A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language
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[ review - excerpts
David Holton, Peter Mackridge, Irene Philippaki-Warburton
Format: Paperback, 544 pp.
an imprint of Taylor & Francis Books Ltd
Pub. Date: 18 September, 1997
Barnes & Noble
Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar
of the Modern Language is a complete reference guide
to modern Greek grammar. It contains a comprehensive
description of Greek grammar and offers an analysis
of the complexities of the language. Written in a fresh
and accessible style, this book focuses on the real
patterns of use in modern Greek. The book is well organized
and is filled with full, clear explanations of areas
of confusion and difficulty. It also includes an extensive
index, glossary of linguistic terms and numbered paragraphs
designed to provide readers easy access to the information
they require. An essential reference source for the
learner and user of Greek, this book will be the standard
work for years to come.
Table of Contents
PART I: THE SOUND AND WRITING SYSTEMS
1. The Sound System
2. The Writing System
PART II: MORPHOLOGY
1. The Articles
5. Pronouns and Determiners
8. Derivational Morphology
PART III: SYNTAX
1. The Verb and the Verb Phrase
2. The Noun and the Noun Phrase
3. The Adverb and the Adverb Phrase
4. The Preposition and the Prepositional Phrase
5. The Clause
1 THE VERB AND THE VERB PHRASE
1.1 THE CONSTITUENTS OF THE VERB PHRASE
The verb is the central element
of the clause in that every clause must contain a verb
with the exception of some copular clauses where the
verb είμαι 'Ι am' may be omitted (see Section 1.9).
Furthermore, the number and the type of constituents
that may combine with the verb are determined by the
type of the verb. A verb phrase is the combination of
the verb with its objects (direct and indirect, locative,
benefactive, etc.) or predicate complements, as well
as the manner, place and time adverbials which modify
Objects are those noun phrases
which combine with the verb in a very close syntactic-semantic
relationship. Depending on the type of the verb, an
object may be excluded, as in the case of intransitive
verbs, or may be required, as in the case of transitive
verbs. The transitive verbs may require only one object
(monotransitive) or they may take two such objects (bitransitive).
These varieties are presented below.
220.127.116.11 Intransitive verbs
Intransitive verbs are those which do not combine with
an object noun phrase. They, of course, may combine
with adverbs of any type and some may require a subject
or clausal complement. Intransitive verbs may be subdivided
(a) Verbs in active voice form
expressing action which is not transferred to some other
entity, e.g.: ροχαλίζω 'Ι snore', as in (1):
(1) Ο Γιάννης ροχαλίζει κάθε βράδυ 'John snores every
Other verbs of this type include: αναπνέω 'Ι breathe',
χαμογελώ 'Ι smile', δακρύζω 'Ι have tears in my eyes',
μένω 'Ι stay, reside' etc.
(b) Verbs in active voice expressing state, such as
πονώ 'Ι ache':
(2) Η Ελένη πονούσε όταν της έβγαλαν το δόντι 'Helen
was in pain when they extracted her tooth'Other such
verbs include: πεινώ 'Ι feel hungry', πεθαίνω 'Ι die'
φτωχαίνω 'Ι become poorer', λάμπω 'Ι shine', ιδρώνιο
(c) Verbs in passive form expressing an action not transferable
to some other entity, such as έρχομαι 'Ι come':
(3) Ο φίλος του Νίκου έρχεται συχνά στο σπίτι μας 'Nick's
friend often comes to our house'
Other such verbs are: εργάζομαι 'Ι work', ετοιμάζομαι
'Ι get ready, I prepare myself, ξεκουράζομαι 'Ι rest',
σηκώνομαι 'Ι get up'.
(d) Verbs in passive form expressing state, such as
κοιμάμαι 'Ι sleep':
(4) To καλοκαίρι, στην Ελλάδα, κοιμάμαι πάντα το απόγευμα
'In the summer, in Greece, I always sleep in the afternoon'
Other such verbs are: κάθομαι 'Ι sit', φοβάμμαι 'Ι fear',
λιάζομαι 'Ι sun myself.
