Present tense as a zero tense

SPegler919 at SPegler919 at
Mon Nov 1 12:19:03 EST 1999

In a message dated 10/31/99 11:01:34 PM Central Standard Time, 

<< In my opinion this is a fair instance of what Dale Wheeler was arguing a
 couple weeks ago: that the present tense may be a "default" tense when one
 is not concerned to sharpen the focus more definitely on the kind of action
 envisioned by the "tense" chosen.
 You should note, of course, that ERCHTAI must in any case refer to the
 future and is coordinated in time with the OYOMAI of the result clause in
 this instance--it's what I learned originally to call a "future more vivid
 condition" but what half a dozen NT Greek Grammarians seem to have half a
 dozen names for. Of course what name you call it doesn't alter its
 essential meaning as a conditional statement. >>  from Carl W. Conrad

<What I'd like to suggest is that the Present Tense really is a ZERO tense; 
it is neither linear or compressed or combined or anything.  All it tells us 
is that the action is being *portrayed* as occurring in a present time frame 
(in the indicative). Whatever "aspect" (technically, since its not in the 
tense its the Aktionsart, but I hope you get my meaning) any particular use 
of a verb in the present tense has comes first of all from the word's  
lexical meaning (lexis); viz., "to run" is inherently linear; "to hit" is 
inherently punctiliar; "to shut" is inherently a combined/climax; etc. (for 
this in detail see Fanning, Verbal Aspect).  Secondly, contextual factors are 
used to further indicate the ultimate Aktionsart in any given passage,  esp., 
when the author wishes to convey a different Aktionsart than the verb's 
Lexis; viz., in English to make the linear "to run" into a compressed 
Aktionsart we use the simple present "He runs" instead of the  progressive 
"He is running"; in Greek, since there is only ONE Present form, they must 
use other contextual clues to indicate a reversal to the Lexis, unless its 
prefectly obvious.>  From Dale Wheeler

First, apologies to the group for my posting a couple of weeks ago in 
response to the second paragraph above.  I had meant to add to the discussion 
in the hopes that Dale Wheeler would then respond to it in light of his view 
above.  This didn't happen, and my posting sounded rather arrogant.

If someone wishes to respond, I would like to ask:
How then are the aorist zero tense and the present zero tense different in 
meaning or force?
How would your understanding handle present forms which refer to the past, 
future or are in some way atemporal?
For me, one of the attractive features of Verbal Aspect theory (according to 
Porter, McKay, and Carson) is that all of the moods are treated the same way 
- aspect, not time.  Your understanding is that the indicative retains a 
present time force from the morphology.  (Is that a fair appraisal?)  A model 
that treats all the moods the same way is a neater model, scientifically 
speaking (which does not, true, make it necessarily correct unless there is 
other evidence that supports it).

Hope this sounds better,
Stephen Pegler
Bannockburn, IL

More information about the B-Greek mailing list