Part 5: Smaller Packages in Language: Sentences and Words
Such summaries may have more than one grammatical form. We can express
things in many diﬀerent ways (variation). But language does provide resources
for summarizing action even within a single sentence or a single clause. We can
then analyze the clauses using “case relations.”
周e word “case” is used to describe
the grammatical cases in Latin and Greek. But what we have in mind here is not
the grammar but the character of the action in the world. “周e hero rescued the
princess” has the same character roles and relations as does the grammatically
diﬀerent sentence, “周e princess was rescued by the hero.”
In this case there are three roles, normally designated agent, action, and pa-
周e agent is the personal, purposeful source initiating the action. In our
particular case, the agent is the hero. 周e action is the event itself, which in this
case is the rescue. 周e patient is the recipient whom the agent hopes to aﬀect by
the action. 周at is the princess.
周ere are also other case relations.
周e “experiencer” is an actor who receives
a perception. In the sentence “I saw the princess,” “I” is the “experiencer” and
the princess is the “source.” Note that in the sentence “the bu瑴er melted,” “the
bu瑴er” is actually the patient, even though grammatically it is the subject of the
sentence. “He melted the bu瑴er in the microwave” has an agent (“he”), a patient
(“the bu瑴er”), and a location (“in the microwave”). It also implies an instrument
(heat from the microwave). A simple story usually involves some central goal and
some personal purpose to achieve that goal. When a simple story is compressed
into a single clause, we most typically ﬁnd that an agent works out his plan of ac-
tion for a patient or for a goal. He does so through an action (or series of actions).
周e structure involves the unity of agent, action, and patient (or goal).
周e Dependence of Clauses on God
As we might expect, this level of action is imitative of divine action. It must be,
because man is made in the image of God. God works his big purposes, purposes
for the whole history of the world, through the action of a single person, the Lord
Jesus Christ. Human beings work their li瑴le purposes. God’s achievement does
8. Robert E. Longacre, 周e Grammar of Discourse (New York/London: Plenum, 1983), 20:
“I propose here that plot is the notional structure of narrative discourse in the same sense that
case relations are the notional structure of the clause.” By “notional” Longacre means conceptual
as opposed to syntactical structure.
9. 周e concept of action as a “role” is not typical. Many times “case roles” are assigned only
to the items that surround the action. But this is a ma瑴er of terminology.
10. Longacre (Grammar of Discourse, 154–167) oﬀers the following inventory of nuclear
cases: experiencer, patient, agent, range, measure, instrument, locative, source, goal, path. For
each he provides an explanatory deﬁnition. 周is inventory is a classiﬁer’s “outsider” inventory,
intended to be universal across languages. 周e insider within a particular language and culture
will have his own point of view.
5/14/09 4:46:37 PM