A Discourse Analysis of First CorinthiansRalph Bruce Terry
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1.2 Scholarship Relevant To The Dissertation


As an interdisciplinary study, this dissertation draws upon the scholarship in two fields—linguistics and biblical studies—and brings them together to produce new insights for both. Some cross-disciplinary studies of this nature have already been done.

In the Old Testament field, Longacre has led the way with studies on both the flood narrative (1979a) and the Joseph narrative (1989) in the book of Genesis. He has been followed by Clendenen (1989), who has applied the methodology to a study of the Hebrew hortatory texts of Jeremiah 10:1-16 (1987) and the book of Malachi (1989).

Callow (1974) provided an early attempt at combining discourse studies with the New Testament, although her emphasis was on the receptor language in Bible translation. At the 1980 seminar of the Society of Biblical Literature, Boers read a paper which dealt with the discourse structure and macrostructure of John 4. Levinsohn (1987) has done reseach on cohesion in Acts. In addition, Steven Booth's (1991) doctoral dissertation is a discourse analysis focusing on peak marking features in the gospel of John. However, in the New Testament area, most of the text-linguistic work on the source language has been in hortatory texts. Friberg's 1978 master's thesis was on the discourse structure of Galatians. Three master's theses have been done at the University of Texas at Arlington on various chapters of I Corinthians: Hoopert (1981) worked on chapters 1-4; Matsumura (1983) worked on chapters 5-7; and Youngman (1987) worked on chapters 8-10. In addition, Miehle (1981) and Longacre (1983a) have worked on the book of I John. Radney (1988) has worked on clause ordering, primarily in the book of Hebrews. Both Hymes (1986) and this writer (Terry 1992) have worked on the book of James. Nida et al. (1983) have done work in various parts of the Greek New Testament.

Linguistic Theory

The study of linguistics can be divided into several sub-disciplines, including phonology, grammar, semantics, pragmatics, and sociolinguistics. The study of discourse has ties with all of these areas, although it receives special emphasis by the last two of these fields. Particularly, it is not tied to any special linguistic theory, such as generative transformational grammar, X-bar syntax, government and binding, and/or generalized phrase structure grammar. It has especially drawn the attention of linguists who have worked in case grammar, such as Grimes (1975), Fillmore (1981), and Longacre (1983b). But others, who hold to non-generative theories, have also worked in discourse, including Pike and Pike (1983) in tagmemics, Fleming (1988) in stratificational grammar, and Halliday and Hasan (1976) in systemics. In general, the field of discourse analysis is so new that no grammatical theory has fully incorporated it enough to exclude other theories, nor has discourse analysis limited itself to any single grammatical theory. Consequently, the work done by any linguist in the field of discourse can be used by others, since it is not limited to a particular grammatical theory.

Traditionally, grammatical theories have held that the largest grammatical unit is the sentence (Bloomfield 1933; Chomsky 1957). For these theories, a discourse is a combination of sentences, the form of which is totally dependent upon the text producer's choice. In this view, the form of any given sentence is due to the author's "emphasis" or "style." Subsequent work by discourse analysts, however, has indicated that the competent speaker or writer is constrained by several factors as to the type of sentence which can be used in any given situation. The following review will concentrate on several of these factors, including texttype, foregrounding and backgrounding, macrostructures, frame structures, cohesion and coherence, constituent structures, participant and prop identification, and peak markers.

A major factor in discourse studies has been the identification of texttypes. Beekman, Callow, and Kopesec (1981, 36-38) have listed four major texttypes: narrative, procedural, expository, and hortatory. Larson (1984, 365-366) has listed six types: narrative, procedural, expository, descriptive, hortatory, and repartee. Nida (1984, 29-30) has listed five types: narration, description, argument, dialogue, and lists. Longacre (1983b, 3-14) potentially has sixteen etic types based upon the presence or absence of four binary features: agent orientation, contingent temporal succession, projection (i.e., future orientation), and tension. These are usually written with a plus (+) or minus (-) in front of the feature. Depending upon the particular language being studied, these texttypes would be limited to a smaller number of emic types. In practice, Longacre often limits the major texttypes to four based only upon the first two features, giving narrative, procedural, behavioral, and expository. In this system, hortatory is described as behavioral with +projection. Recently he has added persuasive to his list of major texttypes (personal communication). Clendenen (1989, 50) rightly suggests identifying the addition of an argument to a text with tension in Longacre's scheme. It seems likely that persuasive text is -agent orientation, -contingent temporal succession, and +tension.

