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Discontinuous Syntax: Hyperbaton in Greek

L.D. Stephens
Oxford University Press
January 2000

The interface between syntax and meaning, both semantic and pragmatic, has emerged as perhaps the richest and most fascinating area of current linguistics theory. This study applies some of these ideas to hyperbaton, offering an original new theory with broad applications for our understanding of Greek syntax. Students of epic will find a fresh perspective on orality in Homer while the general classicist will discover a more precise and explicit framework for the analysis of textual meaning in literary research. The most immediately obvious difference between Greek and English syntax is free word order, and phrasal discontinuity is the starkest manifestation of free word order. The problem of phrasal discontinuity continually confronts the reader of Greek literature, both prose and verse. In many ways, phrasal discontinuity is the key to understanding how the whole system of Greek syntax works and how it has evolved over time. Offering an original new theory to explain the phenomenon, “Discontinuous Syntax” applies some of these recent ideas in a detailed analysis of phrasal discontinuity as it appears at different stages in the history of ancient Greek. It goes well beyond its immediate topic in leading to a deeper understanding of the basic character of Greek syntax as well as providing the non-specialist with a handy Greek-oriented introduction to some essential tools of linguistic analysis.