Hair-splitting for the Bald

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sun Jul 11 07:06:31 EDT 1999

At 11:58 PM -0400 7/10/99, Paul S. Dixon wrote:
>On Sat, 10 Jul 1999 17:04:32 -0400 "Carl W. Conrad"
><cwconrad at> writes:
>>I don't think that the ratios  of aorists to perfects and pluperfects
>>be that significant in themselves; I think analysis is required.
>>Already in
>>older antiquity the aorist is being used to indicate time prior to
>>point of reference in the past: there are aorists in classical
>>that really need to be translated as pluperfects in certain contexts.
>>think the case may be more difficult to demonstrate for present
>>than for pluperfects in relationship to aorists, BUT I think that in
>>particular text or group of texts one needs to analyze the usage in
>>aorists and pluperfects to see where an aorist might be PREFERRED to a
>>pluperfect. When I looked at the data on Genesis and Exodus given by
>>Christiansen, it appeared that more of the pluperfects in those books
>>of the standard type of OIDA, hESTHKA, and EIWQA even than in the GNT;
>>is to say, pluperfects seem to be more negligible in number in Genesis
>>Exodus even than in the GNT, and pluperfects are almost negligible in
>>GNT. I really do think the perfect tense forms need to be analyzed and
>>statistics compiled more carefully to ascertain relative usage of the
>>perfect in "resultative" and in "consummative" functions, after
>>out those verbs like OIDA, hESTHKA and EIWQA that have a "present"
>>For myself, at any rate, the ratios you're suggesting wouldn't have
>>probative value without a close look at how the tense-forms are
>>being used by the authors in question.
>Earlier you had said:
>>>>Yes; moreover, I think that this understanding of the way aorist and
>>>>pluperfect work in Koine (I can't really prove it, but I believe it)
>>>>explain the rarity of both the perfect and the pluperfect in Koine.
>>>>The aorist has effectively assumed their functions in narrative and
>>>>are used, when they are used, more fundamentally to emphasize that
>>>>existing result.
>If the perfect and pluperfect are rare in the Koine, and if the
>"aorist has effectively assumed their functions in narrative,"
>then one would certainly expect that such rarity would be
>evidenced by a comparison of the stats, regardless of the
>nuances of the perfect (which I don't think have any bearing
>upon the question).  If not, then what is the source of
>such suspicions?
>I am not disagreeing with your initial statement, just suggesting
>that it should be verifiable by such stats.

And I agree that the statistics are important, but you know very well,
Paul, that people can use statistics to argue for anything whatsoever. For
the statistics to be convincing to verify an assertion, it needs to be
ascertained that they really do refer to the kinds of information about
which the assertion is being made. If statistics can "lie," then we'd
better be absolutely clear about what the statistics are "saying."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at

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