David I. Yoon, «Prominence and Markedness in New Testament Discourse.», Vol. 26 (2013) 3-26
Paul's testimony of his post-conversion experience in Galatians—the only place in the New Testament this is found—is the starting point for the rest of his polemic against his opponents who avert the gospel he first taught his readers. What is interesting is that he highlights or emphasizes certain portions of his testimony, using the linguistic method of prominence. As others have written already, prominence in Hellenistic Greek is conveyed in many ways, but one major way is by the writer's choice of verbal aspect. By first identifying a theory of prominence in the Greek of the New Testament, the paper then applies that theory to Gal 1:11–2:10 to discover that Paul emphasizes preaching and gospel related items in his testimony.
12 David I. Yoon
are four moods in Hellenistic Greek: indicative, subjunctive, optative, and
imperative, but it may be helpful to view these in a binary opposition
between indicative and non-indicative moods, where the indicative mood
conveys the writer/speaker’s “assertion about what is put forward as the
condition of reality” and the non-indicative moods convey the writer/
speaker’s “projection” of reality41. Porter writes:
Thus, the Indicative is used to grammaticalize assertive or declarative sta-
tements, while the non-Indicative moods grammaticalize a variety of related
attitudes, having in common that they make no assertion about reality but
grammaticalize the volition of the speaker, and are therefore deontic42.
The indicative is the most common mood throughout the New
Testament corpus and is unmarked, and thus it grounds the other moods.
Westfall notes that on the scale of markedness from least to greatest, the
imperative would come after the indicative, then the subjunctive, with the
optative being the most heavily marked mood43.
3) Voice. Voice is defined as “a form-based semantic category used to
describe the role that the grammatical subject of a clause plays in relation
to an action”44. Another definition is: “Voice is that property of the verb
that indicates how the subject is related to the action (or state) expressed
by the verb”45. The Greek verbal system contains three voices: active,
middle, and passive. The active and passive roughly correspond to the
voices in the English system and are relatively simple to grasp, but the
middle is often problematic, especially for speakers who do not have the
middle voice in their own language. This is not the place for a full-fledged
linguistic study on the significance of the middle voice, but a few remarks
are in order.
Wallace states that the middle voice is the subject of the verb both
“doing and receiving (at least the results of) the action”46. Dana and
Mantey define the middle as: “that use of the verb which describes the
subject as participating in the results of the action” (italics original)47.
Porter, Idioms, 51–52.
Porter, Verbal Aspect, 322.
Cynthia Long Westfall, “A Method for the Analysis of Prominence in Hellenistic
Greek,” in Stanley E. Porter and Matthew Brook O’Donnell (eds.) The Linguist as
Pedagogue: Trends in the Teaching and Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament.
NTM 11 (Sheffield: 2009) 80.
Porter, Idioms, 62.
Wallace, Greek Grammar, 408.
Wallace, Greek Grammar, 408.
H.E. Dana and J.R. Mantey. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament
(Reprint; Upper Saddle River, NJ: 1957) 157.