Types of ἐκ and ἀπό constructions: Partitive

We are continuing our series of notes of usages of ἐκ and ἀπό. SOURCE expressions were first. Then yesterday, we looked at ORIGIN expressions. Today, we have PARTITIVES. The Greek Prepositions Workshop is next week.

Partitive constructions with ἐκ and ἀπό fall into two general types  (Tyler and Evans 2003). The first, we call entity partitives, which involve the physical domain. They denote inherent relationships between a part and a larger whole. Like with origins, these relationships are also reliant upon our shared human experiences. These involve an intrinsic relationship between a part and a larger whole: a wheel of cheese and a wedge cut from that wheel. The wedge maintains a direct link in its conceptual structure with its whole. Entity partitives are closely related to material source constructions and likely function one of the paths by which source extended to partitive. And then there are set partitives. Set partitives involve collective groups, where an entire collection of independent entities are treated as a whole on the basis of a shared feature, such as physical space (a crowd) or a set of beliefs (the Jews), or an ethnic background (the Greeks). This last set is closely related to origin constructions. And it is often difficult to separate them out.

We find both these types in our data.

  • Physical part-whole:
    λήμψῃ τέφραν θυμιαμάτων καὶ ἐπιθήσεις ἀπὸ τῆς καρδίας καὶ τοῦ ἥπατος τοῦ ἰχθύος
    You will take incense coals and put some of the heart and fish liver on them (Tobit 6:17).

Here, while hearts and livers are body parts, and thus could easily function within entity partitive frame, they function here as a part-whole partitive, since the speaker is referring to indistinguishable pieces from the heart and indistinguishable pieces from the liver.

  • Set partitive:
    Οὐκ ἐγὼ ὑμᾶς τοὺς δώδεκα ἐξελεξάμην; καὶ ἐξ ὑμῶν εἷς διάβολός ἐστιν
    Did I not chose you twelve? And yet one of you is the devil (John 6:70).

That there are two partative types allows language users creative freedom in how they conceive and present participants in partitive constructions. For example, Paul takes what would otherwise normally be a set partitive and reconceptualizes it as an entity partitive in 1 Corinthians for literary effect.

  • Ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ ὀφθαλμός, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος
    Because I am not an eye, I am not part of the body (1 Cor 12:16).

Some partitives exist ambiguous space between source, origin, and partitive such as the following.

  • οἱ γὰρ πάντες ἐκ τοῦ ἑνὸς ἄρτου μετέχομεν
    For we all share from one bread (1 Cor 10:17).

Here the metaphor evoked is one of taking pieces of bread from a loaf, which involves aspects of the material source usage, origin constructions (we share a providence and are part of the same ground), and partitive (pieces of bread from a loaf).

Ἐκ is the predominant preposition preferred for partitive constructions. Most partitives explicate some form of bounded entity/group, which encourages ἐκ usage. However ἀπό still occurs as (1) the unmarked preposition and (2) for partitives where boundary between whole and part is minimized in some way, such as with the Tobit example above, where the portion of fish is not specified as materially distinct from the rest of the fish. The constituency of the fish is irrelevant to the content of the discourse.


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