It is important not to confuse genré with texttype. A particular genré is produced by a combination of several factors, among them: texttype, text structure, and semantic content. It is possible to have several genrés that use the same texttype and thus show grammatical similarities in some ways while being structurally and semantically quite different from one another. For example, a fairy tale, a short story, and a biography have three different genrés, but all use narrative texttype.

Closely identified with a study of texttypes has been a study of the foregrounding and backgrounding of information. Discourse theory posits that different texttypes signal information as being either foregrounded or backgrounded in different ways. Often these signals are based on the choice of verb mode and/or tense, but sometimes on other particles in the sentence. Hopper and Thompson (1980, 252) have associated the following factors with foregrounding and backgrounding: number of participants, kinesis, aspect, punctuality, volitionality, affirmation, mode, agency, affectedness of the object, and individuation of the object. Grimes (1975) has devoted several chapters to the difference between the two. Longacre (1989b) has suggested that instead of a distinction between the two broad areas, there exists a distinction between several degrees of foregrounding and several degrees of backgrounding. This is illustrated in his work on Joseph (1989a, 81) by a chart showing a cline for ranking verbs as to degree of foregrounding or backgrounding for Hebrew narrative.

The information which is foregrounded in a narrative text is variously called the storyline, the mainline, or the backbone of the text. A themeline may occur in both narrative and other types of text. Foregrounded information in texttypes other than narrative may be called the mainline or backbone, but the term storyline is not appropriate.

The marking for foregrounded sentences varies from texttype to texttype. While the main verb tense in a Greek narrative sentence is the aorist (Robertson 1934, 840), an expository passage is much more likely to have a present tense verb as primary. Likewise, hortatory text has imperative mode verbs as primary. In the same way, conditional sentences are much more likely to occur in persuasive text than in narrative. While such statements may be considered intuitively correct by many, they illustrate that for competent users of a language there is a strong connection between the mainline verb tense used and the type of text being produced or received. This connection is a feature of discourse grammar.

Finally on this subject, it should be noted that many texts do not contain merely one texttype. Often paragraphs of another texttype are embedded in the text (Longacre 1983, 13-14; and Clendenen 1989, 47). It is possible to treat the setting of a narrative as either backgrounded information in a narrative texttype or as expository texttype information embedded in the narrative. In the same way, narrative text may be embedded in hortatory text for illustrative purposes.

Another factor to be considered in analyzing discourse is the influence of macrostructures and frame structures. Both of these structures are cognitive information structures that influence the grammatical surface structure.

The primary work on macrostructures has been done by van Dijk (1972; 1977; 1981). A macrostructure is a conceptual (i.e., mental) summary of a text that determines how the text is produced (for the speaker or writer) or understood (for the listener or reader). The term is also used to refer to a written or oral summary of the text that corresponds to the conceptual macrostructure. Originally van Dijk posited the macrostructure as a starting point for generating a text (1972), but another person's macrostructure can only be accessed by using one produced by a recipient of the text. There is no other way to get inside a person's head. There is an analytical problem with this, for very often different receivers conceptualize different macrostructures for the same text. To alleviate this, van Dijk (1981, 8-15) has suggested four operations to reduce a text to its macrostructure: generalization, deletion, integration, and construction. Longacre has suggested a simplification of the method by applying these operations mainly to foregrounded material (1990a, class lecture), although most macrostructures also contain some backgrounded material. It may be that this information can be handled as mainline to embedded texttypes. In this way, a macrostructure would have a primary mapping to foregrounded material.

Frame structures are also conceptual in nature. They differ primarily from macrostructures in that they are not a part of the text. Rather they are part of the knowledge which the text producer (and hopefully the text receiver) possesses. Since frame structures are in the mind of the text producer, and the text producer supposes that the same or similar structures exist in the mind of the text receiver, this information is not overtly added to the text. In biblical studies, such information is often called background information. With frame structure theory, however, this type of information has been moved from supplemental to integral. De Beaugrande and Dressler (1981, 194-201) have shown that it is possible to isolate such information. The work of Minsky (1980) on artificial intelligence also has a bearing on the linguistic understanding of cognition. Other research in this area has been done by Miller and Kintsch (1981) and van Dijk (1981). Frame structures are called various things by different researchers. Van Dijk identifies them as frames, although framework might be a more meaningful term. Other terms that are used include schemas (or schemata), plans, and scripts (de Beaugrande and Dressler 1981, 90-91). The latter term is usually reserved to refer to frames that store a typical sequence of actions, such as the process of eating at a restaurant. Haberlandt and Bingham (1982) note that as text activates scripts in the human memory, this activation makes subsequent text easier to understand. They also point out that the understanding of a given text is more often based on several scripts than based on a single script.

