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Randall Buth

Published On


Page Range

pp. 67–116


  • English

Print Length

50 pages

Functional Grammar and the Pragmatics of Information Structure for Biblical Languages

  • Randall Buth (author)
Chapter of: Linguistic Theory and the Biblical Text(pp. 67–116)
Functional grammars include pragmatic information within formal grammar. Information structure refers to how languages keep track of the topics and introductory material of a text, and how they pre-sent the salient main points of a text. There are differences between normal handling of topical material and special marking of topical material. Likewise, there are default ways of presenting the main points and specially marked ways. The Functional Grammar of Si-mon Dik is helpful in pointing out constituents that carry pragmatic marking through word order. This facilitates reading for meaning in the biblical languages so that readers may recognize special presentations of material in text. The linking of sentences together in a text with marked Topics, recognizing Focus constituents, some unit discontinuities in a text and some rhetorical features in a text can be described. Functional Grammar describes how audiences may perceive these features in various languages and process them rapidly. This adds both to the accuracy and enjoyment of listening to a text or reading it. Extensive application and illustration are provided in Hebrew with additional application to Greek. Modern readers of ancient languages, where normal processes of language internalization may not have taken place, may receive a special ben-efit from considering the interactions of Functional Grammar and information structure. Key Words: Topic; Focus; Functional Grammar; Word Order; He-brew; Greek


Randall Buth

Academic Provost at The Whole Word Institute

Randall Buth (PhD, University of California, Los Angeles, 1987) is academic provost at The Whole Word Institute in Jerusalem, where he runs programmes to train persons in the biblical languages through communicative language (immersion) pedagogies, particularly for persons involved in Bible translation in minority languages around the world. For twenty years, Buth worked in Bible translation projects with the Summer Institute of Linguistics and the United Bible Societies (1977–1996), until he began working on communicative language pedagogies for Hebrew and Greek, and in 2001 he founded the Biblical Language Center. His publications appear in the fields of Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Biblical Studies, Linguistics, and Language Pedagogy.