These two positions don't even seem close

CWestf5155 at CWestf5155 at
Mon Aug 28 01:55:03 EDT 2000

In a message dated 08/27/2000 2:02:14 PM Mountain Daylight Time, 
emory2002 at writes:

 I realize, to some extent, the agreement with Wallace and Porter regarding 
 Aktionsart. My interest is with Tense only. Regarding the Aorist Tense, 
 Wallace says:
 "In the indicative, the aorist usually indicates past time with reference to 
 time of speaking... There are exceptions to this general rule, of course, 
 but they are due to intrusions from other linguistic features vying for 
 control." (GGBB pg.555)
 I take this to mean that the Aorist Tense is a Past Tense, according to 
 Wallace, and that the past tense meaning of the Aorist can be suppressed, 
 but only by outside influences. Porter, as best I can tell, does not hold to 
 a "past tense" meaning to the Aorist Indicative.
 Earlier Wallace says:
 "There are occasions when time is not involved in the indicative. This is 
 due to other phenomena... But in their unaffected meaning, the tenses in the 
 indicative mood include a temporal marker."
 I believe Porter's Verbal Aspect takes exception to this statement. Again, I 
 am not referring to Aktionsart, only inherent TEMPORAL meaning.
 Wallace has a section called: An Assessment of Time in the Verb Tenses.
 In this section, it seems obvious to me that Wallace and Porter hold to 
 mutually exclusive positions. To the extent that Wallace states:
 "The nontemporal view (of Porter ??) does not easily handle the issue of 
 redundancy of tenses, nor the fact that two tenses disappear outside the 
 Far be it from me to question Wayne, but I can not believe I have completely 
 missed Wallace's disagreement with Porter regarding Tense.
 Please straighten me out. As you can see, I sometimes get a little impatient 
   *<[:O )---


I believe that you are on track in your analysis.  I know for a fact that 
Wallace and Porter are well aware of their differences. 

Maybe it will help to tell you a little background.  Porter's position is 
related to an application of studies on aspect and in the field of 
linguistics and particularly systemic linguistics (and, by the way, aspect is 
also an issue in the study of English).   

Wallace is more heavily influenced by B.M. Fanning, who was his professor at 
Dallas Seminary (Wallace dedicated Beyond the Basics to Fanning and H.A. 
Sturz, who was his Greek professor at Biola).  At about the same time (almost 
to the day) that Porter published "Verbal Aspect", Fanning published 
"Approaches to Verbal Aspect in NT Greek" (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 
where he combined linguistic theories on aspect with Greek theories on 
Aktionsart.  He and Porter had a kind of show-down at an SBL conference (I 
think) called the Porter/Fanning Debate and their papers are published in 
"Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current 
Research", JSNT 80, ed. by Porter & Carson, Sheffield: Sheffield, 1993.

Simply put, in Porter's view, since the aorist is for past, present and 
future action, it is a non-sequitor to say that 'past' is its minimal 
semantic value.  Rather, other indicators in the context supply the semantic 
meaning of tense, and the so-called tenses are really aspects--that the use 
of a tense-form conveys the writer's chosen perspective on a given action, 
such as whether he/she intends the action to be background information, 
story-line (foreground), or prominent/emphatic (frontground). Similary, the 
very same action can be conveyed in the aorist, imperfect and perfect, so the 
kind of action would not be a minimal semantic value of the tense-form, but 
rather conveyed in lexis and context.

Fanning & Wallace with their combination of Aktionsart and Aspect have 
multiple categories for each tense, such as Instantaneous Present 
(Aoristic/Punctilliar Present (!)), Progressive Present, Extending-from Past 
Present, Iterative Present, Costumary Present, Gnomic Present, Historical 
Present, Perfective Present, Conative Present, Futuristic Present and Present 
Retained in Indirect Discourse.  

The multiple categories are familiar, because this is more or less insights 
on the aspect discussions in linguistic studies that are incorporated into 
(or transposed on) traditional discussions on tense.

Some issues that I have with Wallace/Fanning can be illustrated with just one 
example: the Gnomic.  Wallace lists the Gnomic as a category for the Present, 
Imperfect, Aorist, Future and Perfect.  The question is: why did a natural 
language user select or prefer any one of these tenses for the Gnomic in a 
given situation, or indeed, why would the language convey the Gnomic in all 
tenses.  All they have done is describe the fact that all of these tenses 
appear in gnomic semantic contexts.

Well, anyway, you're right that there are differences and they are on record!

Cindy Westfall
PhD Student, Roehampton

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