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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Helma Dik - Word Order in Greek Tragic Dialogue

The focus of Helma Dik's work on Word Order in Greek Tragic Dialogue is clause and sentence level word order. I have been critical in the past of word order studies which limit their focus to the clause or sentence. Since H.Dik has clearly set out her objectives in Chapter Two "... the domains of the analysis (clause and constituent) ... "page 17, there really isn't any reason to fault her for doing what she set out to do.

The notable Greek linguistics blogger Mike Auburey made the following comment in regard to my criticism H.Dik's recent book:

hmmm, the very concept of "Topic" itself is significant for textual cohesion above the clause level. I'd suggest you go back through Dik's book. Fronted Topics (and for Dik all Topics are "fronted") by definition influence the cohesion of a text.

Fronted topics may by definition imply cohesion in the text, but that doesn't make a clause level constituent order study into a work on discourse analysis. S. Levinsohn's treatment of "points of departure" is an example of analysis above the level of the clause. He devotes whole chapters to this in Discourse Features of NT Greek (SIL 2000). He also sends a lot time talking about the implications of particles and conjunctions for development in narrative and non-narrative.

My contention is that you cannot due justice to the topic of fronted constituents without looking at issues like "points of departure". Helma DIk nibbles at the corners of this talking about "Themes" but there is no extensive discussion or analysis with illustrations. Perhaps the problem is that Greek tragic dialogue doesn't really lend itself to this sort of analysis.

Anyway, I am not beating up Helma Dik's work. I gave her book the ultimate favorable compliment. I purchased a copy. This is rare indeed.


Anonymous Mike Aubrey said...

well said and you're right. Hopefully at some point Dik will do something beyond the class level - I think the closest we get to Levinsohn's points of departure is Dik's setting, which doesn't say much in terms of discourse analysis.

with that said, I do find her readings at the end of both of her word order books of larger chunks of text to be rather satisfying in terms of putting her pragmatic framework to the test in a discourse context.

There are things that I don't care for with Dik and there are things that I love a lot. For one, like you I wish she would go beyond the clause, and secondly, I wish that she would provide more detail on syntax. Her desire to explain everything by means of pragmatics isn't always helpful - just like much mainstream generative work has attempted to explain everything via autonomous syntax with no reference to pragmatics at all.

3:42 PM  

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