Verbal Aspect terms LONG?

Mark Wilson emory2oo2 at
Thu May 23 11:07:13 EDT 2002


I am trying to present more thoughtful definitions in this post. At least I 
trying to define how I try to use them. Since I am trying to get a more firm
grasp, please feel free to correct me where I am inconsistent.

Here are the terms that are critical in understanding Verbal Aspect,
if you ask me:

1. DC = Deictic Center (the reference point to which verbs relate)

2. Word = lexeme which has Lexical Aspect (Aspect the word inherently 

3. FORM (what the form conveys)
  3a. Tense   (WHEN the event took place) = Event Time = Aorist, Present, 
  3b. Aspect  (perfective or imperfective) = Conceptual Time = How event 
(This is Grammatical Aspect. You can also include stative aspect here, so 

4. Context (the larger literary unit... paragraph, chapter, etc)

5. Aktionsart (Lexical Aspect + Grammatical Aspect + Context = Affected 
  5a. Conative (Imperfect)
  5b. Historical (Present)
  5c. Once-for-all-(Aorist)
  5d. Ingressive (Aorist)
  5e. Gnomic (Present)
  5f. Iterative (Imperfect)
  5g. Imperatival (Future)
  5h. etc

This is not an exhaustive list. You can, as grammarians sometimes
do, create new categories/functions.

Briefly then:

1. DC = Deictic Center

The DC is often "the time of speaking/writing." Or the time that the author 
is writing about.

Example: "I ate lunch." The DC is "current/speaking time."
Hence, "I ate lunch PRIOR TO "now." Here the DC is understood
but not stated. But authors generally create DC within their
contexts. They might use an adverb; they might reference a place.
They might introduce a new character or setting, etc.

For example, the controversial passage in Matthew, where we
find something like, "this generation will not pass away
until after these things take place..."

First, you have to deternine the DC. WHEN is this referring to.

Here is something I am exploring:

If the author puts the DC in the Future, he can still use
an Aorist to convey an event PRIOR to the DC, which would be,
oddly enough, future to the time of writing/speaking.

This can become very tricky. Because an author/speaker can
put a DC pretty much anywhere on a temporal line. If no DC
is there, the verb is not making a temporal statement. (That is
why the famous "the grass withers" which is an Aorist is not
a Past/Prior-to-the-DC tense in THIS instance, because it is
NOT a temporal statement. There is no DC.)


Rev. 10:7


The mystery of God is here viewed as having run its course (it's
over, it's been revealed) PRIOR TO the sound of the trumpet.
The mystery has ceased by the time of the DC (sound of trumpet).

Wallace calls this a futuristic aorist, whereas Porter would
not see any temporal element at all in the aorist. For the
development of TIME, Porter puts much emphasis on deixis, how
the author creates the deictic center.

2. Word = lexeme which inherently has Lexical Aspect

Certain words have inherent properties which influence
the way they "unfold over time." The verb "stare" (durative) is different
than the verb "glance." (punctiliar) And how these verbs interact with the
particular FORMS they are coupled with makes a big difference.

3. FORM (what the form conveys)
  3a. Tense   (WHEN the event took place) = Event Time

This is WHEN the event took place in relation to the DC.
Aorist takes place PRIOR TO the DC, Present takes place
at the same time as the DC, and the Future takes place

  3b. Aspect  (perfective or imperfective) = Conceptual Time

Let's assume an event occurred over a 10 second time period.
We can then represent the event by a line (10 seconds in "length")as:


s = start of event
e = end of event

Imperfective forms might draw one's focus or attention
to the middle of the above line, whereas a perfective form
might draw our attention to the end. This becomes important
when dealing with the various kinds of verbs, such as Activities,
Accomplishments, Achievements, States. This is where I feel
I need to invest more time to understand how this fits into
Verbal Aspect.

Fanning says concerning syntax, that is, when you combine all factors, this:

“each part of a sentence has meaning only in mutual interaction with other 

This is partly why each syntactical unit behaves uniquely, and may be the 
why I tend to forget that an Aorist in one place may behave differently than 
SAME Aorist in another syntactical construct.

Example of Word plus FORM, the verb “stare”

STARE plus an imperfective form appears to be when the author
wants to focus attention on the event IN PROGRESS, as if he/she wants
to draw the reader into the internal happenings of the event, without
calling attention to the event’s beginning or end. This form is likened to
a motion picture.

STARE plus a perfective form (Aorist, for example) might portray the event
IN SUMMARY, as would a snap shot. Here it appears that the author is simply
calling attention to the fact that this event took place at some time.

The event is simply identified to the reader, and WHEN
the event took place. (There is no intent to draw attention to the 
of the event, as an imperfective would do.)

Aktionsart (Lexical Aspect + Grammatical Aspect + Context = affected 

This is where interpretation comes in. Here you have to consider a 
word, used with a particular form, in a particular context, to determine how

Okay, Harry, using the above definitions, what’s your question.


Mark Wilson

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