Mk 10:20 aspectology

CWestf5155 at CWestf5155 at
Tue Aug 29 15:36:51 EDT 2000

In a message dated 08/29/2000 12:30:31 PM Mountain Daylight Time, 
c.s.bartholomew at writes:

> In Mark 10:20 we read:
>  Now I would expect one of the latter-day proponents of aspectology to raise
>  the question why do see the form  EFULAXAMHN here? Is this question worth
>  exploring?  
>  The word group FULASSW, FULASSOMAI has semantic properties (see L&N below)
>  which override the morphological tense/aspect marking. I would conclude 
>  this that getting preoccupied with the tense/aspect marking of EFULAXAMHN 
>  this context is chasing phantoms. Looking for something that isn't there.
>  The primary contribution that EFULAXAMHN makes to this context is found in
>  the domain of lexical semantics, not tense/aspect marking.

I've broken through me bonds and gags temporarily.

This is funny, because this is exactly where aspect works.  The Aorist is 
used here because the speaker wishes to state a fact/event/state of affairs 
without any further dressing--"the user of Greek wishes to depict an action 
as a complete and undifferentiated process." (Porter, "Idioms of the Greek 
NT", p. 35).

I figured this out without the arrival of phantoms, without breaking a sweat, 
and well before my oatmeal finished cooking.

I think that going through all those traditional categories to find just the 
right label takes more time, and all the while I'd be fretting about why this 
looks like a contradiction of what I perceived to be the Aorist's meaning.  
And when I got it properly labelled, I would still be uncomfortable.

It works for me.

>  This leads me to one of my basic disagreements with Systemic Functional
>  Linguistics. The idea that every low level language feature is a matter of
>  "choice" and therefore represents some sort of authorial intent. I don't 
>  this at all. I think that a lot of low level language features (e.g.
>  tense/aspect) are simply conventions of a most mundane sort which tell us
>  little or nothing about what the author is saying. Getting preoccupied with
>  them is like standing in the Art Institute of Chicago with your nose three
>  inches from a Cezanne looking at the texture of the canvas. You aren't 
>  to make any sense out of cubism from three inches away.

Well, Systemic Linguistics doesn't think that everything is a choice.  The 
principle is: when there is no choice, there is no formal significance--no 
semantic load with the form.  And SL recognizes linguistic phenomena such as 
idioms and collocation--virtually no choice there.  However, when there is a 
choice, then in that case the choice has meaning (and I'll go on record to 
say this is true for lexis too, though lexis doesn't involve a system like 
the verbal system).

I think part of our problem is that aspect has assumed monstrous proportions 
way out of perspective with the role it plays.  Aspect is not the key to 
understanding Greek--it is one of many many things that convey meaning.  The 
clearer I get on it, the less I focus on it--it is only one of the diverse 
tools that I use when doing hermeneutics.  

Cindy Westfall
PhD Student, Roehampton

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