[B-Greek] Verbal aspect and speaker's viewpoints

LuisCReyes at aol.com LuisCReyes at aol.com
Sun Jul 8 20:50:26 EDT 2007

Dear  Ken, 
Thank you for your  comments. It seems that you ran across what I also did 
pertaining to Porter and  Fanning’s notion of aspect as a conceptualized 
subjective choice of the author.  That is also what I had understood from their 
definitions of aspect, and it  seemed incorrect to me. To me linguistic aspect is a 
semantic feature, but  notions of conceptualized viewpoints are a matter of 
You  mentioned: 
“I think this is where  we get statements to the effect that imperfective is ‘
looking at’ the event from  inside, and perfective is looking at the event 
from outside. The phrase ‘looking  at’ refers to the relation of the reference 
time to the event time. Once we  begin speaking of ‘looking at’ an event, it 
is a short step to calling this act  of looking the author's ‘viewpoint.’ But 
we are not really thinking  psycholinguistically, or at least, if some 
scholars are thinking of aspect in  terms of psycholinguistics, they are not using 
standard linguistic  understandings of ‘aspect’."

Thank you very much for this clarification.  This clarifies a greet deal, and 
makes sense. This would mean that when writers  such as Porter and Fanning 
speak of “author’s viewpoints” that this only refers  to the relation of the 
reference time and the event time that is linguistically decoded and inferred 
from the  language the author used (a viewpoint according to what the language 
says). Or as you mentioned a “viewpoint”  that is derived from the “reference 
point” of the surrounding encoded linguistic  text. However, this brings to 
light that their use of “author’s viewpoint” and  “aspect” are confusing and 
misleading (at least to me they  are). 
The confusing  intermingling of linguistic “verbal aspect” with the “
pragmatic speaker’s actual  viewpoint” has been one of my concerns with the 
definitions given by Porter and  Fanning. The concern is that exegetes would draw the 
conclusion that proper  decoding of linguistic aspect necessarily leads to the 
author’s actual  conceptualized viewpoint of the situation (it may or may not 
but this is  determined by pragmatics, not linguistics).   
As far as I can tell,  verbal aspect (let me call it linguistic verbal 
aspect) as used by porter and  Fanning, relies heavily on the code model of 
communication (this is more  apparent with Porter and his use of systemic 
linguistics). From my  understanding, the code model of communication falls extremely 
short of  representing how communication actually takes place (Sperber  and 
Wilson, Relevance, 1995, pp.  1-64), and this is due to the nature of linguistic 
underdeterminacy in language  altogether (Carston, Thoughts and  Utterances, 
2002). A linguist may view verbal aspect from what is  linguistically encoded, and 
that’s fine according to their research needs.  However, the minute one 
speaks about a conceptualized viewpoint of the  author (whether subjective or not), 
the situation now crosses into pragmatics,  cognitive pragmatics, or even 
psycholinguistics, and theories of communication  now come into play. The only 
concern that I had with Olson’s work was that it  relied heavily on the 
legitimacy of Grice’s maxims (e.g., cooperative principle)  and other notions of 
implicautre (Olson, p. 17, 18). From my understanding,  Gricecian pragmatics also 
runs into some problems (Cf. Sperber and Wilson,  Relevance), and this issue 
will have  a significant bearing on one’s perspective of pragmatics. However, I 
don't  remember if Olson made a necessary connection between linguistic verbal 
aspect  and an actual conceptualized speaker’s viewpoint. 
At  any rate, I think that popular notions of NT verbal aspect pertaining to  
morphology encoding a so-called “speaker’s viewpoint” need to be corrected, 
or  clarified to say the least. I think what is also needed is for writers to  
provide a clear distinction between linguistic/semantic verbal aspect and  
notions of pragmatic “speaker’s viewpoints.” 
God  bless, 
Luis  C. Reyes

************************************** See what's free at http://www.aol.com.

More information about the B-Greek mailing list