Pronominal Clitics Attaching to Topics

Previously, I set forth three sets of data that make up the difficult examples of pronominal clitics. In this post, we will examine that data more closely look specifically at those pronominal clitics that attach to topical constituents. If these examples truly fit my basic claim about the prominence of the prosodic phrases the clitics attach to, we should expect to find that many of these clauses above have contrastive topics. And indeed, we find that is the case.

John 7:29  ἐγὼ οἶδα αὐτόν, ὅτι παρʼ αὐτοῦ εἰμι κἀκεῖνός με ἀπέστειλεν.

Here, Jesus creates a contrast between himself and the Father, which in the final clause pulls the pronominal clitic forward.

John 17:25 καὶ οὗτοι ἔγνωσαν ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας·

In Jesus’ prayer for his followers, this clause begins with a topical οὗτοι, but the subordinate clause introduces a new topic: σύ, which is broadly contrastive: “And these men know that you [and no one else] has sent me.

John 21:22 ἐὰν αὐτὸν θέλω μένειν ἕως ἔρχομαι, τί πρὸς σέ; σύ μοι ἀκολούθει.

Here the topic σύ is contrasted with αὐτὸν from the conditional clause, giving it additional prosodic stress.

2 Cor 12:11 Γέγονα ἄφρων, ὑμεῖς με ἠναγκάσατε.

In the previous verses, Paul has discussed his own experience and for that reason, verse 11 begins with a subjectless clause: Γέγονα ἄφρων. But the next clause introduces an abrupt change in topic that pulls the pronominal clitic forward.

In all of these examples the pronominal clitics can be viewed as attaching to form a phonological phrase with a contrastive, and thus prosodically prominent, Topic. I propose that in each case, this phonological phrase concludes with a pause before the next phrase begins. This in represented by a comma in the literal translations below.

John 7:29 And he=me, sent.

John 17:25 And they know that you=me, sent.

John 21:22 What is it to you? You=me, follow.

2 Cor 12:11 I have become a fool; you=me, forced.

The only non-contrastive topic that pulls forward a pronominal clitic in our corpus is in Hebrew 2:13.

Heb 2:13 ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ καὶ ‎τὰ παιδία ἅ μοι ἔδωκεν ὁ θεός

But on the basis of the consistency of the other examples, I propose that this one should be read and pronounced in the same manner.

Heb 2:13 I and the children,, God has given.

So then, pronominal clitics attaching to topical constituents do not pose a great challenge to my thesis. Rather, the majority of instances provide stronger evidence that pronominal clitics will attach to the most prominent prosodic phrase within their syntactic domain.

7 thoughts on “Pronominal Clitics Attaching to Topics

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    1. That would depend on what you mean by emphasis. I intentionally avoid using the word because it is used in too many different conflicting ways.

      τουτο is a Topic — topics are always either known information or assumed to be known by the author. They’re what the text or a portion of the text is about.

      Now the reason it is fronted to the beginning of the clause is because it is contrastive with another Topic in the discourse: living vs. dying. It is the phonological (i.e. pronunciation) requirements of contrastiveness that pulls the pronominal clitic forward.

      1. Thank you for making that clear for me.

        If I understand you correctly here, you’re saying that the clitic in 1:22 is pulled forward because the Topic is being narrowed specifically to living. Right?

        That makes sense. However, I find 1:19’s touto moi puzzling. What brought the clitic forward on that occurrence? It seems the Topic is that Christ is preached. Is there an implied contrast between this Topic and other things that one might conceive as resulting in deliverance/salvation?

        1. Two things:

          (1) Paul’s quoting directly from the LXX of Job 13.16 here. And in that context, Job is introducing a new context.

          (2) It’s also entirely possible that Paul views his deliverance/salvation as being a result of the proclamation of Christ. In that case, it isn’t that its a contrastive topic, but that it is a topic that Paul views as particularly important.

          The key though isn’t that clitic pronouns only attach to Topics, but that they attach to prominent phonological phrases: those places in a sentence that you would pronounce with that extra bit of stress. Sometimes those phrases will be Topics (what a clause is about) and other times they will be Focus (what is asserted about the Topic).

        2. Thanks again, Mike!

          I tend to not notice OT references when my UBS text doesn’t bold them. Now that I look down at the bottom of the page, I see the reference to LXX Job 13:16.

          I can see that, both in Job and Philippians, this would be spoken with a slight stress, though not so much that I should translate this in italics. (That was my main concern!)

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