[B-Greek] Speaking clearly: grammatical aspect, lexical aspect

frjsilver at optonline.net frjsilver at optonline.net
Fri Jul 6 11:46:35 EDT 2007

Dear Friends --

Since I'm comfortable in Russian, please let me add a little from that angle.

Slavic languages in general have two verbal aspects, 'perfective' and 'imperfective', as they're commonly described in English.  Notice:  These categories are NOT the same thing as 'perfect' and 'imperfect', which describe tenses in some languages.

Virtually all Russian verbs come in pairs, with slightly different infixes to indicate aspect.  So, e.g., _kraskat'_ = 'paint' while _kraskovat'_ = 'start painting, continue painting', etc.  

This is not at all different from Greek, although I admit that the defining particles are often more obvious in Russian.  I sort of resist the idea that Russian grammar and syntax have been that strong an influence on modern linguistics;  in fact, Old Russian and Church Slavonic are both full of artificially imposed Greek structures, most of which have been left behind by Modern Russian.

Still, here's a *brief* synopsis of aspect in Russian verbs (there are entire books on this topic written, I suppose, mostly with non-Russians in mind).  If this little exercise is helpful to you to make sense of Greek, well, good!

Perfective-aspect (_sovershenn61y vid_ ) verbs describe two main concepts:  
1.  an action performed once (now, in the past, or in the future)
2.  an action completed (now or in the past) or to be completed in the future

Imperfective-aspect (_nesovershenn61y vid_ ) verbs describe two main concepts:
1.  an action performed continually (habitual) or continuously (durative)
2.  an action begun but not completed (now, in the past, or in the future)

Verbs of motion (_glagol61 dvizheniya_) have their own rules.  They're generally perfective, according to the above standards, but also and especially when they describe one-way movement.  Thus, rain 'goes'  (_dozhd' idyot_) -- in perfective aspect because it falls in just one direction, even though it goes on for a while;  English makes no such distinctions.

Verbs of motion can be imperfectivized simply by prefixing them with an adverb or preposition, usually the latter.

 I hope this helps at least a little.

Peace and blessings to all.

Father James Silver

Monk James
Orthodox Church in America

----- Original Message -----
From: Jonathan Robie 
Date: Friday, July 6, 2007 9:59 am
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Speaking clearly: grammatical aspect, lexical aspect
To: Eric Weiss 
Cc: "Carl W. Conrad" , b-greek 

> Eric Weiss wrote:
> > I suspect that other languages also have "aspect" and 
> "aktionsart," but they 
> > are perhaps coded differently in their grammar and syntax 
> than Greek encodes 
> > them (if I'm saying this correctly.
> Books that discuss tense and aspect routinely mention that 
> aspect is 
> directly reflected in Russian morphology. Me, I don't know from 
> Russian, 
> but the syntax and grammar of Russian seem to have deeply 
> influenced 
> modern linguistics and modern descriptions of Greek.
> Jonathan
> ---
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