(e) Also intransitive are passive verbs which are typically
derived from active transitive ones, such as: αγοράζομαι
'Ι am bought', derived from active transitive αγοράζω
(κάτι) 'Ι buy (something)':
(5) To βιβλίο αυτό αγοράστηκε από πολλούς φοιτητές This
book was bought by many students'
(f) Also intransitive are those verbs in passive form
with reflexive meaning which are derived from active
transitive ones. E.g. the verb ντύνομαι 'Ι get dressed',
in (6), is derived from ντύνω (κάποιον) 'Ι dress (someone)':
(6) Η Ελενίτσα τώρα μπορεί και ντύνεται μόνη της 'Little
Helen can get dressed by herself now'
(g) There are also verbs which have two different uses,
an intransitive and a transitive one with slightly different
meaning. Compare intransitive γελώ 'Ι laugh' and transitive
γελώ κάποιον 'Ι cheat someone', intransitive πονώ 'Ι
ache' and transitive πονώ κάποιον 'Ι feel sorry for,
empathize with someone' or, in a causative sense, 'Ι
cause pain to someone', intransitive γυαλίζω 'Ι shine'
and transitive γυαλίζω κάτι 'Ι make something shine,
I polish something', intransitive δουλεύω 'Ι work' and
transitive δουλεύω κάποιον 'Ι fool, tease someone',
δουλεύω κάτι 'Ι work on something'. For example:
(7) Η Μαρία δουλεύει στο Πανεπιστήμιο 'Mary works at
(8) Η Μαρία λέει στον Νίκο ότι τον αγαπά αλλά μάλλον
'Mary tells Nick that she loves him but she's probably
(9) Η Μαρία δουλεύει τώρα τη διατριβή της 'Mary is now
working on her dissertation'
(h) Also intransitive are the so-called 'linking verbs',
such as είμαι 'Ι am', γίνομαι 'Ι become', etc. These
combine not with an object but with either a noun phrase
or an adjective phrase functioning as a predicate complement
to the subject, e.g.:
(10) Η Σούλα είναι ο πρόεδρος τους 'Soula is their president'
(11) Η Σούλα είναι πολύ δυναμική 'Soula is very dynamic'
(See Section 1.9 below.)
(i) There are also intransitive impersonal verbs which
require a complement clause, e.g.:
(12) Πρέπει να του μιλήσουμε 'We must speak to him'
(13) Πότε πρόκειται να φύγετε;
'When are you going to leave?'
18.104.22.168 Monotransitive verbs
Monotransitive verbs combine with
a direct object either in the form of a full noun phrase
or in the form of a pronoun. The direct object is marked
by the accusative case.
(1) Πρέπει να καλέσουμε το Γιάννη 'We must invite John'
(2) θα καλέσουμε εσάς και την οικογένεια του Μιχάλη
(εσάς = strong form of the 2nd person pi. pronoun) 'We
will invite you and Michalis's family'
(3) θα σας καλέσουμε στο γάμο
(σας = weak or clitic pronoun: see Part II, Section
5.2) 'We will invite you to the wedding'
In more formal discourse we may still find expressions
of katharevousa origin containing transitive verbs whose
object appears in the genitive case:
(4) Ο καινούριος υπουργός θα επιμεληθεί της καταστάσεως
The new minister will take care of the situation'
In Section 22.214.171.124.1 we present
further examples of monotransitive verb phrases with
full noun phrase direct object.
