A Discourse Analysis of First CorinthiansRalph Bruce Terry
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1.1 The Research Problem


In the latter part of the twentieth century, the focus of certain linguists has turned to a study of linguistic features on a level larger than that of the sentence. This focus has carried various labels: textlinguistics, discourse analysis, discourse study, and conversational analysis. In a broader sense it has been interdisciplinary in method, involving scholars from linguistics, literary criticism, sociology, psychology, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. It has begun to spill over into other disciplines of the humanities, such as history, anthropology, and biblical studies. This dissertation represents an interdisciplinary study in the fields of linguistics and biblical studies.

The Statement of the Problem

The purpose of this study is to discover linguistic features at a discourse level that are used in the Greek text of the New Testament book of I Corinthians.

The Research Question

What linguistic features of discourse can be discovered in the Greek text of I Corinthians, and how do these impact the theory of textlinguistics and the understanding of the text under study?

Subsidiary Questions

1. Is there information in the rhetorical situation and cultural background to the book of I Corinthians that would affect our understanding of the grammatical style and conceptual framework of this book?

2. What is the relationship between themes, theses, and macrostructures in general, and what light does I Corinthians shed on this relationship?

3. What structural and rhetorical patterns of discourse can be discovered in the Greek text of I Corinthians? Is one perspective sufficient to view these patterns?

4. What is the nature of the grammatical shifts known as peak in hortatory texts? Does peak function to mark a "hortatory climax" in hortatory texts in the same way that it marks climax in narrative texts? Does I Corinthians show a grammatical peak and/or a "hortatory climax"?

5. Are there any motivations for clause-level word order in Koiné Greek as evidenced in I Corinthians that can be attributed to linguistic features operating at a discourse level?

Delimitations and Limitations of the Study

1. Although there is justification given below for selecting the third edition of the Greek text found in the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament as the basis for this research, this is not a study in the textual criticism of I Corinthians, nor in general is the linguistic effect of textual variants discussed in this study.

2. It should be noted that the study of any ancient document is a study in the performance of a given language, and the exact degree of linguistic competence of the writer cannot be fully determined. Generalizations about grammatical rules at a discourse level will be true only to the extent that the text under study is the product of a competent user of the language. Since I Corinthians is usually considered to be a document of enduring literary significance, it will here be assumed that its author exhibited a high degree of linguistic competence in producing this work.

3. Although discourse studies, especially in conversational analysis, often focus on the area of phonology, including the prosodic features of a language, such features are difficult to determine in an ancient document and will be considered beyond the scope of this study.

4. Without getting into the question of authorial intent, it is assumed in this study that certain scholarly techniques, such as a study of the historical, cultural, and rhetorical situations plus a grammatical and lexical analysis of the text, allow the modern student to understand, within reasonable tolerances, the meaning of a given text.


The term discourse is used in this work in two ways. First, it is used in a general way to refer to a level of analysis of any linguistic unit larger than a sentence. In this sense, discourse analysis is roughly equivalent to text analysis or the study of textlinguistics. Second, it is used in a specific way to refer to a linguistic unit that constitutes a whole that can to some extent meaningfully stand on its own. Such a unit is typically composed of paragraphs and/or smaller discourses. The complete book of I Corinthians will be analyzed as a discourse composed of several smaller discourses plus an introduction and conclusion.

The term paragraph in this work is used to refer to a linguistic unit which is larger than a sentence but smaller than a discourse. Such a unit is typically composed of sentences and/or recursively embedded smaller paragraphs. The term macroparagraph is used to refer to a paragraph which is an immediate component part of a discourse. Such a paragraph may express a complete idea or concept, but cannot stand on its own without losing its original significance in the work in which it is found. The term microparagraph is used to refer to the simplest form of paragraph, one composed only of sentences, that is, having no recursively embedded paragraphs.

The term texttype in this work is used to refer to a category of types of text based upon grammatical differences. The five texttypes identified in this study are narrative, procedural, expository, hortatory, and persuasive.

The term macrostructure in this work is used to refer to a collection of mental concepts that controls the form and content of a discourse. An overt macrostructure may be seen as an abstract, summary, or thesis statement of a work.

The term peak is used in this work to refer to a region of grammatical turbulence where linguistic features do not occur in their normal usage within the discourse under study.

The term tagmemics in this work is used to refer to a linguistic theory developed initially by Kenneth L. Pike (1967; 1982) and expanded by various others. In the view of tagmemics, any linguistic data can be viewed in one of three ways: statically, dynamically, or relationally (sometimes called after physics: particle, wave, or field). The theory divides linguistic data into three hierarchical areas: phonological (the sound system), grammatical (the morpho-syntactic system), and referential (the mental meaning system as it relates to perceived reality). Since the term referential has at least four different technical meanings in the discipline of linguistics, the term conceptual will be used in this work to refer to this third area. A linguistic unit in any of these three areas is referred to as a tagmeme. A tagmeme is described by a slot and class relationship (optionally including role and cohesion in the four-celled tagmeme). This is usually abbreviated using the following notations:

Two-celled tagmeme notation

Four-celled tagmeme notation

The term competent is used in this work to refer to language usage by a speaker or writer which most other speakers and writers of the language would agree is in conformity with the grammatical rules of the language.

The term style is used in this work to refer to any repeated linguistic feature or collection of features, without regard to whether such features or collections are under the control of competent grammatical rules or are in free variation, subject only to the author's choice.

The term features is used in this work in a generic way to refer to various linguistic facets, aspects, and factors at work on a discourse level. Specifically, it does not refer to any theoretical construct, such as phonetic features usually assumed to make up a phoneme.

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