diachronic explanation of 1st/2nd aorist

Ty tysbgreek at hotmail.com
Mon May 27 07:12:17 EDT 2002

It seems to me that this is a collision of linguistic schools.  They have
been described as "old Greek" and "Linguistic" at this point I believe.  I
would however tend toward following the linguistic discussions over this
matter and discuss the differences as differences between pro-scriptive and
pre-scriptive understandings of language and discussions of form versus
function. Proscriptive linguists appily rules to a language regardless of
its form while prescriptive linguists prefer to let the form (in this case
morphalogical) determine the rule set.

While I side with most modern linguists in the prescriptive camp the
question of whether form or function will determine our grammatical
understandings remains. Do you rely upon form or upon function to determine
the divisions between types of words.   To a certian extent the question is
already fixed, for instance if I were to start my study of B-Greek from
scratch, I might want to group the second aorist with the imperfect tense,
if form were my preferred criterion for determining how the language should
be studied (as it most often is) and in my final analysis I would state that
this distinct group of Imperfect words that had no Present form had a (to
use a term of this forum) punctilliar meaning.  My assertion would stand
scrutney, as far as form goes they are identical, and it would also get rid
of the question of which word is the lexical form of the aorist.  It would
mess the vocab cards up until you started to include the second aorists in
their "imperfect" forms. To tell you the truth it would make learning
vocabulary easier if they listed second aorists as well as presents in books
like Trenchard's Vcabulary and Metzger's Lexical Aids.  All this would add
up to getting rid of one more irregularity of the language and adding a few
vocab words that you need to memorize anyway.

Now, why wouldn't this work?  The current system is too well established to
change.  If a teacher decided to use this method his/her students would
learn the language just as well and the new paradigm shift (change in
understanding) might birth some advances in the field *but* I would expect
such a change to cause a gap between the wonderful scholarship that has
taken place to that point and this new brand of scholar essentially because
of a difference in terminology.

So what about the third aorist?  Well, I would include it because form
demands it but I would add the caution that this may not be as "easy" for
the established scholars in the field to swallow as the change from 8 to 5
cases --a change still not having complete acceptance, but also demanded by
form-- and I would also add that the community of scholars at large does
(and should) have the right to make the final decision on such matters, even
if they do not always choose the most logical route in our individual
estimations.  So when we write grammars, as some of us probably will, and as
we revise the grammars we have already written, we should make the change to
the Third Aorist and await the response.  I would love to see its
wide-spread accepance.

--Ty Frost

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