LONG Re: Perfective, Imperfective, and Iterative

Mark Wilson emory2oo2 at hotmail.com
Thu May 9 14:36:05 EDT 2002

I have a few observations.

>>>3) Jill has knocked at the door for five minutes.

This is grammatically awkward, if not incorrect. "Has knocked"
coupled with "for five minutes" really bears no meaning. One might
say, "Jill has been knocking..." Or, Jill had knocked for over five..."
Compare: Jill has run in the street for five minutes.

Grammatically, "Jill ran..." or "Jill had run..." are acceptable,
but not "has run.... for five minutes." (You could modify it slightly
by, "Jill has been running...for five minutes.)

And for Greek, putting "to knock" in the Imperfective would still
leave the event as Perfective, even if Iterative or Continuous.


>The Actionsart that is semantic can never change, the Aktionsart that
>is pragmatic and stativity can change. The verb "sing", for instance,
>is marked for durativity and dynamicity, and regardless of whether it
>is expressed by the imperfective or perfective aspect, by past or
>future tense, or by an infinitive,and regardless of which mood is
>used, "sing" will always remain durative and dynamic. And similarly
>with the phrasal verbs "bow down", "crop up", and "run away", they
>can never cease to be telic.

With +telic verbs, the Imperfective form indicates that the reference
time occurs before the event concludes. The Perfective form focuses the
reader's attention at the end.


>>  >If aspect is a function of reference time and event time, i.e. the
>>  >intersection of event time by reference time, aspect always looks at
>>  >something (makes visible) from the outside.

Lexical Aspect only deals with the procedural traits of the lexeme.
This question deals with Grammatical Aspect. And I would describe
the event when portrayed by an Imperfective as IN PROGRESS, such as
the author is attempting to place you right in the middle of the
activity. The Perfective is used when the author does not want to
draw you into the action but pull you away from it, so that you can,
as Rolf said, stand back and see the whole thing. I think Wallace
and Porter use the parade analogy (with which you are familiar).

Finally, and most important:

>Both tense and aspect are concerned with time,thogh in different
>ways; tense is concerned with external time and aspect with internal
>time. In order to understand the difference between tense and aspect,
>we need to understand the nature of three different kinds of time,how
>these interact,  and the nature of what is called the "deictic
>point". Group three consists of two subgroups, the first having one
>member, "deictic time", which is real time, the second having two
>memebers, "event time", which is real time, and "reference time",
>which is conceptual time. Tense is a function of the relationship
>between reference time and the deictic point whereas aspect is a
>function of the relationship between event time and reference time.

I want to draw attention to this since this is where Olsen faults
Porter and may be an interesting thread itself.

Let me use this crude time line for my brief statement below:

Event time: ... __________________ r _____________ d ____________...

r = reference time
d = deitic center (deitic time per Rolf)

The following is true for temporal propositions:

The Aorist is called a past tense, and Porter attempts to cite
Aorists were the r is future, as if that would cancel the Aorist's
past temporal nature. And if he cancels it, the Aorist is only
sometimes past, and other times present and future.

Now, here is where I leave Olsen, who also does not define the
Aorist as a Past Tense, but does contend that the Greek verbal
system is temporal in nature (contra Porter).

A future r with the Aorist should not be considered unusual,
but expected. Why?
Because even if the r is future to the time of speaking or writing,
it will always be PAST with reference to the d.

Again, this only refers to temporal statements, not all propositions.
For example, "the grass withers..." is not a temporal statement.
But, "Jill ran..." is a temporal statement.

To my satisfaction, I was able to go through all Aorists that Porter
lists in his book on Verbal Aspect as being NOT PAST referring, and
conclude that the r always began before the d.

Mark Wilson

MSN Photos is the easiest way to share and print your photos: 

More information about the B-Greek mailing list