Tuesday, June 23, 2009

a very small lacuna?

A colleague of mine, who is doing some extended self-tutorials to brush up on his NT Greek, recently spent half an hour looking for a definition of articular. He looked especially in Black's first-year grammar (Learn to Read New Testament Greek) and Wallace's "intermediate" grammar (Greek Grammar beyond the Basics), but was unable to find an explicit definition. When I tried to help him, I realized that articular is one of those words we use so often that it simply doesn't need definition, like biblical or something.

For example, the first listing for noun, articular in Wallace's index points to pp. 42–46 (How to Distinguish Subject from Predicate Nominative), where the second principle is "The subject will be articular" (p. 43), with a number of examples (e.g., John 4:24: πνεῦμα ὁ θεός/God is spirit). From the perspective of someone who knows what articular means, itseems reasonable to expect someone who doesn't know its meaning to infer it. (See also the use of anarthrous in Wallace's discussion of "Colwell's rule" [pp. 5–6], which uses the term articulated without reference to the Greek article.)

So it seems to me that, perhaps, the lack of a definition of articular in at least some Greek grammars is a lacuna (small though it may be) in the field. For other beginning Greek students, an articular substantive is a noun, adjective, participle, etc. that is modified by an article, which will be in the same case, number, and gender. A substantive that lacks the article is called anarthrous.

But I would invite comments along one of two lines. First, if you know of an explicit (and perhaps more precise) definition of articular and/or anarthrous in a contemporary grammar (preferrably a beginning or intermediate grammar), please let me know. [disclaimer: I haven't done any research on this.] Second, if you're aware of any other lacunae within the literature, please give them here. Technical terms perform valuable functions in academic discourse, but when those of us who practice a certain discipline don't define those terms to help novices recognize and participate in our discourse, we become jargonistic and, even, provincial.


Jim Deardorff said...

I believe that Essentials of New Testament Greek by Ray Summers (1950) is or was a rather widely used textbook. Its definition (p. 16) is nearly identical to what you gave:

"The Greek article is used to point out particular identity. This is called the "articular" use of a noun or other substantive."

Rafael said...

Thanks, Jim.

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