126.96.36.199.1 Monotransitives with
full noun phrase direct object Monotransitive verbs
either require the obligatory presence of a direct object
noun phrase, as in the case of μοιράζω 'Ι distribute'
in (1), or they typically combine with an object, but
they may also occur without such an object, as in the
case of γράφω 'Ι write' in (2). Note that verbs such
as τρώω 'Ι eat', πίνω 'Ι drink' etc., when used without
an object, denote simple activities:
(1)a. Ποιος θα μοιράσει τις προσκλήσεις
για το χορό; 'Who will distribute the invitations to
the dance?' b. *Όλοι μοιράζουν 'Everybody distributes'
(2)a. Ο Καζαντζάκης έχει γράψει πολλά βιβλία'Kazantzakis
wrote a lot of books'
b. Όταν γράφει δε θέλει να τον διακόψει κανείς 'When
he is writing he does not want anybody to interrupt
c. Έγραψε στο Γιάννη χθες 'She wrote to John yesterday'
Notice that even when a transitive
verb like γράφω is used without an explicit object noun
phrase an object is still understood. In (2b) we understand
an object with general reference (i.e. something) while
in (2c) we understand the object to be γράμμα 'letter'
because of the linguistic and pragmatic context, i.e.
when we write to somebody we are writing a letter to
him/her. This omissibility of the direct object, when
it is easily understood, is very common in Greek and
extends to all transitives. So, in spite of the fact
that sentence (*lb) is unacceptable out of context,
it is possible to find a context where it is appropriate,
such as in the following conversation:
(3)a. Οι αρχηγοί του κόμματος άρχισαν
να μοιράζουν ρουσφέτια 'The leaders of the party have
begun to distributefavours'
b. Ε και τι έγινε; Όλοι μοιράζουν 'So what? They all
distribute [i.e. they all do it]'
Monotransitive verbs can either be of active form, as
those used in the above examples, or they may have passive
(4) θυμάμαι τον Αλέξανδρο από όταν ήταν μωρό 'Ι remember
Alexander from when he was a baby'
(5) Ποιος φοβάται τον κακό λύκο; 'Who's afraid of the
188.8.131.52. Bitransitive verbs
with full noun phrase indirect object
Bitransitives are those verbs which
combine with two objects, a direct one, in the accusative
case, and an indirect one, which may either be in the
genitive case or be expressed by a prepositional phrase.
184.108.40.206 Indirect object in genitive
The indirect object represents
an animate, often human entity which is indirectly affected
by the action expressed by the verb. In (1) below, the
indirect object is the recipient:
(1)a. Ο Γιάννης έδωσε ένα ωραίο βραχιόλι της Μαίρης
or b. Ο Γιάννης έδωσε της Μαίρης ένα ωραίο βραχιόλι
'John gave Mary a beautiful bracelet'
In (2) the indirect object expresses the benefactive,
i.e. the person who benefits from the result of the
action expressed by the verb:
(2) Η Ελένη μαγείρεψε του Νίκου σουτζουκάκια 'Helen
cooked soutzoukakia for Nick'
In (3) the indirect object indicates the source:
(3) Χθες πήραν της Ελένης ένα εκατομμύριο δραχμές 'Yesterday
they took a million drachmas from Helen'
From these examples it is clear
that the genitive case does not clearly mark the precise
semantic relation of the indirect object to its verb.
The precise semantic function of the indirect object
is derived by considering the semantics of the verb
and of the indirect object as well as the total linguistic
and pragmatic context.
As shown in (la) and (Ib) the order of direct and indirect
object may vary, since the grammatical function of each
noun phrase, as direct or indirect object, is clearly
marked by the difference in their case marking: accusative
for direct and genitive for indirect object. (On the
function of word order changes see Section 5.2.)
We must point out that the use
of a simple genitive noun phrase to express the indirect
object, as in the examples offered above, is not common.
