iterative -SKO, -SKE

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sat May 4 06:41:19 EDT 2002

At 3:12 AM +0000 5/4/02, Mark Wilson wrote:
>I wrote:
>> >Literally, I could go on all day. So I simply must be misunderstanding
>> >you, or I am using the Interative aspect different than you use it.
>> >Or, maybe we are using the Perfective tenses differently.
>> >But as always, I remain open to correction by you. Where am I off?
>You replied:
>>From my perspective, you're seeing more in those verb-forms than I can see;
>>moreover, it seems to me that you're making it rather difficult to
>>distinguish the perfective from the imperfective aspect.
>I am NOT seeing the iterative (not interative.... sorry for the
>slip) in the verb-form. That was precisely my argument against
>Iver. What I am suggesting is that the iterative aspect is found
>equally in all tenses, because iterative is NOT related to the
>lexeme or its inflection per se. It is related to the context
>AND these other factors.
>The list I cited earlier was randomly selected by turning to
>the pages of the GNT. The iterative aspect "can be" found in
>all tenses and contexts. In fact, the only verbal component
>that logically can NOT denote iteration is the lexeme, contra
>The verb "to die" is not subject to iteration. The verb "to hit"
>quite naturally is.
>I realize you contend that the iterative aspect is more so
>denoted by the Imperfective forms, but that is exactly what
>needs to be shown, not presupposed. I think my few examples
>could be multiplied by the hundreds throughout the GNT.
>I did not see any grammatical or linguistic reasons for rejecting
>an iterative aspect EQUALLY present in the Perfective forms
>as the Imperfectives.
>Iteration is an interpreter's somewhat subjective understanding
>of a text. It really is next to impossible to argue for or against
>the positions we are "defending."
>With many of my examples you suggested that a Imperfective form
>would seem more appropriate, but that is exactly what I mean
>by we are beginning with opposite presuppositions.

That is pretty clearly the case, and I guess there's not much you can do to
help me to SEE why you've chosen to translate the texts in question as you
have. If "iteration is an interpreter's somewhat subjective understanding
of a text," then it looks to me like something that is "somewhat arbitrary"
rather than demonstrable. You say, "iterative is NOT related to the lexeme
or its inflection per se; it is related to the context AND these other
factors"; I'm still in the dark about what these factors are. I can
understand the instances that Manolis offered with adverbs indicating
iteration and I think I can understand what Rod Decker means when he says
that DEIXIS is a key feature for understanding nuances of aspect. But I
cannot yet figure out where you're coming from. Now, looking back at a
recent message, I see the following:

At 8:12 PM +0000 4/30/02, Mark Wilson wrote:
>You wrote:
>>Wallace {p. 562}
>>"But the aorist, under certain circumstances, may be used of an action that
>>in reality is iterative or customary."
>>Yeah, but . . .
>>Do you really think that the aorist form is what tells us that
>>happens iteratively? I don't think so. What sort of evidence can be brought
>>to bear to hang this semantic weight on the aorist?
>I think you have misunderstood Wallace. See his footnote on this.
>The interative aspect is not ascribed to the aorist tense itself.

Wallace's discussion of iterative aorists, so far as I can see, is confined
to the "Gnomic Aorist." That is where the note you've cited from p. 562,
and the footnote to the statement you cited above (p. 562, n. 24) reads:
"In this respect it [i.e. the gnomic aorist] is not very different from a
customary present, but is quite different from a customary imperfect. The
gnomic aorist is not used to describe an event that 'used to take place'
(as the imperfect does), but one that 'has taken place' over a long period
of time or, like the present, does take place."

So far as I can see, Wallace's discussion of an "iterative" Aorist usage is
confined to his account of the Gnomic Aorist. You seem to me to have
extended the usage to any instance of an aorist wherein it's possible
(though not necessary) to see recurrence of the action over a period of
time; while I quite agree that contextual factors and particularly
adverbial modifiers may indicate iteration with a finite aorist verb-form,
I remain at a loss to understand where you're coming from. You claim it's a
matter of what presuppositions one starts with; I have to think that if the
presuppositions are carefully articulated, they stand or fall on the
intelligibility of the explanations of phenomena which they support. Now it
may be the case that more than one explanation works intelligibly with a
set of data to be explained, in which case one's preference for one
explanation over another may be arbitrary. But I still don't find
convincing the explanations and translations you've offered for the aorist
verbs in the texts you've cited, e.g.,

>"Be repeatedly fulfilling my joy" would be as acceptable as
>"for now, fulfill my joy this one time."
>... is being revealed, is repeatedly being revealed to us,
>the mystery is not something one understands at one sitting...

nor do I think your last message makes these any more convincing. I would
really like to know why Paul has written PLHRWSATE rather than PLHROUTE,
EFANERWQH rather than FANEROUTAI: what's the significance of the choice of
the aorist over the present in these instances? Or is it an arbitrary
choice, based on presuppositions about the tenses that Paul and I don't

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months:: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

More information about the B-Greek mailing list