Mk 10:21

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Thu Aug 31 09:46:51 EDT 2000

Mike Sangrey wrote:

>I think a better hypothesis to postulate would be to show that when
>an author wants to CANCEL the foregrounding performed by the present,
>the author makes that explicit by using some mechanism.  That is, there
>are multiple features associated with a verb-form; one or more of these
>features may be canceled by higher level semantic or pragmatic elements.
>Mari Olsen did this with tense (right Rolf?--I haven't coughed up the
>$80 for her book <cough, cough>).  I don't have the insight needed to
>know what these elements might be, but it seems to me that this is a
>viable means to discovery.

Dear Mike,

I would turn the matter upside down, and say that one reason why aspects
are so little understood, is that all kinds of properties are ascribed to
them when they have none whatsoever! (A shocking statement for many, I
guess) The basic error, in my view, is that particular characteristics of
the clauses which  *often* are found in connection with one of the aspects,
are ascribed to that aspect itself, while these characteristics are
functions of the interplay of several factors, including the aspect.

We therefore need no mechanism to cancel "foregrounding", because this has
nothing at all to to with aspect. Another matter is that, because of
linguistic convention, the aspects tend to be used with particular
discourse functions. First when we have managed to free the aspects from
any linguistic characteristics (durative, punctiliar, foreground,
background, completed action, incomplete action etc), and accept them only
as viewpoints, then we can understand them. True, some of these
charateristics tend to be associated with one of the aspects, but they are
not part of the aspect, they are just made visible by or through the
aspect. The letters or sounds of a word have no intrinsic meaning, but they
signal a concept in the minds of people and can refer to a thing in the
world. These three should be kept strictly separated. The aspects can be
compared to letters/signs - completely without intrinsic meaning, but
highly effective in combination with other properties. (I speak of Greek
aspects; English aspects signal terminated/unterminated action).

Tense is also very simple, it has no linguistic characteristics except one:
it shows the relationship between the deictic point (often speech time) and
the time of the action.



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

More information about the B-Greek mailing list