 15 is entirely accessible, known information; as does the Subject of the clause in question here (the people). The brand new, prominent information is “light” –a great one.

In the last of these examples (52), Matthew introduces a new scene within the periscope that describes Jesus’ relationship to the Sabbath. With the new scene, come new participants. Since the clause itself introduces brand new information, there is little doubt about the information status of the constituents: καὶ ἰδοὺ (and behold) marks the shift to a new Topic, ἄνθρωπος (a man), which also is the Subject of the clause. The rest of the clause is a participial clause (χεῖρα ἔχων ξηράν, “having a withered hand”) in the predicate position with ἄνθρωπος (a man).

In light of DS’s claims about the discourse function of Y­Hyperbaton, these first three examples are rather striking because of them, only the last one even partially parallels their predicted discourse context which Y2 Hyperbaton should occur. They write, “Two generalizations suggest themselves: first, the verbs are all intransitive, and second … they are all simple verbs of occurrence or existence.”[5] In our examples above, only example (50) is an existential verb and none of the three examples are intransitive. [6]­

How do we deal with this? On the one hand, it is possible that DS limits their generalizations only to Weak Focus ­Y2­ Hyperbaton examples where the discontinuous phrase bears the grammatical relation of Subject. This is not explicit in their discussion, but could easily be inferred from the text itself. Earlier they write, “In the simplest type of Y­2­ ­Hyperbaton, [Y1X] is an ordinary weak focus and the Y2 Adjective specifies an additional restriction on the noun, and so represents a second weak focus. Some of the clearest instances involve split subject phrases.”[7]

1 Intransitive, Existential, or Occurrence Verbs

If we accept this perspective on the intention of DS, as well as assume that their two generalizations function as separate possibilities rather than two requirements, a clearer picture emerges. Of those instances of Subject ­Y2 Hyperbaton, all of them fit their generalizations and many of the cases can be paraphrased in English with either, “an expletive there or an extraposed relative clause.”[8] Consider examples (53-55) with an existential verb from the New Testament and Josephus.

(4) καὶ ἐγένοντο ἀστραπαὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ βρονταὶ καὶ σεισμὸς ἐγένετο μέγας
And there was lightning and sounds and thunder and there was a great earthquake. Rev 16:18

(5) λίθος δὲ ἦν μέγας ἐπὶ τῷ στόματι τοῦ φρέατος
But there was a large stone on the mouth of the well. Gen 29:2

(6) κατὰ νυκτὸς ἐνάτην ὥραν τοσοῦτο φῶς περιέλαμψε τὸν βωμὸν καὶ τὸν ναόν, ὡς δοκεῖν ἡμέραν εἶναι λαμπράν
By the ninth hour of the night, such a light shone around the altar and the Temple, as to appear that it appeared to be bright day time. Josephus, Wars 6.290

In all three of these examples, the author is not seeking to contrast two items or events (i.e. Strong Focus), rather he is merely reporting that X exists or happened.[9]

There are also Hellenistic examples of Y2 Hyperbaton with intransitive verbs shown in the following examples.

(7) θύρα γάρ μοι ἀνέῳγεν μεγάλη καὶ ἐνεργής
For a door has opened up to me, a wide and effective one. 1 Cor 16:7

(8) πηγαὶ συνεσχέθησαν αἰώνιοι ἐξ ἀβύσσων ἀπὸ ὀρέων ὑψηλῶν, ὅτι οὐκ ἦν ἐν αὐτοῖς ποιῶν δικαιοσύνην καὶ κρίμα.
Eternal Springs were shut up from the depths from the high mountains, because there was no one among them performing righteous and justice. Psalms of Solomon 17:19

