[B-Greek] Questions about verbal aspect.

Jonathan Robie jwrobie at mindspring.com
Thu Jul 5 17:01:10 EDT 2007

Hi Luis,

I don't quite understand what you are saying.

With either tense or aspect, the form of the verb is an indication of 
the speaker's perspective (but one that must be considered in context). 
Let me use an example based on tense - if I say "I went to Eno River 
State Park", you could rightly infer from the form of the verb that I am 
thinking of a past event, not a future or present one.  Why should that 
be different for aspect than for tense?

Of course, the speaker's actual intent may not match the verb form - the 
speaker might be intentionally misleading, or teasing, or projecting 
into a future time in which the event in question will have occurred ... 
but I don't think that's what you're trying to get at.


LuisCReyes at aol.com wrote:
> 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 
> them? 
> 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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