For a while I have been coming back to the theme of “arguments” and “adjuncts” in Greek verbs. This is different language than what Greek grammars use to teach the phenomenon (at least all the ones I have seen), so it may not be familiar. Put simply, and argument is a noun (or noun phrase) which is semantically required for a verb to be used appropriately. Arguments, in traditional terminology, are the subject, (direct) object, or indirect object. Almost all verbs have a subject, a 1st argument. Many verbs have an object, a 2nd argument. A few verbs also require an indirect object, a 3rd argument.

In Greek, the prototypical case for a 2nd argument is the accusative case. The vast majority of verbs which take a (direct) object take one in the accusative case:

  • Mark 2.22 καὶ οὐδεὶς βάλλει 2nd arg[οἶνον νέον] εἰς ἀσκοὺς παλαιούς “and no one puts new wine in old wineskins”
  • Luke 14.16 ἄνθρωπός τις ἐποίει 2nd arg [δεῖπνον μέγα] “A certain man was making a great feast”

There are, though, verbs whose second argument is either genitive or dative. Sometimes grammars call this second argument a “complement” or something similar, to distinguish it from the presumably more “normal” accusative case second argument. These instances may also be called a “dative” or “genitive (direct object).” While name distinctions can be helpful in remembering that certain verbs work with different cases, it also obscures that these different case nouns are fulfilling the same syntactic role in relation to the verb: second argument.

A good many verbs dealing with mental processes such as hearing and thinking take a genitive second argument, along with verbs of a few other classes of action, such as “filling”:

  • Mark 14:64 ἠκούσατε 2nd arg [τῆς βλασφημίας] “You heard the blasphemy”[1]

And then there are the verbs of current interest. This group of verbs all have a dative second argument.[2]

  • Mark 4:39 καὶ διεγερθεὶς ἐπετίμησεν 2nd arg [τῷ ἀνέμῳ] “And, having rishen, he rebuked the wind”
  • Mark 11:31 διὰ τί [οὖν] οὐκ ἐπιστεύσατε 2nd arg [αὐτῷ] “Why do you not believe him?”

The transitivity hypothesis

The hypothesis I am playing with is that verbs with a dative second argument are low in transitivity.

The claim: dative second argument verbs are low transitivity
The inverse does not follow: not all low transitivity verbs have a dative second argument

I speculate that low transitivity is a necessary but not sufficient feature for verbs to have a dative 2nd argument. This will require a good deal of looking through the data to check, although the fact that some dative second argument verbs are low in transitivity is obvious. As I look through the details, I will see if this is a feature which extends more widely through the entire set of dative second argument verbs.

Coming down the pipe

In short order, I will consider the concept of “low transitivity,” or more broadly “scaler transitivity” and then move on to looking at examples from NT verbs with a dative second argument. Stay tuned.

[1] Note that ἀκούω can also appear with an accusative second argument. Whether there is a distinction in meaning in Koine is a matter of dispute.

[2] Note that verbs with a non-accusative second argument commonly also take a prepositional phrase to fill the second argument. This is at least partially explained by the re-organizing of the case system which was under way through the Koine Greek period and beyond, resulting in Modern Greek which does not have a dative case at all.