Friday, May 12, 2006
Evidential, raised possessor, and the historical source of the ergative construction in Indo-Iranian
Transactions of the Philological Society
Volume 103 Page 1 - April 2005
This paper argues (i) that the source of the ergative construction of the transitive verb in Indic and Iranian languages was anticausative but not passive as has widely been assumed, (ii) that it functioned as a modally marked evidential which indicated that the event in question was inferred or reported rather than directly witnessed, and (iii) that the agent was by origin a genitive-marked adnominal possessor raised out of its noun phrase and later reanalysed as the syntactic subject, its uniform instrumental-marking in Sanskrit being an innovation. In view of the fact that the possessive modifier precedes its head this analysis can account naturally for the position of the transitive agent at the beginning of the clause, preceding the object. It is, finally, suggested that the construction originated with non-agentive intransitive verbs and that it spread to transitives through the intermediary of ergative (ambitransitive) verbs which can have both intransitive-spontaneous and transitive-causative forms, a hypothesis which creates a diachronic link between lexical and structural ergativity.
Translating ‘Hypocrites’ in the Gospels
A repeated issue on this blog has for some time been the difference between translation and transliteration and the way that the vast majority of Bible translations have failed to actually translate a large number of critical words, simply writing out the original Greek words instead. One such example that I’ve been thinking about recently is the word ‘hypocrite.’ ... the English word ‘hypocrite’ does not have the same meaning as the Greek upokrites and this at the very least kills a very good metaphor (compare my post on ‘talents’ ), and possibly even distorts the meaning of the text. ...
Jesus’ criticism in these verses doesn’t have to do with the high moral standards professed but not lived up to, it has to do with general insincerity, and putting on a show. Jesus speaks in a vivid metaphor, saying that to the scribes and Pharisees “life is a stage.” When we transliterate the work into English, we destroy this metaphor and, while we may get the general sense, we certainly miss the depth of what Jesus is getting at here. ...
Also see KP on ‘talents’
‘The Language of Athenian Democracy in the New Testament’
There are two particular words I am thinking of here: ekklesia and kerux. It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that these words are consistently translated one way in ‘Bible Greek’ and another way in ‘secular Greek’ when Bible Greek and secular Greek are the same language! In secular Greek they are “assembly” and “herald” respectively, but in New Testament translations they are usually “church” and “preacher.” Now, these are perfectly ordinary words in the Greek, but their usage by the Athenian democracy was so prominent in the literary tradition of Greece that I cannot imagine that the Greek speaking Christians in the first century who first began to use these words didn’t have classical Athens in mind, so let’s start from the beginning and have a brief discussion of the history of these words, and what the choice of these words might tell us about the early Church’s self-understanding and its message to the world.