Word order

Greek shows great freedom in its word order. Nevertheless some rules or tendencies may be noted. It is difficult to speak about word order in archaic Greek because of the great difference between the two main groups of texts of this period: Linear B consists only of administrative documents, some of which are written almost asyntactically (e.g., as lists), and the Homeric poems are composed in a very elaborated and artificial language.

The first place in a sentence is tonic, and the second position is the place for unstressed words, including numerous sentence particles and some coordinating conjunc?tions. The first place is the most prominent from a discourse point of view, and the choice of the first item of a sentence is often related to information structure. It is also the place of interrogatives, demonstratives, negations, and also of some non-enclitic coordinating conjunctions like kai ‘and’ or alla ‘but’. In the latter instances, the conjunctions may be considered extra-sentential, and the information structure of the sentence begins with the second position element.

The order determiner determined (e.g. adjective + noun) is unmarked and hence nonexpressive. But a determiner can also be postposed, and sometimes the two are widely separated. In Linear B, adjectives tend to precede the noun, but this is often obscured by the fact that when items are being listed the noun naturally takes precedence (Ventris and Chadwick [1956] 1973: 90).

An adverb generally precedes the verb it modifies and subordinating conjunctions (with the frequent exception of relatives) occur at the beginning of the clause. The verb has no fixed place, but in Linear B the most frequent order is subject - verb - object. However, the introductory word o-/jo- (‘what?’) is usually followed immediately by a verb (to which it is joined in the script). For instance: KN Ta 711 o-wi-de ... ‘what has seen ...’.

Demonstratives are placed either before or after the noun they determine, from which they may be separated. Normally no article accompanies the three true demonstratives (cf. 2.3 above) in Homer (there are only three exceptions to this, all involving the structures art. + noun + dem. / dem. + art. + noun, which become exceeding common later). In Classical Greek, the article does not precede the demonstrative, but ho autos means ‘the same’ as opposed to autos alone which means ‘(by) himself’. In Homer these two senses exist without an article (ho autos ‘the same’ is very rare).

“Proper prepositions” are normally followed by their object (preposition + noun). In prose, peri sometimes appears post-nominally with a shift in accent (peri). In poetry the same phenomenon occurs also with epi, meta, and hupo, again entailing accent shift. If the prepositional phrase involves also an adjective, the preposition can appear in the centre of the group (adj. - prep. - noun).

The relative position of subordinate clauses and main clauses is in general not fixed, although certain tendencies may be observed. Often, a conditional protasis precedes the apodosis, and a temporal clause indicating anterior facts or an absolute participial appear before the main verb. On the other hand, completives, temporal clauses that indicate posterior facts, finals, and consecutive clauses follow the main clause (Crespo, Conti, and Marquieira 2003: 365-370), producing a chronological ordering of clauses.

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