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Dale Parker

Pragmatic Disruption: Functional Grammar and Formulae in the Iliad

I. Categories of Functional Grammar:

a) Topic: The Speaker (S) provides context for the Addressee (A). The Topic
considers, "What is the clause about?"
i. Example: The library is quiet
b) Focus: The Speaker (S) provides salient information for (A). The Focus considers,
"What new information about the Topic is provided?"
i. Example: The library is quiet.
c) Predicate: The relation between Topic and Predicate. (Often the verb).
i. Example: The library is quiet.
d) Tail: Any remaining words, typically in apposition to other constituents

II. Word Order in Greek according to Helma Dik1

P1 P0 V X

in which
P1 is the position for elements with the Topic function;
P0 is the Focus position immediately preceding the verb;
V is the default position for the verb (if the verb is assigned Topic
or Focus function, it will go to the position appropriate for that
pragmatic function, viz. P1 or P0);
X is the position for remaining elements. [Sometimes called the

1 Copied from H. Dik 1995: 12.

III. Il. 2.402 and Mark Edward's Analysis:

, (Il. 2.402)
But he sacrificed a bull, lord of men Agamemnon did,
Fat, five years old, to the supermighty son of Kronos.2

Edwards: Agamemnon is already in our minds (i.e., he is the Topic),

since he has been speaking in the assembly, and so , he, serves to
refer to him and stands firstthe conventional name-epithet formula
, Lord Agamemnon, is what in Functional
Grammar is called the Tail.3

IV. My proposals for analyzing the pragmatics of Homeric lines:

a) Regardless of its position in a clause, the constituent that conveys what the
Speaker considers the most salient information to the Addressee is the Focus.
b) In most instances (and given how formulaic Homer is, this is the real
achievement), Homer will still follow standard word-order.
c) Before we can claim that a clause violates expected word order, we must first
examine whether a literary device (e.g. chiasmus) is causing the disruption.
d) The formulae can upset the pragmatic word-order account provided by Helma Dik,
but in a very controlled waythe formula will only disrupt the position of the
word that is formulaic. For example, in (Focus) (Predicate)
(Topic) (Il. 2.402), is still in Focal, pre-verbal
position, in front of the Predicate ; the Topic has
just been moved to line-final position.
e) Homer will rely on certain techniques to alert the listener that a certain constituent
is the Focus. These can be considered "Focal Markers." I don't have time to
elaborate these, but I have found these markers to be certain particles, hyperbaton,
and techniques with caesura and enjambment.

All translations mine unless otherwise noted.

Edwards 2004: 12.

V. Case Study: The Pragmatics of

. (Il. 2.623-624)

Polyxeinus the godlike led those who were fourth,

The son of king Agasthenes son of Augeias

Notes: In context, Polyxeinos is clearly the Focus. The passage is from the catalogue of
ships, and describes who led what. Here it follows the Predicate , so it is in the
wrong position.

. (Il. 2.862-863)

Phorcus led the Phrygians, and Ascanius the godlike

From afar, from Ascania

Notes: Ascanius is the Tail, in correct position.


3) ,


They when they were near going against each other

It was Alexander the godlike who led the Trojans,
Having a leopard skin on his shoulders and bent bows

Notes: Alexander is the Focus, but follows the Predicate .



Thus did Menelaus rejoice, looking at Alexander the godlike

with his eyes; for he said that he was going to chastise the criminal

Notes: Alexander precedes the complex Predicate , and is the Focus of

the clause that that participle introduces.

, , 3.30-31

But him, when Alexander the godlike recognized
Him appearing amidst the champions, he was terrified in his dear heart

Notes: In context Alexander is the Topic, and is the Focus.


. 3.36-37

Thus again into the crowd of lordly Trojans he sank,

Fearing the son of Atreus, Alexander godlike.

Notes: Alexander is the Tail.


. 3.449-450

The son of Atreus wandered up the throng like a wild animal,

If anywhere he might have caught sight of Alexander godlike

Notes: seems to be more salient than in this line, and

so the latter may be Remainder.

, (6.290)
Within were those robes, the multi-colored works of women
From Sidon, whom Alexander godlike himself
Brought from Sidon, having sailed the broad sea

Notes: Alexander is Focal, and precedes the Predicate .


, (11.581)

But when him did Alexander godlike perceive,

Taking off the armor of Apisaonos, forthwith his bow

Notes: The Topic is Alexander, the Predicate is .


10) ,


The others Paris led, and Alcathous and Agenor,

But the third did Helenus and Diophobus godlike lead,
Two sons of Priam, and the third was the hero Asius.

Notes: Match


With them Chromius and Aretus the godlike at the same time
Both went; their spirit was full of exceeding hope.
Notes: Match

, (Il. 17.533-534)

To them they gave way because they were very much afraid,
Hector and Aeneas and Chromius the godlike did

Notes: is Topical, but follows the other


13) ,
. (Il. 19.326-327)

Or him who in Scyrus is reared for me, my dear son,

If somehow he is still alive, Neoptolemus the godlike

Notes: is Remainder.

