Preliminary Abstracts for 2011 Open Session

The Community Diminutive (Jonathan M. Watt, Geneva College / Ref. Pres. Seminary)

In a paper on Greek diminutive suffixes presented to the Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics section in 2010, I demonstrated from the literature that meanings of diminutive affixes across the world’s living languages correspond favorably with the semantic functions of NT Greek diminutive suffixes. These meanings included physical smallness, comparable quality, affection/endearment, and derogation – though sometimes they flag a semantic shift. I then proposed that a preponderance of diminutives in a speech act or written corpus might reflect a ‘colloquial word bank’ for members of a specific speech community. This paper investigates further that function which I had proposed for some NT diminutives. To accomplish this, I first discuss the settings and semantics of the roughly three dozen NT diminutives, including their topical concentration and preponderance in the gospel narratives (e.g. Swanson 1958; Petersen 1910). Second, I demonstrate from collected data, the field of pragmatics, and informant interviews connected with three living speech communities, that frequent diminution indicates specifically in-group communication of a self-aware community (e.g. Dressler et al 1994; Wierzbicka 1991). Third, I argue that there is sufficient evidence to interpret some diminutives in the gospels as reflecting distinctively Palestinian Jewish second-language usage of the language in specific settings, and should be interpreted accordingly in those contexts.

An Analysis of the Function of HOUTOS in Some Passages of the Book of Acts (Phillip S Marshall, Houston Baptist University)

The demonstrative pronouns HOUTOS and EKEINOS are commonly used in the Greek New Testament as deictic markers for entities and/or situations that are near or remote to the speaker in terms of space or time. As well, one detects their use in textual deixis, that is, to refer to a more recently mentioned referent in the text compared to one mentioned earlier. However, in a number of places in the Greek New Testament one finds the so-called “near demonstrative” HOUTOS used for items that are remote, and the so-called “far demonstrative” EKEINOS for items that are near. In this paper, we will analyze four sections of the book of Acts where the near demonstrative occurs in clusters: 4:10-11 (where the referent of HOUTOS alternates between Jesus and the lame man), 7:35-38 (where the referent of HOUTOS is Moses throughout, but Moses is thematic throughout as well, which situation invites us to ask why HOUTOS is used anaphorically to refer to a participant who is already thematic in the speech), 9:20-22 (where the referent of HOUTOS alternates between Jesus and Paul), and 10:36-43 (where anaphoric references to Jesus alternate between HOUTOS and AUTOS). We will investigate the pragmatic function of the use of HOUTOS to refer to different participants in narrative proximity and attempt to discern what the writer is communicating by using HOUTOS where the personal pronoun AUTOS might have been used.

Parallel Features in 1 John as Discourse Markers (Sang-Hoon Kim, Chongshin University)

This paper calls the readers to recognize the Johannine parallel features in 1 John, particularly as discourse markers, for proper understanding of 1 John that show the complexity of interactively-combined parallels, even in every line of the text. This phenomenon appears to be full of repetition, comparison, and contrasts. Without perceiving properly the certain rule of constructing phrases and sentences in terms of parallel (including chiastic or combined) relations in the discourse of 1 John, the readers may fail to evaluate the Johannine text, properly and meaningfully, disregarding its own way of network connection of meaning units. Designations, such as ‘beloved’ or ‘children’, in 1 John, and thematic issues such as ‘children of God’ have been generally considered as the significant factors among discourse markers. Structures of 1 John, however, are not depended upon these factors, but upon the unique designs of parallel features demonstrated over phrases and sentences. If we seriously regard the function of parallel features of 1 John as sectional markers, we may properly grasp its whole structure: A-B-A-C-A and B-C-B-C-B-C that reflects the specific, inter-related thematic arrangements, probably overcoming the controversial issue regarding the structure of 1 John.

Aspect and Aktionsart Once Again: Towards a Distinction between Properties of Verb and Verb Phrase (Francis G H Pang, McMaster Divinity College)

In the discussion of the verbal aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, Zeno Vendler’s characterization of verbal classes is often considered as a crucial development of the study. Quite a few works of Greek verbal aspect in the last thirty years use his quadripartition of lexical classes as part of their theory. This in turns fuels the debate among the aspect theorists on the distinction between semantics and pragmatics in the discussion of aspect. However, even though most of these proposals insist on articulating a clear distinction between semantics and pragmatics categories and a clear distinction between aspect and Aktionsart, such insistences break down when the tense-form under investigation lacks a clear expression of aspect. This study is an attempt to retrace the development of the verbal classes and to examine how it contributes to the discussion of verbal aspect in the New Testament Greek. It provides an up-to-date discussion of the nature of these verbal classes in cross-linguistic studies, and particularly regarding the question of whether the discussion of lexical aspect should be at the verb level or the verb phrase level. Advances from cross-linguistic studies are reviewed and used in the discussion of the Greek verbal system. It is argued that lexical aspect should be viewed as a property at the verb phrase level and more discussion on the classification criteria of various properties of verbs and verb phrases that are relevant to the understanding of Greek lexical aspect is needed.

