A Review of Constantine Campbell’s Advances in the Study of Greek: Part One

campbellThe idea for this book is theoretically a commendable one, and Campbell has written at a very elementary level—which is a good feature for those who genuinely do not have much acquaintance with the subject (however, those who really know the field will find that there is a lot of simplification). However, for such a book to be a success, it must genuinely cover the range of advances in the field of New Testament Greek study. This is where the book falls down. Two major clues give this away.

The first clue is that this volume does not treat a number of topics that arguably represent advances in the study of Greek over the last three decades (Campbell’s period of survey). The interested reader will find nothing about any work in the Chomskyan types of linguistics (although Campbell treats Chomsky and generative linguistics briefly in several places). Campbell seems to try to justify this by claiming that functional linguistics is better suited to treating ancient languages than is generative linguistics, which is better for live languages (p. 68). I happen to think that, generally, Campbell is correct in this (I would go even further and specify the type of functional linguistics), but I would argue this point along different lines (and argue that functional linguistics is more appropriate for live languages as well). Nevertheless, the result is that all sorts of work that is not functional—or functional as Campbell defines it—is not mentioned at all.

To take a few examples, the Chomskyan inspired work of such people as Reinhold Wonneberger (1979), Daryl D. Schmidt (1981), J.P. Louw (1982), and Micheal Palmer (1997) is never mentioned (Louw is mentioned for other things, but not for his Chomskyan work). I recognize that some of this work was published before this book’s primary area of concern, but not all of it! And some of it is close enough to merit some mention.

Other areas are also not mentioned. These include case theory (Simon Wong, 1997), Construction Grammar (especially by Paul Danove, 1993 to the present, with several major books along the way), and Relevance Theory (such as the work of Stephen Pattemore, 2003, 2004; Joe Fantin; 2011; and Gene Green, 2011; among others). These are just some of the areas that come to mind. The failure to note these areas leaves a giant gap in this volume.

The second clue that this book may not accomplish its intended purpose is Campbell’s definition of Systemic-Functional Linguistics (SFL). I will comment more on this when I treat individual chapters, but Campbell seems to think that SFL is based upon a strong disjunction between semantics and pragmatics (in fact, SFL tries to dissolve this distinction), is pretty much confined to the study of cohesion in what is meant by SFL discourse analysis (that is only one part of SFL discourse analysis), and has not yet been “mapped” onto ancient Greek (a questionable endeavor as formulated—and one that is defied by all of the SFL-based linguistic analysis that has been done over the last nearly thirty years). A book of this sort needs to be sure to characterize accurately one of the major areas of its investigation.

I am not necessarily advocating any of the linguistic models that Campbell neglects, but the reader who wants to know of advances needs to be made aware of these and others. The reader also needs to be given adequate definitions of the major linguistic models, especially if they are central to the book in which they appear. In other words, Campbell’s book is far from being the complete or reliable guide to advances in Greek study that it wants and purports to be and that it needs to be.

— Stanley E. Porter

(See Part Two and Part Three)


4 thoughts on “A Review of Constantine Campbell’s Advances in the Study of Greek: Part One

  1. Thank you for the review Dr. Porter. I hope to read more as the appear. I just finished reading Campbell’s book and found it helpful for where I am at in my study of Greek and linguistics. I have also picked up your recently released Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament and I am currently working through it.


  2. Pingback: Third and Final Post on Campbell’s Advances in the Study of Greek | DOMAIN THIRTY-THREE

  3. Pingback: A Review of Campbell’s Advances in the Study of Greek: Part Two | DOMAIN THIRTY-THREE

  4. Pingback: Thoughts on Koine Greek Pronunciation | DOMAIN THIRTY-THREE

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