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

frjsilver at optonline.net frjsilver at optonline.net
Sun Jul 8 21:01:48 EDT 2007

That 'inside/outside' POV doesn't work for me at all, although an appreciation of the speaker's angle is certainly important.

I 'feel' the aspect of verbs as a function of completion or incompletion, whatever their tense, sometimes indicated by verbal inflections (grammar) and sometimes by context (syntax).

In Greek, especially, we must remain flexible on this point.

Father James Silver

----- Original Message -----
From: LuisCReyes at aol.com
Date: Sunday, July 8, 2007 8:50 pm
Subject: [B-Greek] Verbal aspect and speaker's viewpoints
To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org

> 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 
> pragmatics. 
> 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
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