Pronominal Clitics in Noun Phrases: The Data

The primary pronominal clitic form we find within NP’s is the genitive singular =μου. The equal sign, “=,” is the traditional linguistic symbol for marking a clitics relationship with its phonological host. Together the two grammatical words form a single phonological word.

In terms of the examples we’ll be examining in this post, our focus will be those clitics that are fronted before their head noun. Syntactically, there are only two possible positions available for this clitic form: either they will follow directly after their head noun (Noun=Pro) or they will precede the noun they modify: (X=Pro Det Noun). In the later case, most of the time, the pronominal clitic will be attaching to a constituent outside its syntactic phrase, creating a mismatch between phonological phrasing and syntactic phrasing. Below is all of the New Testament data for the pronominal clitics that precede their head noun.

In the majority of these examples, its quite obvious what is going on. The word the clitic attaches to marks a major phonological phrase, a prosodic peak, as it were. With that said, there are a number of examples which are far less clear (e.g. the pronominal clitic directly following ἵνα, something that seems to occur surprisingly often with a variety of clitic inflectional forms. I have only included the example below because its part of this data set in terms of NP distribution. This issue will be dealt with more fully in a later post where I will collate more examples of this phenomena.

Following the initial data, I provide some limited discussion the broader constraints at work here.

Pronominal Clitics Attaching to a Preceding Verb:

Matt 7:24 Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ἀκούει μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους

Matt 7:26 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀκούων μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους

Matt 10:37 Ὁ φιλῶν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος (2x)

Matt 10:38 ὃς οὐ λαμβάνει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ ὀπίσω μου, οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος.

Matt 16:18 καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν

Matt 17:15 κύριε, ἐλέησόν μου τὸν υἱόν

Matt 24:48 χρονίζει μου ὁ κύριος

Mark 9:24 βοήθει μου τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ.

Luke 7:44 αὕτη δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεξέν μου τοὺς πόδας

Luke 7:45 αὕτη δὲ ἀφʼ ἧς εἰσῆλθον οὐ διέλιπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας.

Luke 14:23 ἵνα γεμισθῇ μου ὁ οἶκος·

Luke 14:24 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀνδρῶν ἐκείνων τῶν κεκλημένων γεύσεταί μου τοῦ δείπνου.

John 6:54 ὁ τρώγων μου τὴν σάρκα

John 9:11 καὶ ἐπέχρισέν μου τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς

John 9:15 πηλὸν ἐπέθηκέν μου ἐπὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς

John 9:30 καὶ ἤνοιξέν μου τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς.

John 13:8 οὐ μὴ νίψῃς μου τοὺς πόδας εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

Acts 21:13 τί ποιεῖτε κλαίοντες καὶ συνθρύπτοντές μου τὴν καρδίαν;

Romans 11:14 εἴ πως παραζηλώσω μου τὴν σάρκα

1 Cor 9:27 ἀλλὰ ὑπωπιάζω μου τὸ σῶμα καὶ δουλαγωγῶ

2 Cor 6:16 αὐτοὶ ἔσονταί μου λαός.

Phil 2:2 πληρώσατέ μου τὴν χαρὰν

Phil 4:14 συγκοινωνήσαντές μου τῇ θλίψει

Col 4:18 μνημονεύετέ μου τῶν δεσμῶν.

2 Tim 3:10 Σὺ δὲ παρηκολούθησάς μου τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ

Philemon 20 ἀνάπαυσόν μου τὰ σπλάγχνα ἐν Χριστῷ

Heb 8:9 ἐπιλαβομένου μου τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῶν

Rev 3:8 καὶ ἐτήρησάς μου τὸν λόγον

Pronominal Clitics Attaching to Other Argument Constituents:

Matt 12:50 ὅστις γὰρ ἂν ποιήσῃ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς αὐτός μου ἀδελφὸς καὶ ἀδελφὴ καὶ μήτηρ ἐστίν.

Mark 5:30 τίς μου ἥψατο τῶν ἱματίων;

Luke 10:29 καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον;

Luke 19:8 ἰδοὺ τὰ ἡμίσιά μου τῶν ὑπαρχόντων, κύριε, τοῖς πτωχοῖς δίδωμι

Pronominal Clitics Attaching to a Subordinating Conjunction:

Matt 8:8 ἵνα μου ὑπὸ τὴν στέγην εἰσέλθῃς

The Prosody/Syntax Interface in the Noun Phrase:

Under normal circumstances, the =μου is required to follow its head noun. This is the default ordering/structure for this pronoun. The two most explicit clear situations for the cause of the pronoun’s fronting are the IMPERATIVE=μου structure and the INTERROGATIVE=μου structure. As we observed previously, the default prosodic structure for imperatives has a primary stress accent on the verb. We see this below in the imperative petition of Matt 17:15 and then again in Mark 9:24.

κύριε, ἐλέησόν=μου τὸν υἱόν
Lord, have mercy on my son.

βοήθει μου τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ.
Help my unbelief.

Like we have seen in past posts, the verb receives primary stress and pulls forward the pronominal clitic.

When we look at content questions, we find a similar phenomena. Question and their answers in broader linguistic literature, particularly for still spoken languages, are often used as one of the standard tests for determining what constituent is Focus. This is a result of the common correlation between new information and Focus.

What did you bring to the barbeque?

I brought ribs.

In the answer, ribs receives the discourse function of Focus because it is new, asserted information. And because of the clear relationship between the answer to the question and the question word itself, we view What as also having the discourse function of Focus. Thus, in Mark 5:30, τίς is treated as Focus and the pronoun attaches to it, creating a discontinuous noun phrase.

τίς=μου ἥψατο τῶν ἱματίων;
Who touched my clothing?

Luke 10:29 is an interesting similar example. At first glance, one might be inclined argued that this clause is a counter example to Mark 5:30, but in reality, this example is a complete affirmation of my proposal.

καὶ τίς=ἐστίν=μου πλησίον;
And who is my neighbor?

To argue that this question is a counter example misses the fact that ἐστίν, too, is a clitic and is also attached to the question word. Technically speaking, τίς=ἐστίν=μου is a single phonological word composed of three grammatical words. Thus, like Mark 5:30, =μου attaches to the most phonologically prominent word possible. But whereas Mark 5:30 creates a discontinuous noun phrase, there is no need for such a drastic structural change here since ἐστίν also functions as a clitic also.

Initial Conclusions:

We have seen that both in cases where the pronominal clitic is pulled forward either by a nominal constituent or a verb, the lexical item it attaches to receives the primary stress of the clause associated with the discourse function of Focus. This principle covers the vast majority of examples with little room for debate. In the next post, we will examine the minority of more complicated instances where the reason for the clitic’s position is less clear, in order to determine whether our basic hypothesis continues to hold true.