(9) Εἰπὸν αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τῷ ἐμῷ ὀνόματι Κρύψον σεαυτόν, καὶ δήλωσον αὐτῷ τέλος ἐπερχόμενον, ὅτι ἡ γῆ ἀπόλλυται πᾶσα, καὶ κατακλυσμὸς μέλλει γίνεσθαι πάσης τῆς γῆς καὶ ἀπολέσει πάντα ὅσα ἔστʼ ἐν αὐτῇ.
Say to him [Noah] in my name, “Hide yourself!” And show him that the coming end: that the entire earth will be destroyed and a severe flood is about to come upon all the earth and will destroy everything on it. Book of Enoch 10.2

Of these three examples, (56) could easily be paraphrased as, “There is a door that has opened to me, wide and effective.” Also, example (58) is particularly striking because it states explicitly the reportive nature of the construction with the angel Uriel commanding the son of Lamech to bring this new information to Noah.

Finally, there is one clear example of Y2 ­Hyperbaton with an occurrence verb in Josephus.[10]

(10) ἀσπασάμενος δὲ τὴν φωνὴν ὁ τοῦ Σαούλου παῖς ὡς νίκην αὐτῷ σημαίνουσαν παραυτίκα μὲν ἀνεχώρησαν ἐξ οὗπερ ὤφθησαν τόπου τοῖς πολεμίοις, παραμειψάμενοι δὲ τοῦτον, ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν ἧκον ἔρημον οὖσαν τῶν φυλαττόντων διὰ τὴν ὀχυρότητα.
So Saul’s son accepted the voice, as it indicated to him victory. So he immediately came out of the place where they had been seen by their enemies; so he changed his place, and came upon a deserted rock guarded by its own strength. Josephus, Antiquities 6.112

The discontinuous phrase is “ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν ἧκον ἔρημον” (he came upon a deserted rock). And once again, it is clear that Josephus is merely reporting what he views as the necessary new information in preparation for the more salient events which follow where Jonathan and his armor bearer route the Philistine army.

2 Challenges for DS’ Generalizations?

Now that we have covered the examples which can easily be explained by the generalizations of DS, what shall be done with the rest? Indeed, the majority of instances of Weak Focus Y­2 Hyperbaton do not , at face value, align themselves to their description. These must be discussed and explained below, either by showing how they fit within the already stated generalization or by adapting and expanding the generalization so that all the data can be explained. This will be the focus of Part VI, which will appear in much better time than Part V did.

[1] For quick reference, the term weak focus is the plain vanilla basic new information to fill in an informational gap in the mind of the hearer/reader with no additional special prominence.

[2] There is one construction that could technically appear here, but will be discussed elsewhere, the construction: ἐγὼ χρείαν ἔχω X (cf. Matt 3:14). This structure is technically a Y­ Hyperbaton, but the modifier constituent is so varied it cannot be discussed consistently in this section with its focus specifically on Adjectives. Secondly, the nature of the construction as a stereotyped phrase deserves it own independent discussion later on.

[3] The quotation and its word order differ from both the LXX (Rahlfs) and the Masoretic Text. The LXX reads πορευόμενος instead of καθήμενος and neither the LXX nor the MT has the discontinuous phrase we find in Matt 4:16. For this reason, I do not view this instance of Hyperbaton influenced by its Hebrew source text.

[4] This assumes, of course, that Matthew did not adapt the text himself, but drew from an Isaiah manuscript that included the discontinuous phrase.

[5] DS, 92; they provide no definition for “verbs of occurrence.” But according to Angela Downing and Philip Locke (English Grammar: A University Course [London: Taylor & Francis, 2006], 85), verbs of occurrence are those such as, “appear, disappear, go, come, arrive, depart, vanish, fade, happen…”

[6] Though according to our reading of (52), the discontinuous phrase, with its participle, functions as the semantic predicate of a nominal clause and, by definition, nominal clauses are existential.

[7] DS, 91.

[8] Ibid, 93.

[9] Of note in the Josephus example is that the existential infinitive within the discontinuous phrase is governed by an occurrence verb: to appear.

[10] Since this is the only clear example, the context is quoted more fully.