SEBTS Linguistics and NT Greek Recap, April 26th

Continuing on with my summary of the papers presented at SEBTS’s Linguistics and New Testament Greek Conference, April 25th and April 26th, 2019. My summaries of the papers from the first day, April 25th are here: SEBTS Linguistics and NT Greek Recap, April 25.

Promptly at 7:30 Saturday morning, Dr. Con Campbell took up the task of surveying tense and aspect in Greek. Campbell’s paper was practical and accessible, laying out a detailed the discussion of the Greek verb over the past three decades. Emphasizing, first, the areas of agreement in tense and aspect, Campbell gave clear definitions of the terms perfective and imperfective and how they relate to specific verb-forms. He discussed the question of whether or not the language grammaticalizes tense and carefully elucidated his proposal for accounting for Greek’s tense-like (i.e. temporal reference) patterns in the text as derived metaphorically from spatial categories of proximity and remoteness.

Dr. Jonathan Pennington surveyed the development of Greek voice studies and how and why the concept of deponency for describing the Greek middle has come to be rejected. The pleasure of Dr. Pennington’s paper was especially in its biographical narrative. He charted his journey beginning in the late 1990’s of how he came to realize that the traditional accounts of middle voice and deponency did not seem to fit the facts on the ground. He went back to the old reference grammars from the early 20th century, finding they, also, were uncomfortable with the category. From there, he charted his journey through the work of Carl Conrad, being introduced to the monographs on middle voice by Suzanne Kemmer (1993) and Rutger Allan (2003), and the insights into deponency from Bernard Taylor (2004). All of this culminated in two SBL panel discussions of middle voice and Dr. Pennington’s paper published in (2009) in The Linguist as Pedagogue. Pennington concluded with a few practical examples of how middle voice functions in the text.

My own (Mike Aubrey) paper on the Greek perfect faced the difficulty of a multitude of seemingly contrary definitions of the form in the secondary literature. Faced with such task, my paper focused on the language data. I provided a survey of how the various types of verbs interact with the perfect, using semantic transitivity as an organizing mechanism. I explained how events have a basic structure and how that structure can be related to how aspects are used by language speakers. I showed how the perfect’s meaning adapts relative to how transitive a given verb is. I also discussed how voice interact with the perfect relative to the verb’s transitivity. Finally I illustrated how perfect usage with state predicates is directly derivable from the function of the perfect with dynamic predicates via analogy.

Steve Runge examined how Greek word order and information structure. Runge took a practical approach to word order, building partially on the lessons from Levinsohn’s paper from the day before. He explained how Greek word order is best analyzed in terms of natural information flow and relationships between propositions: their informational points of departure and topics and their assertions/focus. Runge walked the audience through some Greek text illustrating how word order help organize the discourse from one clause to the next based on the communicative needs of the speaker/writer.

Finally, Nick Ellis gave an impassioned paper that tied together the history of semantic theory as it exists and parallel the history of exegetical method, using James Barr’s Semantics of Biblical Language as a pivoting points for both. Ellis showed how the study of semantics and biblical studies have a parallel history in their development, but that biblical studies hass historically had a tendency to only partially benefit from the insights of the field of linguistics. He called on biblical scholars and students to reengage with the field of linguistics, particularly cognitive linguistics. Ellis paper was highly personal, grounded in his own experience and research, but also with his current efforts and desires to make available the best biblical and theological education to the larger Christian community beyond North American and Europe.

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