About a year or so ago, I added Klaas Bentein’s paper from the first issue of 2017 of the Journal of Greek Linguistics to the bibliography at Greek-Language.com (and GreekLinguistics.com). The article treats forms of complementation for verbs in the post-classical and early Byzantine periods. I decided today to write a little more about that article to give you a clearer idea of what it does.
Between the Classical and Hellenistic periods and beyond, there was significant change in the types of complementation used most commonly. In this article, Bentein responds to Cristofaro’s 1996 claim in Discourse Cohesion in Ancient Greek that the Classical opposition between the accusative and infinitive being used for non-factive complements, while ὅτι with either the indicative and the accusative or the participle were used for factive ones, was disappearing in the post-classical era, with ὅτι coming to be used as a ‘generic’ complementiser.
Looking at documentary texts, including papyri, from the first to the eighth centuries CE, Bentein examines several categories of verbs (causative verbs, verbs used to give orders, verbs of perception, verbs of mental state, psychological verbs, and verbs of communication), identifying the complement structures used with each verb type. He also examines the social contexts represented when each type of complementation is used and sees a shift, or realignment of complement patterns with changes moving in different directions for high status and low status speakers.
If you are interested in the social status of various forms of speech or in the historical development and change in forms of complementation, you should enjoy Bentein’s article.
If you decide you’d like to read the entire paper, click the read button to go to where it’s posted on Brill’s site.
Since the papyri have been mentioned twice already in this discussion of the scope of a Hellenistic Greek Grammar, I thought I would offer a little of my own take on the issue.
The papyri are extremely valuable for documenting language change. They are not as helpful for documenting a particular point in the middle of that change. Their very variability offers great evidence for the shifts that were occurring in pronunciation during the Hellenistic period, for example, but they don’t help in understanding Luke’s discourse preferences.
Their importance, from a linguistic point of view, has been that they have given us a clearer picture of conversational or informal Greek in and around Egypt and have clarified to some extent what we might call business Greek or the language of commerce. These are legitimate concerns for a grammar of Hellenistic Greek, but are not necessarily crucial for understanding the biblical documents.
It is very hard to sort out all of the variation in the papyri, but they are nonetheless fascinating.