Perfective, Imperfective, and Iterative

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Fri May 24 02:03:41 EDT 2002

Dear Ward,

It is difficult to communicate when the parties use the same term in 
different senses, or different terms in the same sense. I am 
definitely against an inflation of terms where new terms constantly 
are invented.

The reason why I have taken issue with the terms used by Moulton, is 
that these terms have a different application in modern linguistics, 
i.e. durativity and punctiliarity are Aktionsart terms, so it will 
just create confusion to apply them to aspect. This is a situation 
where the same term is used in two different senses, one by old Greek 
grammarians, and one by modern linguists. Therefore we have to 
abandon one of them.

Please consider the examples below:

(1) John 20:4 Both were running (TRECW imperfect)

(2) John 20:2 She ran (TRECW present)

(3) Mark 5:6 He ran (TRECW aorist)

(4) 1 Corinthians 9:24 the runners (TRECW present participle) in a 
race all run (TRECW present)

Something is durative when it has duration, when it is ongoing. The 
verb TRECW is "born" durative; it can never cease to be durative. So 
how can we say that the verbs in (1), (2) and (4) have a durative 
aspect while (3) has a punctiliar aspect? Can aspect make verbs more 
or less durative when durativity is a semantc (uncancellable) 
property of a verb?

Please also consider the examples below:

(5) John 3:16 God loved the world (AGAPAW aorist)

(6) John 20:15 Do you love (AGAPAW present) me

(7) 1 John 4.10 that we have loved (AGAPAW perfect) God

(8) John 14:23 the Father will love (AGAPAW) him

(9) John 11:4 Jesus loved (AGAPAW imperfect) Martha

States are by definition durative situations that continues without 
any input of energy. The state "to love" is by definition durative 
and can never cease to be so. How then can we rightly say that (6) 
and (9) have a durative aspect but not (5) and (7) which are 
punctiliar? And another question: Did the state og God's loving the 
world (5) cease sometimes in the past or does it still hold? And did 
Jesus' love for Martha and her family cease the day when the words 
were uttered or did it continue?

Today when linguistics has progressed immensely compared with the 
days of Moulton, the terms "durative" and "punctiliar" are no longer 
satisfactory as descriptions of aspects. Each student should not coin 
his or her own terms, but we should not object to the use of terms 
that have a fundamental an uniform meaning inside linguistics. It 
will be an advantage of all students of Greek to learn such terms 
rather than to be misled by the obsolete terms of the old grammars.

The following terms are fundamental and uniform, and are, in my view; 
the best to describe the difference between Aktionsart and aspect:


The term REFERENCE TIME can have a somewhat different definition 
(e.g. Comrie and Reichenbach versus Broman Olsen), but the term is 
very important, and to come to grips with it is well worth the 



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>Dear b-greekers,
>At 04:33 PM 020521 -0400, Harry W. Jones wrote:
>>Dear Mark,
>>I was hoping that you could explain your hypothesis in terms that
>>I could understand. For example, my Greek grammar book defines 
>>Aktionsart as Durative, Punctiliar and State of completion.
>Contributors to the list are using a wide variety of terms as we 
>attempt to come to grips with some of these issues. It is becoming 
>common to find references in contributions to Perfective, 
>Imperfective, Iterative, etc., which represent a pretty complete 
>change to the previously more customary (and uniform) terminology. I 
>have to look carefully at context to be able to hazard a guess at 
>what is being meant at times.
>When it comes to this use of terminology, I am inevitably reminded 
>of a precedent in Judges 17:6, 21:25: Everyone did what was right in 
>his own eyes.
>Moulton in Vol. 1 of his "Grammar", p.109, advocates the terms 
>"durative" and "punctiliar" for the aspect of the present/imperfect 
>and aorist tenses respectively, and these terms, along with 
>"perfective" (for the aspect of the perfect and pluperfect tenses) 
>are the ones used in my copy of Blass-Debrunner-Funk ("A Greek 
>Grammar of the N.T."), p.166.
>I consider that these other "new" alternative terms (as in the 
>heading of this thread) are confusing rather than helpful.
>Rev Dr B. Ward Powers        Phone (International): 61-2-8714-7255
>259A Trafalgar Street          Phone (Australia): (02) 8714-7255
>PETERSHAM  NSW  2049      email: bwpowers at
>AUSTRALIA.                         Director, Tyndale College

More information about the B-Greek mailing list