14) (24.483)
Thus was Achilles amazed, when he looked at Priam the godlike

Notes: Priam has more salience than , and so ought to precede it.

15) , (24.763)

Notes: Alexander is the Focus, but follows the Predicate.


We see here that in 7/15 uses of the epithet , the word-order does not follow the

expectations of Functional Grammar. In all the incorrect usages, modified a noun that

was either a Topic or a Focus, pragmatic constituents that usually are clause-initial or very close

to clause-initial position. As might be expected, if must, by formulaic necessity, be line-

final, pragmatic concerns can only with difficulty be reconciled to metrical concerns. If the

constituent modified by is either Topical or Focal, and is in the correct position in the

clause, this must be accounted for by extraordinary metrical devices, such as enjambment, as in

examples 4, 8, and 11 above.

VI. LAMENT 6: Andromache for Hector 22.477-514

(Underlined = Focus)

(Bold = Misplaced constituent, which cannot be attributed to literary devices, in the clause.)

, ,

, 480

: .

, 4

: ,

: 485

, .5

: .7

: 490

, ,8


, :

10 :

This line illustrates one of the central points of Dik (2007), that it is chiefly the position of a
word in a clause, and not the line, that renders salience. , here in enjambment, has almost
no salienceit could reasonably be predicted. More interesting in this line is the caesura before
; the effect is what Dik identifies as "hesitation of horrendousness."
It would appear that the Focal constituent ought to go after the Topic ; but this clause
is in chiasmus with the line above.
as Remainder ought to follow the Predicate ; but in 51/53 occurrences of
in Homer it is line-final. The caesura before creates the effect of
"hesitation of horribleness."
The Focus violates the expectations of standard Greek word order, as the Focus ought
to precede the Predicate constituent--in this case, . However, the lemma
occurs in line-final position 38/44 times in Homer, and the form 5/5 times. Therefore
the position of here may be determined by a formulaic expression, rather than by
Chiasmus disrupts the normal pragmatics of the second clause.
The Focus violates the expectations of standard Greek word order, as the Focus ought
to precede the Predicate and Remainder constituentsin this case, and . However,
occurs in line-final position 68/70 times in Homer. Therefore the position of
here may be determined by a formulaic expression, rather than by pragmatics.

, . 495

: .


, 500

, ,


, :


13 ,

: 510

The hyperbaton of is a Focal marker, and this also explains the misplaced ,
part of the Topic.
breaks standard word order. There is no appeal to formulaic tradition, as
occurs four times in Homer, twice not at a line-end. Rather, this line is an imitation of
22.492, where word order is determined by a formulaic expression, rather than by pragmatics.
The Focus violates the expectations of standard Greek word order, as the
Focus ought to precede the Topic and Predicate constituents--in this case, and .
However, occurs in line-final position 3/3 times in the Iliad. Therefore the
position of here may be determined by a formulaic expression, rather than by
The enjambment reinforces the punch of the shocking element , an example of
hesitation of horrendousness.


, ,


Hector, I am wretched! We were born to the very same fate,

Both of us, you at Priams house in Troy,
But I under wooded Placus at Thebes,
In the house of Eetion, who when I was a little girl raised me,
An ill-fated man for a doomed girl; would that he had not been born.
But now in the depths of the land to the house of Hades
You go, but you leave me in hateful grief,
A widow in the halls; the child similarly is still young,
Whom you and I, ill-fated, bore; you are not
any benefit for him while dead, Hector, nor he for you.
For even if he escapes this much-wept war of the Achaeans,
From now on, for him there will always be toil and vexation.
For there will be others who take away his lands.
The orphan-making day makes him a friendless child,
In everything hell bow his head, his cheeks will tear up,
In sore need the child will go to the friends of his father,
Plucking one guys tunic, another guys shirt,
One of the pitying friends stretches out a cup,
And he moistens his lips, but doesnt moisten his palate.
And a kid with both parents strikes him from the feast,
Hitting with his hands and reproaching with insults,
Get lost, your father doesnt eat with us!
Tearful the child goes to his widowed mother,
Astyanax does, who beforehand on his fathers lap
Ate only marrow and sheeps rich fat.
But when sleep came and he stopped playing,
He ate in his bed in the arms of his nurse,
On a soft couch, his heart filled with happy thoughts,
But now, having lost his dear father, he might suffer much,
Astyanax might, as the Trojans have made his nickname,

For he defended their gates and big walls all alone,
But now, around the beaked ships and far from your parents
You will be eaten by swift maggots, when the dogs shall have sated themselves
On you, naked. But your clothes lie in the halls,
Fine and graceful clothes made by the hands of women,
But on a blazing fire Ill get these clothes and burn them up!
Its of no benefit to you, since you do not lie in them,
But there is glory among the Trojan men and women.

Lines that break pragmatic expectations of word order, which cannot be explained by a literary

device such as chiasmus, hyperbaton, etc.: 5

Violations that can be accounted for by formulae: 5