A Discourse Analysis of First CorinthiansRalph Bruce Terry
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Unlike the visual and plastic arts which work with two and three dimensions, a text is linear in its nature, especially if it is a spoken text. The concepts that a text producer endeavors to duplicate in the mind of the receptor, however, are multi-dimensional. In order to place a multi-dimensional text into a linear stream of speech or writing, the mind calls upon techniques such as embedded concepts and relationships, skewed ordering, and patterned presentation. This means that a student of a text, especially an ancient text such as I Corinthians where it is no longer possible to ask the author what he meant by something, must utilize various methods of understanding in an effort to reconstruct the underlying concepts that prompted the text.

Tagmemic theory makes the assertion that any given text can be analyzed from three different perspectives. These are often called (after physics) particle, wave, and field. Pike relates that a person has the choice of using any or all of these three perspectives:

On the one hand, he often acts as if he were cutting up sequences into chunks—into segments or particles. At such times he sees life as made up of one "thing" after another. On the other hand, he often senses things as somehow flowing together as ripples on the tide, merging into one another in the form of a hierarchy of little waves of experience on still bigger waves. These two perspectives, in turn, are supplemented by a third—the concept of field in which intersecting properties of experience cluster into bundles of simultaneous characteristics which make up the patterns of his experience. (1982, 12-13; emphasis is in Pike)

The triple perspective which tagmemic theory gives allows the modern interpreter to approach a text with more than one viewpoint. The particle perspective, especially as it is refined by constituent structure analysis, allows the reader to examine embedded concepts and relationships and determine what is a normal method of presentation and what may be altered for emphasis or other purposes. The wave perspective allows the reader to examine areas of the text where the conceptual realm may have different boundaries from the grammatical. The reader is thus freed from constructing topic boundaries based only on grammatical units. Finally, the field perspective allows the reader to perceive ways in which the concepts in the text may be patterned and presented in non-linear fashion. Thus as one begins to look at the constituent elements of a text, it becomes apparent that a single perspective will not do for a proper analysis. The use of multiple perspective allows the analyst to see relationships and structures that might well be overlooked in any analysis using only a single perspective.

This chapter will analyze smaller structures of I Corinthians using all three types of perspective that Pike has identified. First, the particle view will be obtained by analyzing the hierarchical nature of the text using a search for structural paragraphs, an examination of orthographic paragraphs, and Longacre's approach to constituent paragraph structure and verb ranking (cf. Longacre 1989a, 64-118). Next, some transitions will be looked at for the wave perspective. Finally, grammatical, lexical, and conceptual patterns will be studied for the field perspective. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the value of such a multiple perspective approach as it relates to both linguistic studies and interpretation of the biblical text.

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