The primary work on cohesion and coherence in English has been done by Halliday and Hasan (1976). This subject especially has to do with the relationships between two units (sentences, paragraphs, etc.) and the particles that serve as formal markers of those relationships. Charolles (1983) has argued that coherence is ultimately a function of the reader's mind and not a matter of what is in the text. Marks of cohesion, such as pronouns, do not make the text coherent. Rather it is the willingness of the reader to make the pronoun sensibly refer to something which has gone before (or will come after) that produces coherence in a text. Haberlandt and Bingham (1982) show that scripts contribute to the coherence of a text.

There are three main traditions of work on constituent structures on a discourse level: Beekman-Callow, Mann-Thompson, and Longacre. All three are similar and have influenced one another. Beekman, Callow and Kopesec (1981) have developed a system of analyzing a text by producing a relational structure tree diagram. Mann and Thompson (1988) use a technique of determining text relationships in what they call Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST). In addition to relations, they list five kinds of structures, which they term schemas, which represent four different head-branch relationships: single branching, double headed, double branching, and multiple headed (Mann and Thompson 1988, 247).

Perhaps the most work on constituent structures has been done by Longacre. His work on the Joseph narrative (1989a) contains a complete constituent display of Genesis 37 and 39-48. Such a constituent display uses a two-celled tagmeme (slot-filler) description of all relationships in the text higher than sentence level. That is, it shows the relationships between sentences, paragraphs, and discourses within the narrative in question.

Grimes (1975) has distinguished between participants and props in a text as characters and items that are more central and less central. This general distinction has been picked up by Longacre and developed into a complete etic scheme for discovering participant and prop relationships within a text. In the introduction to the 1990 volume of OPTAT (9), he suggests that participant reference can be identified using an ordered triplet: participant-reference resources, participant rank, and operations of participant reference. The resources of a language can include such things for referring to participants and props with noun phrases (nouns plus qualifiers), nouns (with or without an article), generic nouns (such as kinship or occupational labels), pronouns, verb affixes, and null or zero anaphora. Participant rank is divided into three major levels: major participants, minor participants, and props. Among major participants, a distinction may be made between central (protagonists) and non-central (antagonists) participants. Minor participants may be classified as helpers of central participants, helpers of non-central participants, introducers, and bystanders. Props may be classified as human, non-human animate, non-animate, and natural forces. A study in participant identification involves fully classifying all participants and props within a discourse and searching for recurring patterns that a language may use. The seven functions or operations of participant reference which Longacre distinguishes include first mention, integration as central, routine tracking, restaging after absence, confrontation and/or role reversal, local contrast or thematicity, and author evaluation or comment.

The final feature of discourse to be discussed here is the presence of peak markers. Longacre (1981, 1983b, 1985a, 1990b) has done the most work on peak. Peak can be defined as a zone of grammatical or stylistic turbulence within a discourse that corresponds to its climax and/or denouement. In languages around the world, standard grammatical rules and stylistic conventions seem to change around those parts of a text which show the most conceptual tension. Longacre (1983b, 24, 34) has noted that embedded discourses can each have their own peak, resulting in a larger discourse with multiple peaks. He has also noted (1983b, 24) that there can be both action peaks and didactic peaks in a work where the thematic material comes to a climax at a place other than the narrative climax.

Most of the work on peak has centered around the study of narrative discourses. Although work on other discourse types is just beginning, there is some evidence that peak also manifests itself in hortatory text as well. Longacre (1983a, 28-34) has identified I John chapter 4 as peak of that book. Clendenen (1989, 109, 123) has shown that there appear to be peak markers in the Hebrew text of Malachi. Previous work in the Greek text of James has shown that the discourse in James 3:13-4:10 is marked by at least seven types of peak material and seems to function as a "hortatory climax" of the book (Terry 1992, 121-123).

Longacre (1990b) has classified types of peak marking features under three major headings which he labels as follows: augmented sequence, immediacy, and maximum interlacing of participant reference. Under augmented sequence, several types of peak marking features may be listed: The text may shift to a series of fast moving actions, resulting in a much higher verb to non-verb ratio and/or the elimination of dialogue from this section. Component actions may be mentioned in some detail, resulting in a slowing down of the action. Also a single action may be mentioned several times using paraphrasing, that is, the same thing may be said in several different ways. This type of peak marker may be signaled by the use of long sentences where short ones are the rule for the discourse or by short sentences in the peak where long ones are the rule.

