Greek Syntax: The New “Group” Objects

I don’t know offhand how many have installed the latest beta (3.0e RC 2 as of the writing of this post) of the LDLS; and I have even less of an idea of how many of those users have explored the Syntax Search dialog. But we added two new “objects” to the query model, and they’re pretty nifty.
These objects are available for all syntax databases, though my example below is from the OpenText.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament.

  • Group:Used to group things together. Order and structure matter in the group operator. This is best used when you want to use OR on groups of objects. Think of it like parentheses in other search/grouping syntax—it allows multiple things to be treated as one, as a “group”.
  • Unordered Group:One hindrance of the Syntax Search dialog in the past was the necessity to specify all possible options when component order was not important. Let’s say I wanted to search for a clause with a particular noun as subject, and a particular verb as the predicator but I didn’t care about the order in which the subject and predicator occurred. It could be S-P or P-S. In the past, I would’ve had to specify both orders and use the OR operator, as well as anything operators between components. Now the components (and their content) can be specified as an Unordered Group, and the software permutes the possible combinations.

Perhaps an example would help explain the Unordered Group object.
Just the other day I was reading J.H. Moulton’s Prolegomena volume in the Moulton-Howard-Turner Grammar (which is on pre-pub, BTW … make sure to get your copy while it is relatively cheap!) and on page 58 he mentions something called the σχημα Πινδαρικον, or the “Pindaric Construction”. This is when a group of singular things in the subject have a singular verb in the predicate.
That’s not exactly easy to understand; an example would help. A good example is Mark 4.41, ” … that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The subject consists of two singular nouns, but the verb is singular too. A more literal translation might be “the wind and the sea it obeys him”. So the subject here acts as a single unit instead of as two things, and the verb is singular instead of plural (“it obeys” vs. “they obey”). Kinda weird. [NB: see the comments to this post for some important clarifications — RB]
Moulton gives five examples: Mt 5.18; 6.19; Mk 4.41; 1Co 15.50; Re 9.12. But I was curious to know how many more might exist in the NT. Moulton says “It is really only a special case of anacoluthon, no more peculiar to Pindar than to Shakspere (sic).” (Moulton, 58). Looking at Mark 4.41, we can see the structure in question:

Note the two word groups in the subject, each with a head term that is singular in morphological number. And also note the predicator, which contains a head term that is singular in morphological number. That’s the structure, essentially. So what does it take to find further instances? Here’s a screen shot of the query:

A few things to notice in the query.
First, note the use of the Unordered Group object. The contents are two clause components, one a Subject, the other a Predicator. These objects are what are permuted, so you’re searching for the equivalent of ([subject]-anything-[predicator]) OR ([predicator]-anything-[subject]) though you didn’t have to specify it.
Second, a general note. This query shows how syntax searching takes advantage higher-level phrase-and-clause annotation (clauses, subjects, verbs, groups, etc.) but also relies upon word-level morphological information. Morphology, lemmas, and other word-level information is important and foundational; but syntax searching takes the next step in building additional annotation upon that foundation and allowing interaction between all available levels.
Below is an example of some of the results. All told, there are 275 instances of this query located in the OpenText.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament.

Once results are available, they can be graphed. Below is an example of a graph charting hit density in chapters. (Or, you could export the hit data from here to Excel, and do your own charting/math/analysis/whatever). Interesting in the chart is Colossians 3, which is densest area listed. Here’s the chart:

The hit density in Col 3 is a result of Col 3.11, which has a number of word groups in the Subject. You know, “Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free”:

Anyway, queries that search for groups of things (most syntax queries do this to account for varying structures) should be easier now. And once you have that data, you can still do nifty things with it—reviewing highlighted hits, graphing the hits to check different measures of distribution, and the like.

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3 Responses to “Greek Syntax: The New “Group” Objects”

  1. David Pereira August 10, 2007 at 8:53 am #

    Rick – This is an interesting search, but I think it gave some false hits in the results.
    The one that really stood out to me was Matt 6:29 with the wording of “even SOLOMON in all his GLORY WAS not ARRAYED.” The problem here is that the noun “glory” is not functioning as another subject joined by a conjunction. It has been subordinated by the preposition “in” so what we have here is simply a sentence with a singular subject and a singular predicate.
    (Maybe there is a coding mistake here or is there something wrong with the search wording, but I don’t think is what you were after).
    [NB: Yes, this is an error in the annotation. I reported it to the folks at OpenText.org as I wrote the blog article — RB]
    The other cases I would question are those in which the “singular things” are joined by “or” or “nor” rather than by the word “and” such as in Matt 12:25. Though these might technically fit the description you gave earlier (i.e. where “a group of singular things in the subject have a singular verb in the predicate”), I don’t think they represent any diversion from standard grammar. Take this for example: “Neither a CAT nor a DOG IS allowed inside.” Though there are multiple subjects, the conjunction serves to relate each singular noun to the singular verb individually. So, I don’t think this is anything more than standard grammar for subject/predicate agreement.
    See what you think.

  2. Rick Brannan August 10, 2007 at 9:37 am #

    Hi David.
    On Mt 6.29 — I noticed that too and filed a report with the OpenText.org folks so that they could clear it up on their next revision pass.
    On the search generally — I was surely thinking but apparently didn’t write that syntax searching like this is a way to evaluate assertions made in grammars like Moulton’s. Yes, the hits “techincally” match the description; they must be further evaluated to see if they all really do function as proposed. I think, in this sort of application, syntax searching is a way to narrow initial hits (the same search using only morphology and proximity would be complex if at all possible), not always acheive 100% grammatical accuracy (particularly when context can play a role in analysis).
    I don’t know how special the structure is. There are instances like Mk 4.41 (joined by KAI) where the two singular things are combined with a singular verb, and it might be interesting to note them. But there are also the sorts of things you mention. Perhaps the better search would be to skip the ‘anything’ on the second word group, add KAI as connector, and see how the hit list changes. I smell a follow-up post …

  3. Mike Aubrey August 10, 2007 at 1:48 pm #

    This is just about the best thing you’ve done! I’ve been hoping for unordered groups for the longest time…
    Mike
    I wish it was possible when I was writing my Logos/SBL syntax paper.