Word Order, Focus-CC (Contextualizing Constituent, Topic) Inversion, Enclitics in Greek

Word Order, Focus-CC (Contextualizing Constituent, Topic) Inversion, Enclitics in Greek

While reading Philemon this morning I noticed what might be considered an inversion of Focus–Contextualizing Constituent (aka Topic) in the pre-verb area. The default order with two marked items, a CC and Focus, is normally from more topical to more salient, that is, first a CC then a Focus, followed by core template orders.

Here is Philemon 15 (discussing the slave Onesimus’s relation to Philemon)
Τάχα γὰρ διὰ τοῦτο ἐχωρίσθη πρὸς ὥραν,
ἵνα αἰώνιον αὐτὸν ἀπέχῃς

“Perhaps for this reason he was separated for a short time,
in order that you might have him eternally”

The second clause is most naturally read with αἰώνιον ‘eternal’ as the focal, most salient information, cetainly more salient than the highly presupposed ‘him’. It answers the question set up by “on account of this” in the previous clause with the new important point. As a fronted constituent it should be read as a Focus constituent.

The following word αὐτόν would be possible to read as a marked CC (Topic), since Onesimus is the one being tracked and was the subject of the previous clause. However, for those very reasons it seems a waste of pragmatic energy to bother to mark αυτον as a CC. It seems insipid and looks like a typical pronominal attraction towards the front of a clause just like an enclitic μου or σου. This may be a good case of αὐτός being moved around like an enclitic, contrary to the inflexible accentuation rules, where αὐτός is written with an accent and does not generate a secondary accent as *αἰώνιόν αὐτον.

I think that we are looking at enclitic tracking of a primary participant without the marking of a Contextualizing Constituent (Topic). This would be a pragmatic demotion for αὐτόν, a quiet spot, to use my metaphor from Hebrew items placed between a verb and an explicit Subject. If ‘him’ is enclitically dragged forward, then the correct accentual reading in a live setting would probably be as surmised and adjusted above: αἰώνιόν αὐτον ἀπέχῃς.
(PS: note that the ‘enclitic reading’ gives a second accent to the Focal item, which provides an iconic phonological heightening to the marked item in front of the enclitic, which adds to the pragmatic effect or at least to pragmatic clarity. The opposite adjustment, retaining the natural accent on αὐτός and reading αὐτόν as a marked CC, would probably have engendered a live reading of αἰώνιον αὐτόν ἀπέχῃς, something I try to do when reading marked preverb ‘grave accents’ outloud. But the enclitic reading is preferable here.)

This allows me to resolve the incongruity of a Focus-CC order in this verse as a simple Focus order (plus enclitic), which is always nice to share with a cup of coffee and breakfast.

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