Lexicon Valley, Sarah Palin, & the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament

Huh? What could all these have in common? In a not so recent podcast, Lexicon Valley talked about Sarah Palin's use of demonstrative pronouns. It's a fun listen, so definitely check it out for yourself, but here's the blurb they give online:

This, that, these, and those—the so-called demonstrative pronouns in English—seem innocent enough. They’re most commonly used to indicate a particular object or person in the physical world, as opposed to some other, perhaps similar, object or person. What car? That car. Which guy? This guy. But demonstrative pronouns can operate more subtly too. Ever notice that Sarah Palin uses a heck of a lot of them? What could possibly be behind all those thises and thats? Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo explain.

Bob and Mike go on to explain how Palin uses what they call an affective use of demonstratives. This is where a speaker exploits the rhetorical potential of a demonstrative by using them in such a way that "both presumes, and, when welcome, reinforces a sense of shared perspective between interlocutors" (Acton and Potts 2014:26). Here's an example:

… so in 2012, if God were to, you know, open that door and give me a shout-out, then I wouldn’t blink! (Acton and Potts 2014:23)

The whole podcast is fascinating and full of other fun pop-culture uses, along with a healthy dose of references to recent and old studies on this very topic. But where does the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament come into all this? Good question.


In short, this resource tags this type of data too. Though it doesn't use this terminology (i.e., affective demonstratives), a similar use of demonstratives is tagged that occurs in both Hebrew and Greek. We call them Near and Far Demonstratives. In essence, these forms do more than point to an active participant or entity in a story, they help regulate the importance of the entity to the unfolding narrative or argument—pushing or pulling the entity into focus.

In this instance, the person who has seen, testified, and speaks the truth is referred to as "that person" (ἐκεῖνος). This is what we call a Far Demonstrative use. It serves the dual purpose of referring to a known entity while at the same time dials down this character's relative saliency to the unfolding discourse. And here, we see that by figuratively distancing this character, the reader is unknowingly prepped to process the heightened attention directed at them through the phrase "you also" or "you too" (καὶ ὑμεῖς). The guy who saw it affirms it. It's true. And that guy knows it—so YOU TOO can trust!

In the end, like Palin, the New Testament and Old Testament authors had their fair share of Palinesque uses of demonstrative pronouns—or perhaps it was the ancient writers who did the inspiring. ;) Whatever the case, the Lexham Discourse Greek NT and Hebrew Bible can help you find those uses, and enjoy the way the authors exploited these little demonstratives to do much more than point to this or that.