In the course of researching my paper on word order for the SEBTS Greek and Linguistics conference (conference […]

There is a lot of significant work on Ancient Greek that came out in the 19th century. Some of it was by native Greek speakers. The challenge is that during that period, the politics of language in Greece was a source of constant debate and argument. Many times the ancient language was used as a meant to prop up one’s understanding of the modern one (or as a cudgel against those whose way of speaking one disapproved of). I picked up this book last year and only recently started reading it. It has been an extremely helpful book and has given insight into the various forces that can have an effect on grammar writing, even when you are seeking to be as objective as possible.

And it’s a stern reminder: Even academic work is not done in a vacuum and it cannot escape the political climate in which it is produced.

Language and National Identity in Greece, 1766-1976 by Peter Mackridge

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David A. Black, in his Sunday morning blog post (you’ll need to scroll for it–April 23, 8:30AM) mused about the possibility of hosting a Greek linguistics conference at Southern Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He asked for feedback on the idea and since I was mentioned in the post directly, I thought I should take a moment and provide some. He brought up several issues and I have given them headings below:

Topics to Cover?

Dr. Black mentioned a number of possible topics that such an event could cover:

  • Lexical semantics
  • The usefulness of “semantic domains”
  • Verbal aspect theory
  • Developing oral competency in Greek
  • The place of electronic tools in Greek pedagogy
  • Replacing the Erasmian pronunciation
  • Deponency
  • Discourse analysis
  • Linguistic “schools”

Some of these topics are very large and general (lexical semantics), while others are very specific (replacing the Erasmian pronunciation). If the goal is deal examine multiple topics, then it would probably be useful to create a sense of equal footing in terms of how they related to linguistics hierarchically. Something like this might work:

  • Lexical semantics
    • Semantic domains
  • Morphosyntax/semantics
    • Tense & Aspect
    • Voice
    • Predicate types
  • Pedagogy
    • Oral competency
    • Electronic tools
    • Pronunciation
  • Linguistic Theory
    • Discourse analysis
    • Linguistic schools/frameworks

Things worth adding?

Probably syntax, at the very least.

  • Syntax
    • Valance/Argument structure
    • Syntactic treebanks & their frameworks
    • Problems with discontinuous structures

I would also probably want to add to the Lexical Semantics section:

  • Polysemy-monosemy
  • Metaphor theory

And to the Linguistic theory section:

  • perspectives on diachronic and synchronic analysis
  • The relevance of language typology to grammatical analysis
  • Perspectives on method in grammatical analysis

Another issue that come to mind that wouldn’t necessarily neatly fit elsewhere would be: the importance of using a corpus larger than the New Testament and then also the need for open research data beyond merely published prose.

Those ideas are just off the top of my head. I’m sure I could come up with more if I sat down and really thought about it. That is part of the problem. There is so much to do. Most of the time, my concern is that NT scholars are so incredible caught up in the debates and the controversies that we lose sight of everything else that needs to be done.

The other difficulty is this: It would be possible to have a conference on any individual one of these topics listed above and still never do much more than scratch the surface.

Who should participate?

For my own part, I would be quite interested, though I am also aware that I continue to lack the traditional qualifications. Still, I have dedicated the past ten years to participating in many of these discussions online and I certainly have a vested interest. I think it would be wise to also include the people in the Biblical Humanities community. Beyond that, I’m not sure that I’m in a position to suggest participants.

Papers or Discussion Groups?

When I attended the Biblical languages and Technology workshop at the Lorentz Centre in 2012, we had a mix of both. Invited papers, followed by discussion groups. The downside to that approach was that you had to choose a topic from amongst the papers. That was not always easy. Then after the discussion groups, we came back together and effectively shared our findings. The structure of the event might be something you would want to hold off on decided on until after the topic or topics were established.


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Martin Haspelmath has an interesting piece about the intersection between grammar writing and typology on his website, responding to a recent article in the journal Linguistic Typology:

Should descriptive grammars be “typologically informed”, and what does this mean?

The thrust of the post is probably this quote here:

“While the language documenter’s and describer’s work is no doubt “greatly enhanced” by knowing about typology, are description and comparison also part of the same enterprise? I have argued that they are not, even though they are of course mutually beneficial (Haspelmath 2016). The difference is that description relies exclusively on language-internal distribution (Croft 2001), while comparison relies on substantively defined semantic and/or formal concepts.”

As someone currently working on a grammar project, this is food for thought. It seems to me that there’s a case to be made for a greater inclusion of typological information in a grammar depending on the intended audience. The intended audiences of writing a grammar of a well-known language vs. the writing of a grammar of a heretofore undocumented language are going to be different.

(also: Happy Easter!)

There’s a detailed review of the Greek Verb Revisited on Amazon. It’s exciting to see the positive response the volume is getting.

Of course, I disagree with a few of his points across a variety of the chapters (including my own), but that should be unsurprising. It’s a big book with plenty of room for discussion. I certainly don’t think the fact that negation scope lacks morphological or syntactic marking is even remotely problematic, but then, that probably goes without saying since I made it the centerpiece of my work. It’s one of those places where you’d love to sit down with the person giving the review and just ask them questions to get a sense of their reasoning.

Still, receiving such a detailed review so quickly after the book’s release is satisfying. The review is definitely worth a read. If anyone else has any thoughts about it, I’d love to get a discussion going.