Dissertation Idea? Case and Infinitival Clauses

I’ve been reading Christina Sevdali’s 2007 dissertation, Infinitival Clauses in Ancient Greek: Overt and Null Subjects, the Role of Case and Focus. She deals primarily with Classical Greek, but delves into some Modern Greek data as well, but she does not deal with the hellenistic period. Her work, though, does raise some questions that should be answered for the hellenistic literature.

Sevdali concludes that both agreement and focus play a role in Case marking in Ancient Greek. Here is part of a long paragraph from pages 209—210 in her last chapter that I think could suggest a dissertation idea for someone working specifically on Hellenistic Greek:

There are various languages [in which] Case can be related to discourse phenomena: Blake, 2001 for example reports Australian languages Nyigina and Gooniyandi where this is true. These languages do not show Case concord within a noun phrase, where Case and number and person are marked on every constituent, i.e. the determiner, the noun, the adjective etc., but Case mark only one constituent, the final one, or the head etc. In some cases, they mark the one that is focalised, essentially using Case as a discourse marker. Miyagawa, 2005 argued that languages can either be agreement prominent (like most Indo-European ones) or focus-prominent (like Japanese), implying that Agreement and Focus are the two sides of the same coin. Assuming that Case exists in both types of languages, it is not unreasonable to assume that it can be linked to Agreement and Focus respectively. On top of that nothing prevents us from arguing that there also exist mixed language types. We want to suggest that AG is a mixed language, being agreement prominent in finite clauses, where Case is linked to agreement, and being focus-prominent in non-finite clauses, where Case is linked to focus as we showed.

Okay… Here are dissertation ideas for the hellenistic period: Can recognizing two different ways in which Case may be assigned (Agreement vs Focus) lead to a clearer understanding of morphological Case assignment in Hellenistic Greek? Under what specific circumstances might morphological Case be controlled by Focus in Hellenistic Greek? Does Focus play any role in the Case assignment of optional arguments of a verb? Does it control the Case assignment of any DPs governed by a preposition, especially prepositions whose object DP is not always assigned the same Case. Prepositions played a larger role in the hellenistic koine than they did in the classical period. How does this affect the agreement/focus split if at all?

Any takers? I’d love to see a dissertation addressing any of these issues.

Carl Conrad's view of Ancient Greek Voice (Again)

Carl Conrad has published a new, very brief account of the view of Greek voice that he has been proposing for several years now. You can get a copy of the AGNT Newsletter in which it appears at the link below. The title of the article is “Ancient Greek Voice Forms: Categorizing and Making Sense of Them.”

If you have not yet read Dr. Conrad’s approach to voice, take this opportunity to do so. The new article is short and presents a helpful overview of his perspective—a perspective I believe should become the dominant one with time.

The link below will take you to a page that has not only the new article, but his older, more extensive comments on the topic as well.


Rutger Allan: The Middle Voice in Ancient Greek: A Study of Polysemy

Thanks to Mike Aubrey for making me aware of the free download of Rutger J. Allan’s dissertation on the Middle Voice in Ancient Greek. You can download the whole dissertation or individual chapters here.

While Dr. Allan was dealing with Homeric and Classical Greek, many of his observations and conclusions appear to be very applicable to the hellenistic period as well.

I have added the published version as well as the dissertation to my online bibliography.

Rijksbaron: Syntax and Semantics of the Verb in Classical Greek

On March 1, Mike Aubrey commented about Rijksbaron’s book, “And this is just one book that should be on the shelf of every student of Ancient Greek.” It wasn’t on mine. So I bought a copy.

What a nice overview of the Classical Greek verbal system! I will have more to say about it later, but for now I’d just like to comment that I really like Rijksbaron’s integration of syntax and semantics, his clear discussion of how the semantic content of individual verbs influences the way such issues as verbal aspect play out in given contexts. He is conversant with current theory in both semantics, discourse theory, and syntax. He also has a very solid grasp of more traditional Greek grammar.

I second Mike’s recommendation.

See the book at Barnes and Noble.