[B-Greek] Questions about verbal aspect.

LuisCReyes at aol.com LuisCReyes at aol.com
Thu Jul 5 16:09:29 EDT 2007

There is a notion that I have often encountered  when reading literature on 
NT verbal aspect. This notion has bothered me because  I think that it is 
misleading. However, I want to make sure that I understand  what some writers are 
saying pertaining to verbal aspect. The idea (as I  understand it) has to do 
with the general notion that a “speaker’s viewpoint” can be decoded from  the 
linguistic form of verbal morphology. 
For instance, Porter writes, “In Greek,  verbal aspect is defined as a 
semantic (meaning) category by which a speaker or  writer gramaticalizes (i.e. 
represents a meaning by a choice of a word-form) a perspective on an action by the  
selection of a particular tense-form in the verbal system” (Porter, Idioms, 
20-21, emphasis mine).  Elsewhere Porter elaborates about this “perspective of 
an action” to mean “the author’s reasoned subjective choice of  conception of 
a process” (Porter,  Verbal Aspect, p. 88, emphasis mine. I leave out for now 
the issue of  “reasoned subjective choice”). Fanning also understands NT 
Greek verbal aspect  in a similar manner. He writes that verbal aspect, “. . . is 
that category in  the grammar of the verb which reflects the focus or 
viewpoint of the speaker in  regard to the action or condition which the verb 
describes. . .To be more  specific, aspect is concerned with the  speaker’s viewpoint 
concerning the action . . .” (Fanning, Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek, 
p.  84-85, emphasis mine). According to McKay, aspect in NT Greek, “is that 
category  of the verb system by means of which an  author (or speaker) shows how 
he views each event or activity he mentions in  relation to its context” 
(McKay, Greek Grammar, p. 44). This is a notion  that seems to be accepted by 
other NT scholars. 
The problem that I see is that such ideologies  apparently presuppose and 
assume that there is a necessary connection  between perceived aspectual nuances 
decoded from linguistic verbal  morphology, and the speaker’s actual mental 
conceptualization of a viewpoint or  event. Is anyone aware of any 
psycholinguistic studies or experimental  research that can support such a view? Is this in 
fact what these writers  believe about verbal aspect, or have I misunderstood 
It appears to me that people are under the  impression that one can extract 
the “speaker’s viewpoint” from verbal  morphology. I think that instead of 
referring to notions that speak about  decoding “a speaker’s viewpoint” from 
linguistic verbal morphology (which  should actually be categorized in the realm 
of pragmatics), perhaps it is more  appropriate to say that linguistic verbal  
aspect conveys a semantic viewpoint (not necessarily the speaker’s viewpoint) 
 that may be recovered from the language that the speaker used. From my  
understanding, it is one thing to distinguish between what the speaker’s  
linguistic morphology says (semantics), and quite another thing to attempt to  obtain 
a resemblance with what the speaker actually means, or conceptually  thinks 
pertaining to a particular viewpoint (pragmatics). As it stands, it  appears to 
me that people are under the impression that the speaker's conceptual  
viewpoint is necessarily decoded from linguistic verbal morphology in  situations 
where a perceived aspectual nuance is linguistically detected. Can anyone lead me 
to any recent  discussions or studies on this issue? 
Thank You, 
Luis Reyes

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