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

In this second post, I look at Chapters One to Five of Campbell’s Advances in the Study of Greek. (See Part One.)

campbellAfter a brief introduction that outlines the contents, need for, and uses of the book, Campbell offers a short history of study of Greek from the nineteenth century to the present. I agree that historical context is the right place to start. I also appreciate Campbell’s stating that I have had a major role to play in the modern era in “relaunching” study of verbal aspect and “Greek scholarship in general,” and how I have brought linguistics into serious play in Greek study (p. 45). He claims that I have “effectively established” my own “‘school’ for Greek studies” (p. 46). Perhaps. More importantly, throughout my career I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with many students interested in Greek, especially from a linguistic standpoint. I won’t list them, but the group is a lot larger than one might imagine.

Although Campbell’s survey of scholarship is a good idea, the result is not quite accurate according to the title of the chapter and its stated purpose (Greek studies). I understand why Ferdinand de Saussure, The Prague School, J.R. Firth, Noam Chomsky, M.A.K. Halliday, Joseph H. Greenberg, and Kenneth L. Pike are included—because of their significance for general linguistics and/or their influence on others—but this shifts the focus of the chapter, as none of these is a major Greek scholar. The chapter might have been refashioned as an introduction to linguistics related to Greek studies, and also have included other important earlier figures such as Wilhelm von Humboldt, Hermann Paul, and the Neogrammarians (with their influence on Saussure), among others. These are not just random scholars, but key figures in the development of linguistics. I also would identify Winer with the ‘pre-Winer’ period and not with the comparative philologists. (Incidentally, volumes of Filología Neotestamentaria have appeared up to 2013, not 2010, but that’s a small point.)

The second chapter is devoted to linguistic theories. There are some significant general things said in this chapter to orient the student to a linguistic approach to Greek. However, the chapter itself seems somewhat misleading. The purported focus is upon Systemic Functional Linguistics (p. 51), and there is a useful summary of SFL (including the three metafunctions—the only place that I can see where he discusses them, but not in relation to discourse analysis, which is where they are crucial), as well as a summary of generative grammar (perhaps less nuanced than the discussion of SFL). However, Campbell also draws upon John Lyons—who is a moderate Chomskyan—to characterize linguistics. Campbell concludes that study of New Testament Greek is, in its general linguistic orientation, “theoretical, synchronic, microlinguistics” (p. 57). This is definitely not true of SFL, which is often dismissed by its opponents as a form of applied linguistics (with its major emphasis upon language learning) and which is macrolinguistic in that it is in many ways a type of sociolinguistics (this is inherent in many types of functionalism) and has relations to stylistics. This is true of New Testament Greek SFL study also, where there have been plenty of good applications (it is not just theoretical). I agree with Campbell, however, that functional linguistics has its many advantages for studying ancient languages, but I also think that it is better than generative approaches to modern languages as well (Campbell thinks otherwise).

The chapter on lexical semantics and lexicography is not as strong as it could be, because his theoretical discussion of lexical semantics is based upon Moisés Silva’s 1983 book (revised 1994). Admittedly, there have not been many monographs on Greek lexical semantics since Silva, but Silva is heavily dependent upon early John Lyons (John Lee’s criticisms of lexicography are rightly mentioned). Campbell also endorses the Ogden-Richards triangle (does anyone really use this anymore?). A better conception within this framework would be to use the later Lyons on sense, denotation, and reference. In other words, much of the discussion is already dated, and not showing many “advances.” I also think more should be made of the Louw-Nida semantic domain lexicon (which is criticized for not being “entirely objective,” p. 87, but which lexicon can be?). Finally, and perhaps most important for this section, there is tacit acceptance of lexical polysemy, rather than consideration of lexical monosemy, which is one of several significant discussions in lexicography. Campbell is aware of such scholarship (see his citation of my article, which includes discussion of lexicography, in Don Carson’s Festschrift). Many discussions of New Testament Greek lexicography have an implicit monosemic bias (e.g. when basic or core meanings are discussed), and such an orientation arguably provides a more reasonable approach to the issue of “context” in lexical semantics.

The fourth chapter deals with deponency and the middle voice. I entirely agree with Campbell’s conclusion regarding dumping deponency and reconceptualizing the middle voice. However, when it comes to offering some ways forward, I would suggest that the solution to the middle is not in defining multiple meanings (even if we identify different uses) but in finding the semantics of the voice system, and not in slipping in the assumption that there is a relationship between voice and lexis similar to that between aspect and lexis.

campbellverbalaspectChapter five covers aspect and Aktionsart, one of the longest chapters in the book. Campbell is most at home in this chapter—and this is appropriate as this is where he has done much of his previous Greek scholarship. In his brief history of study of aspect, Campbell cites some of the major contributors. I again thank him for acknowledging the role that I have played in such study (and at several places in the chapter he responds directly to my work, for which I am grateful). However, he states that “Porter analyzed Greek verbal aspect through the prism of Systemic Functional Linguistics. This includes a strong adherence to the distinction between semantics and pragmatics” (p. 111). I understand why he makes this statement, but it is unfortunately not entirely accurate—first, SFL does not maintain strong adherence to the semantics vs. pragmatics distinction (it treats them as a unified semantic level), and I have tried to negotiate this problem by endorsing a strong view of semantics to try to encompass pragmatics (hence “all contributors” to discussion of aspect do not affirm this distinction—in fact, I don’t think that Campbell fully understands pragmatics or utterance meaning). I have also argued that the Greek verbal system is not temporal. Campbell claims that this “position is still in the minority, being rejected by most grammarians” (p. 111). But is this the minority of all grammarians or of those who have studied aspect? I would point out that, of the eight scholars that Campbell cites as publishing on aspect after my work, five of them hold a relatively similar view to mine (in fact, he is one of them). Perhaps he should clarify what he means by most grammarians rejecting this view.

In this chapter, Campbell draws upon his basic textbook on aspect for much of his description and explanation. Readers, however, should be pushed beyond elementary encapsulations. Although Campbell accepts a frequently repeated definition of aspect as “viewpoint” from the outside or inside of action, I do not think that this definition is adequate. He further uses a definition of Aktionsart that is overly objective, when the category is anything but that. The chapter presents Campbell’s formula of how semantics, lexical meaning, and context, when added together, equal Aktionsart (the listing of Aktionsarten mixes categories). A moment’s thinking about this equation will show that it presents an unclear formulation that confuses and conflates these notions. I fear that exegetes who rely upon such a scheme are probably going to produce unsatisfactory exegetical results. The scheme for discourse strands, perhaps influenced by Robert Longacre, is circular in its formulation (indicatives are in bold, not double underlined, pp. 125-26). I am, finally, not surprised that Campbell questions my notion of planes of discourse, but I am unclear on his understanding of morphological bulk, markedness, and prominence. (Also on a side note, Francis Pang has recently completed and will publish his dissertation, not on the Greek future form [as Campbell states on p. 130], but on aspect and Aktionsart.)

I will finish this review in the third and final post, covering Chapters Six to Ten.

— Stanley E. Porter


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

  1. Dr. Porter,
    Thanks for your continued interest in verbal aspect et al. This review helps me further understand this vital area of exegesis!

    Yours in Christ whose grace is sufficient!



  2. Tim,

    I am glad that the review was helpful. I agree that these are important areas that we need to continue to explore.
    The third installment of the review is on its way.

    — Stan


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

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

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