[B-Greek] Time and Reference

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Tue Nov 4 03:31:01 EST 2008


(from an earlier post on a different thread)

>btw, some people [which includes everyone I know who
>communicates in Greek] think that Porter's position on time
>vis-a-vis aspect is simply wrong. Greek is one of the most
>aspectually sensitive languages in the world. NAI. And contact
>with Hebrew in the Second Temple period caused
>post-biblical Hebrew to expand its use of aspectual structures
>like 'be + participle'. But time was included in the verb systems of
>both Greek and Hebrew.

(From Time and Reference thread)

>>  Spacial reference in the
augment does not exclude time because its relatively universal
(if not completely) that time is always expressed through spacial metaphor.>>


(new thread entitled Aorist Indicative Example)

>What do you mean when you say that *time* is relatively universal or
completely universal, and that *time* is included in the verb systems
of both Greek and Hebrew? Is your "time" the same as "tense"
(grammaticalized location in time)?

>All peoples, past and present, have had a consciousness of past,
present, and future time,  and this is expressed in different ways in
the verb systems of their languages. But time is not grammaticalized
in all languages. I have written a dissertation on the basis of an
analysis of the 80.000 finite and infinite verbs of classical Hebrew,
where I differentiating between semantics and pragmatics (is the
particular time caused by the context or is it an intrinsic part of
the verb form), and the conclusion is that tenses are non-existent in
the Hebrew verb system. I would also say that tense is not an
intrinsic factor of the Greek aorist.>

And predictably I respond:
a 'timeless' Hebrew verb system mispredicts --
because you cannot say maHar with a non-sequential
suffix-tensed verb, or with a vayyiqtol.
Those carry features of pastness within their tense-aspect.
MaHar goes with a prefix tense verb, veqatal, or participle.
A binary verbal system (actually quad-nary+, with a parallel
sequential system)  by nature must be complex, and is normally
multi-valent. See the short syntax of the Hebrew verb in
"Selected Readings with 500 Friends", available thru our website.

Back to Greek:
You can't use a future-marked Greek verb in the same clause with
And calling the E- AYKSHSIS (augment) 'remoteness' is playing
a shell-game with words. The AYKSHSIS was 'past' to the Greeks,
and we have ancient speakers of the language to back that up.
Their perception, not ours. Emic, not Etic.
Etic listings of things can (but do not need to) confuse outsiders.

Human languages are used by humans, which means that rhetorical
effects can break absolute categories. 'Timeless' analyses are
the result of absolutist claims on a language, because 'time' is the
only measurable entity in a verb system. "Aspect" is a 'subjective'
marking, in the sense that one can refer to the same event as 'he was
coming home' and 'he came home', (and in some languages even
'he will come home' referring to the past).
So even when it can be shown, for instance, that the 'historic present'
Greek construction is intended as aoristic, and therefore it is also a
rhetorical usage conflicting with an absolute-aspectual analysis,
it is ignored by absolute-aspectualists.

Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

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