The second major type of peak marking features Longacre (1990b) calls immediacy. These devices take the hearer or reader to the scene of the action. For example, peak may be marked by a shift in tense or aspect. In narrative this shift is often from the use of a point-action (foregrounded) to a continuous (backgrounded) tense in order to increase vividness. Peak may also be marked by a shift up the agency hierarchy, that is, from third person to second to first. A third example of immediacy is a shift to dialogue or drama where such has not been used before. The peak may also include extra background or setting material. It may be marked by devices such as onomatopoeia, ideophones, and/or profanity. Last, immediacy peak may be marked by asyndeton, that is, coordinating particles may be omitted from the peak as the narrative proceeds too rapidly for standard connection.

The third major division of peak marking features that Longacre (1990b) posits is maximum interlacing of participant reference. This may be manifested by a crowded stage in which many participants are brought together at once. If they are not physically together in the narrative, there may be rapid shifting between various characters in this type of peak marking feature. Also, this type of peak marking may be evidenced by an abandonment of usual participant reference devices in favor of more use of nouns and pronouns. There may be confrontation devices or role reversal in a peak section. Grammatical structures may become more complex in a peak; word-order changes may come into play. Finally, code-switching between languages may be noted in a peak. Clendenen (1987) has noted the use of Aramaic in the chiastic key of chapter 10 of the Hebrew text of Jeremiah.

New Testament Scholarship

Turning to New Testament Scholarship, two major types of materials are available. The first type includes linguistic materials which can be used to study the Greek text of I Corinthians. The second consists of works specifically about I Corinthians.

A listing of the linguistic works used to study I Corinthians begins with the Greek grammars. Of special note are the big grammar by Robertson (1934), Funk's translation and revision of the grammar by Blass and Debrunner (1961), and the four volume work begun by J. H. Moulton and continued by first Howard and then Turner (1908-1976). Of special note for discourse studies is the fourth volume in the latter work by Turner (1976) on style in New Testament Greek. The best tool for work on quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament is the book by Archer and Chirichigno (1983).

For lexical meaning in Koiné Greek, the standard works are those by Arndt and Gingrich (1957), Thayer (1889; reprinted 1979), and the giant volume on ancient Greek by Liddell, Scott, Jones, and McKenzie (1968). Lexical frequency can be studied using a Greek concordance, such as the one by Moulton and Geden (1963). Word frequency counts can be found in the second volume of the concordance by Aland, Bachmann, and Slaby (1978) and the lexicon by Kubo (1975). A relatively new area of Greek semantics has been opened with the publication of the United Bible Societies' lexicon by Louw, Nida, Smith, and Munson (1988), which is organized according to semantic domains. Nida (1992) has recently produced a supplement to these volumes.

Most of the works that are specifically about I Corinthians are biblical commentaries. Ziesler (1986) has written about the available commentaries and given an evaluation of them. Published since his article is the tome by Fee (1987), which certainly must be consulted in any work on I Corinthians. Ziesler especially appreciates Barrett's work (1968) in the Harper commentary series. Barrett's 1973 volume on II Corinthians in the same series is also worth consulting. Conzelmann's commentary (1975) in the Hermeneia series must be given special scholarly recognition for its footnotes if nothing else. The smaller commentaries by F. F. Bruce (1971) and Leon Morris (1958) in the New Century and Tyndale series, respectively, must be mentioned for the general exegetical scholarship of the authors, despite their smaller size. Other commentaries of note include those by Craig (1953) in the Interpreter's Bible, Grosheide (1955) in the New International Commentary series, Orr and Walther (1976) in the Anchor Bible series, Héring (1962), and Lenski (1946). The International Critical Commentary by Robertson and Plummer (1914) is a little dated, but its scholarship cannot be ignored. Older commentaries include those by Alford (reprinted 1983), Calvin (reprinted 1948), Edwards (1885), and Findlay (1979). In addition, a special thematic issue of Review and Expositor has appeared on I Corinthians (Garland 1983). Introductions to I Corinthians can be found in the volumes by Feine, Behm, and Kümmel (1966), Guthrie (1970), Martin (1986), and in an article by Morgan-Wynne (1983). Of special note is the work by Schmithals (1971) in which he tries to make gnosticism the single heresy at Corinth. Hurd (1983) has done significant work on the origin of the letter called I Corinthians. A chapter of Lund's (1942; reprinted 1992) book and an article by Bailey (1983) are the two best sources for the study of chiasmus in I Corinthians.

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