What Does the Greek First Class Conditional Imply? Gricean Methodology and the Testimony of the Ancient Greek Grammarians -- By: L. W. Ledgerwood III

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 12:1 (Spring 1991)
Article: What Does the Greek First Class Conditional Imply? Gricean Methodology and the Testimony of the Ancient Greek Grammarians
Author: L. W. Ledgerwood III


What Does the Greek First Class Conditional Imply? Gricean Methodology and the Testimony of the Ancient Greek Grammarians

L. W. Ledgerwood III

Debate has been engaged for more than a century over what implications, if any, a Greek First Class Conditional (FCC) has concerning the proposition in its protasis. Some pedagogical grammars claim that the Greek FCC is well translated with the English causative construction introduced withsince.” In this paper a twofold approach is used to show that this claim is in error.

First, a methodology for formulating and testing hypotheses concerning historical languages is established. The methodology is based on a Popperian view of hypothesis testing. In this case a testable hypothesis is formed utilizing the descriptive apparatus of H. P. Grice. The hypothesis is that the FCC is well translated with Englishsince and it is proven false.

Second, the testimony of four ancient Greek grammarians is evaluated. The grammarians examined are: Dionysius Thrax (1st century B.C.E.), Apollonius Dyscolus (2nd century C.E.), Stephanos and Helliodorus (Byzantine period). It is shown that these grammarians agree with the conclusion that it is not appropriate to translate the FCC with an English causal introduced bysince.”

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I. Introduction

Does a Koine Greek conditional sentence introduced by εἰ (“if”) with the indicative imply the truth of the proposition in its protasis? Debate on this issue has been engaged for over 100 years. In the 19th century two of the major participants in the debate were William

Goodwin1 and Basil Gildersleeve.2 Early in this century, A. T. Robertson,3 claiming to be in the Gildersleevian tradition, asserted that the truth of the proposition in the protasis is implied to be true or at least assumed true for the sake of argument. Some modern pedagogical grammars follow Robertson’s assertions and carry them to an extreme that Robertson himself did not.

These pedagogical grammars claim that a Greek conditional introduced by εἰ with the indicative should be translated with an English causal construction. That is, a sentence like:

(1a) Εἰ οὖν συνηγέρθητε τῷ Χριστῷ τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖτε (Col 3:1)

sho...

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