Events and Books of Note

I’ve been gone for the past month or so, not such much because of work, but because of reading.

I’ve been working on writing book reviews for three books that should have been reviewed this spring while also writing a journal article.  My wife and I have also been house sitting. She’s working too much while trying to take a class, teach a class, and write a thesis and I’ve been trying to keep her going.

Its been an incredibly busy summer, but still a very fruitful one for Greek linguistics.

A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop on Role & Reference Grammar, one of the most exciting linguistic frameworks for doing grammatical description — though some of my readers would probably hate it simply because it discharges quite a bit of traditional terminology (e.g. Subject, Object). But there’s reason for that: not all languages have those categories and if a framework seeks to be based upon language universals then those categories aren’t terrible helpful. One of the cool things he did was show how his proposed Referent Phrase does a better job representing syntax than the traditional category Noun Phrase. The significance of it for Greek, for those linguists reading, is roughly analogous to the value of the DP hypothesis. But unlike the DP, Van Valin’s proposed RP doesn’t create an additional category on top of the NP because the RP replaces it. Very cool.

My only frustration (and this is a continuing one which began years ago) is that more often than not frameworks tend to be presented as the superior analysis, generally only with reference to Chomskyan Generative Grammar. The thought that provoked this at the workshop had to do with what’s called the Lexical Integrity Hypothesis (see here for my explanation). Van Valin argued (following some proposals of Daniel Everett) that syntax could see into the internal structure words with access to feature bundles of semantic and grammatical categories (e.g. case, agreement, tense, aspect, etc.). Now, he’s right in Chomskyan terms, but HPSG and LFG, two frameworks that accept the Lexical Integrity Hypothesis, essentially do the same thing with their attributive value feature structures.

Anyway, sometimes I wish frameworks could do more working together than they do — and much of current Chomskyan linguistics makes it quite easy to get in a cheap shot.

In other news, many of you might have noticed that Oxford recently published a new volume of Greek prepositions: Greek Prepositions: From Antiquity to the Present. They were generous to send me a review copy. I promise to post a review of it more promptly than the other reviews that I’m working on (one of which is close to a year late now…).

Also, Wiley Blackwell has released a revised edition of Geoffrey Horrocks’ Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers. The second edition is nearly 150 pages longer than the first edition, published by Longman and long out of print. Its unfortunate that the price has gone up. Hopefully there will be enough interest for a more accessibly priced paperback to be released eventually. And again, Wiley Blackwell have been quite kind in sending a review copy (though it is still in the mail at this point). I had only just finished reading the first edition two week ago. It was one of the most illuminating reads in some time.

Finally, I’ve discovered some interesting details about the history of middle voice terminology in NT Greek grammar that I hope to share a post on in the near future. Keep your eyes open.

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