Aspect in Biblical Greek Discourse: Insights from Hungarian, Russian, Vietnamese, English and Modern Greek (Mark Beatty, Pacific Rim Bible College)

From such Biblical Greek grammarians as Campbell, Fanning, Porter and Wallace, a prospective Greek Exegete is presented with a perplexity of aspectual schemata. An empirical flaw common to all, however, is the failure of each grammarian to fully incorporate periphrastic structures in their proposed aspectual systems. If one views “aspect” as human beings linguistically encoding kinds of action; and if one considers all human beings similar in their cognitive potential; then the question must be asked how the vast number of languages are similar in expressing aspect. The answer to this question lies in the periphrastic structures used in many languages. Hungarian and Russian have extensive morphological aspect. English, Modern Greek and Biblical Greek have a combination of morphological and lexical aspect. Vietnamese has no morphological aspect what-so-ever and thus all aspect in Vietnamese is lexical which can be considered “periphrastic.” This paper will show that all languages are similar in their aspectual abilities. The proposed aspectual schema will be verified by examining discourse patterns in the New Testament.

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Preliminary Abstracts for 2011 Thematic Session on Discourse Markers

‘Therefore’ or ‘Wherefore’: What’s the Difference? (Stephen Levinsohn, SIL International)

This paper argues that the inferential connectives of New Testament Greek are best differentiated not ‘according to emphasis’ (Westfall), but in terms of the unique constraint on interpretation (Blakemore) that each conveys. Oun constrains what follows to be interpreted as an advancement of a theme line, whether the current one or an earlier one that is being resumed following intervening material (+Development). This constraint applies even to passages in which some have assigned an adversative ‘sense’ to oun. Ara is marked as +Consequence, so ara oun is +Consequence +Development. In contrast, dio constrains what follows to be interpreted as inferential material that does not advance the theme line (unmarked for development). When dia touto is used anaphorically, it constrains what follows to be related inferentially to a specific referent (+Specific). When hoste introduces an independent clause or sentence, it constrains it to be interpreted as the conclusion of a section or sub-section (+Conclusion). The differences between oun, dio and dia touto are illustrated with reference to Rom 15. Consideration of 2 Cor 4:16-5:21 then allows contrasts with ara and hoste to be added. The paper concludes with suggestions as to the constraints associated with other inferential connectives (toigarnun, toinun, dioper, plus dioti in Acts 13:35 and 20:26, together with hothen in non-locative contexts).

Now and Then: Clarifying the Role of Temporal Adverbs as Discourse Markers (Steve Runge, Logos Bible Software)

Conjunctions and temporal adverbs contribute significantly to the shaping of a discourse. Although conjunctions nearly always serve as discourse markers, the same cannot be said of temporal adverbs. Blakemore (2002:178) suggests that only a subset of temporal adverbs function as discourse markers, those which are not part of the propositional form, i.e. which are conceptually separate from the main proposition. However there is a tendency to treat temporal adverbs monolithically, e.g. as though NUN and TOTE always mark transitions in the discourse. This paper outlines principles for determining whether or not a temporal adverb is functioning as a marker within the discourse. The principles will be applied to NUN and TOTE and tested using representative examples from the Greek New Testament and Apostolic Fathers.

The Genitive Absolute in Discourse: more than a change of subject (Margaret Sim, SIL International)

For generations of scholars the genitive absolute in Classical and Koine Greek has been a well attested literary device parallel to the ‘ablative absolute’ in Latin. It effects cohesion in discourse and has been viewed as giving background information as well as indicating a change of subject or ‘switch reference’. This paper disputes the latter as being the predominant function of this participial construction and discusses its role in the New Testament, Xenophon and the papyri with reference to a modern theory of cognition which claims to give principles for the way in which humans communicate with one another.

The Discourse Function of DE in 2 Timothy (Ray Van Neste, Union University)

The meaning and function DE has been extensively discussed by both traditional and discourse linguists. According to traditional analysis DE has both a copulative and an adversative use. More recently Levinsohn and Heckert have argued that the basic function of DE is to mark new developments in a discourse (thus encompassing the two different uses discussed by traditional grammarians). It will be useful to examine the function of DE throughout one complete discourse. Since 2 Timothy contains the widest range of uses of DE in the Pastoral Epistles (including the only occurrences of certain constructions in the PE), 2 Timothy will provide a useful setting for this investigation. While Heckert’s analysis focused on the Pastoral Epistles, his treatment was necessarily selective, and was handled thematically by various functions. Thus, this paper will analyze the function of every occurrence of DE in 2 Timothy in order to further examine the discourse function of DE and to test the interpretive value of Levinsohn and Heckert’s understanding of DE.


Informational Purpose

The Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics (BGL&L) Section is part of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). This section aims to promote and discuss ongoing research into biblical Greek language and linguistics, covering the Septuagint and particularly the New Testament.

We meet once a year as part of the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting (which typical meets every November, from Saturday to Tuesday before the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.). According to the SBL website:

The SBL Annual Meeting is the largest gathering of biblical scholars in the world. Each meeting showcases the latest in biblical research, fosters collegial contacts, advances research, and focuses on issues of the profession.

One of the world’s largest exhibits of books and digital resources for biblical studies is on display at the congress. At this meeting, scholars benefit from sessions on religion, philosophy, ethics, and diverse religious traditions.

This site has an informational purpose. While it provides some information from past meetings, it will mainly serve to post announcements about future meetings of the Section at SBL and provide details of the papers to be presented.