Aorist vs Present

Randall Buth ButhFam at
Fri Sep 14 09:22:07 EDT 2001


Perhaps we can clear something up

>>George Athas wrote...
>> I've always understood the Present infinitive to
>> refer to continuous action, 

Alan B. Thomas egrapsen:
>I was taught this also, but have since settled
>on the temporal notion..."in progress."
>The reason for abandoning "continuous" is that
>it implies "extending or prolonged without 

>interruption." (Webster)

So far so good. I like 'IN PROGRESS' as a good generic term for what is 
sometimes termed IMPERFECTIVE, CONTINUATIVE infinitive. 

However, Alan continues:
>I really
>only see in any Present Tense the temporal notion
>that the action described is "then in progress." The
>"then" would relate, using Linguistic terms, to
>the deictic center, whether the time of speaking
>or some other contextual developed temporal center.
>(E.g., the Historical Present is simply an event
>portrayed as "in progress" during some temporal
>center that is in the "past." This "floating deictic
>center" gives the appearance of changing the 
>temporal nature of the Present into a Historical
>Present. What actually changes is the deictic
>center itself, creating this illusion.)

At this point Alan may potentially confuse things for students, 
by switching the discussion away from the infinitive, 
where Greek is obliged to mark aspect (excepting the future 
infinitive which is neutral to aspect), 
into the indicative [nb: "Historical Present"], 
where temporal reference to the refential world is included. 
Yes, a Historical Present has changed its TEMPORAL deictic center. 
But that is not what happens with an infinitive, which has no temporal 
reference to override or change. (As stated many times in print and on 
the list, the name "present infinitive" is based on morhpology not 
semantics. Present TENSE-indicatives have the same 
morphological stem as imperfective/IN-PROGRESS infinitives, 
subjunctives and imperatives.) 

(The indicative [e.g. LAMBA'NEI, ELA'MBANEN, E'LABEN] includes a 
temporal dimension in its referential world. I wouldn't think that we need 
another discussion on the list -- but it should at least be pointed out 
to students less than advanced level that a majority of Greek scholars do 
not consider the "atemporal indicative theory" to be a viable theory. They 
are appreciative of Porter's scholarship and focus on aspect, but reject
acceptance of its absoluteness.)

Randall Buth

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