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.
Prominence and Markedness in New Testament Discourse 7
approach11, I determine that each language will have criteria for prominence
separate from others, although the more related languages may have some
overlapping criteria; for example, languages that are configurational will
probably include word order as a criteria for prominence, and languages
that are characterized by verbal aspect will also have similar schemes
to each other, though the specifics may differ. The primary criterion
I identify for Hellenistic Greek is verbal aspect, but other criteria also
include mood and voice. There are other criteria that have been identified,
but for purposes of this paper, I will focus on these12.
1) Verbal aspect. One of the primary ways in which the Hellenistic
Greek writers (and probably speakers—though we have no audible record
of this) convey prominence is their choice of tense-forms to convey
aspect—in fact, since the verbal system in Greek is so central to the
system of language, it should be no surprise that prominence is primarily
conveyed through aspect. As a result, most of this section on criteria
for prominence will be devoted to explaining determining prominence
through verbal aspect. However, the problem is that there is still a debate
as to outlining a precise aspect system13. Some posit a two-aspect system
(Buist Fanning and Constantine Campbell), while others posit a three-
aspect system (Stanley Porter and Rodney Decker). Since this is not the
place to delve deeply into the verbal aspect debate, I will simply assume
the three-aspect system, which includes 1) perfective, 2) imperfective, and
3) stative aspect14.
Despite the surrounding debate regarding verbal aspect, there is still
a common thread that unites all verbal aspect theorists; something that
Based on Halliday’s work, among others. Cf. M.A.K. Halliday, Introduction to
Functional Grammar (1st ed.; London: 1985); Geoff Thompson, Introducing Functional
Grammar (2nd ed.; London: 2004).
See below for other possible criteria for determining prominence in Hellenistic Greek.
See for example the collection of essays in Stanley E. Porter, and D. A. Carson, eds.,
Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current Research (JSNTSup
80; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993), stemming from the SBL meetings of 1990 and 1991, as
well as the recent SBL meeting in 2013 in the Greek language and linguistics section, “The
Perfect Storm,” in which Stanley Porter, Constantine Campbell, and Buist Fanning debated
the perfect tense-form and its aspectual value.
I find Porter’s case for a three-aspect system much more compelling and robust than
some others; in fact, his theory in his Verbal Aspect is based on the markedness schemes
of the Greek verbal system. The perfect tense-form is much more heavily marked, in all
five categories mentioned above, than the aorist or present, that a third aspect seems to
be justified. Cf. Stanley E. Porter, Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, With
Reference to Tense and Mood (SBG 1; New York: 1989) esp. 245–50. Cf. also Rodney J.
Decker, Temporal Deixis of the Greek Verb in the Gospel of Mark with Reference to Verbal
Aspect (SBG 10; New York: 2001) 148; Robert E. Picirilli, “The Meaning of the Tenses in
New Testament Greek: Where Are We?” JETS 48 (2005) 533–55, who also adhere to the