This is because the genitive in these constructions
may also be interpreted as a possessive genitive, especially
if the direct object is a definite noun phrase. Consider:
(4) Ο Γιάννης έδωσε το ωραίο βραχιόλι
(5) Η Ελένη μαγείρεψε τα σουτζουκάκια του Νίκου
(6) Χθες πήραν της Ελένης το πορτοφόλι
All three sentences are ambiguous between an indirect
object interpretation and one involving a possessive
genitive: Mary's bracelet in (4), Nick's soutzoukakia
in (5), Helen's purse in (6). This is the reason why
the indirect object is more often expressed with a prepositional
phrase (see (1-3) Section 220.127.116.11 below) or with the
genitive clitic pronoun which more clearly marks the
indirect object (see (3) and (6), Section 18.104.22.168 below).
There are some verbs whose direct and indirect objects
are both in the accusative case, e.g. μαθαίνω 'Ι learn,
I teach', διδάσκω 'Ι teach', ρωτώ I ask', κερνώ 'Ι offer
(7) Φέτος θα διδάξουν τους πρωτοετείς γραμματική
This year they will teach the first-year students grammar'
(8) Κεράσανε τους φίλους τους παγωτό They treated their
friends to ice-cream'
22.214.171.124 Prepositional phrase
The functions of recipient, benefactive
and source may also be expressed by prepositional phrases
introduced by the appropriate preposition.
(1) Έδωσε το βραχιόλι στην Μαίρη 'He gave the bracelet
(2) Η Ελένη μαγείρεψε τα σουτζουκάκια για το Νίκο 'Helen
cooked the soutzoukakia for Nick'
(3) Χθες πήραν από την Ελένη ένα εκατομμύριο δραχμές
'Yesterday they took one million drachmas from Helen'
126.96.36.199 Transitive verbs with
clitic pronouns as objects
Either the direct object or the
indirect object of a verb, or both objects at the same
time, may be expressed by clitic pronouns instead of
either full noun phrases or prepositional phrases. Thus
we may have a mono-transitive construction with an accusative
clitic pronoun as direct object:
(1) Τον είδα χθες 'Ι saw him yesterday'
or a bitransitive construction with both objects expressed
(2) Του το είπα πολλές φορές να 'ρθει μαζί μας αλλά
ντρέπεται 'Ι told him many times to come with us but
he is shy'
The use of the object clitic pronouns is very frequent
and it often gives rise to idiomatic expressions consisting
only of the verb and the clitic:
(3)a. Τα 'μαθες; 'Have you heard
b. Ναι, τα ξέρω 'Yes, I know (the news)'
c. Τα 'χασα 'Ι lost (my mind), I got confused'
d. Εμείς τα βρίσκουμε 'We find them [= we get on]'
e. Εμείς τη βρίσκουμε 'We find it [= we have a good
f. Τα λέμε πάλι 'We will talk again'
g. Τα φτιάξανε They fixed them [= they started a relationship]'
h. Τα χαλάσανε They spoilt them [= they fell out, they
i. Τα 'κανες θάλασσα 'You made them a sea [you made
a mess of things]'
j. Του την πέσαμε To him we threw it down [= we made
him a proposition]'
(3j) verges on slang more than the rest.
Whenever clitics are used either
on their own or in combination with full noun phrases,
and the verb is in either the indicative or the subjunctive
mood, the clitics always precede the verb and are attached
phonologically to it, forming one phonological word.
(See Part I, Section 1.5.) In cases where both direct
and indirect object clitics are present, their order
is fixed; the indirect object (genitive case) clitic
precedes the direct object one (accusative case), as
in (2). In those rare cases where both objects are in
the accusative it is only possible to use the clitic
for the indirect object, and then only in combination
with a direct object in the form of a full noun phrase.
However, if the indirect object is in the plural it
is possible to replace both direct and indirect object
by their clitics because plural accusative clitics have
the same form as genitive plural clitics and thus the
combination is indistinguishable from the accepted pattern
of genitive+accusative. Another restriction on the combination
of clitic objects is that the direct object must be
of the 3rd person while the indirect object clitic may
be of the 1st, 2nd or 3rd person. This means that we
cannot have the combinations μου σε, σου με, μας σας,
μας σε, του με, τους σας etc.