[B-Greek] Time and Reference - Sorting things out

Michael Aubrey mga318 at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 4 14:10:17 EST 2008

>aubrey egrapse
>>If time is anything. It is metaphor.

>tell that to a physicist.

>Time is a dimension, and one can refer to it.

>For the list we need to take this back to Greek.

Yes, we're getting off topic here, though I will say that 
I'm not talking about time itself, but the description of 
time using language - i.e. temporal reference, not 
objective time. And I think that's why we've 
missed each other on this. 

To put is simply, a referential theory of meaning is
too simplistic whether for Greek or English.

Barry's got what I was intending:
"What's important is not the nature of time objectively 
speaking, but how Greek conceives of temporal 

To Rolf Furuli Ph.D:

I think you're confusing my statements with Dr. Buth's.
I'm pretty sure I'm the one who said:

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

And to answer your questions (which I think are directed
at comments made by both Dr. Buth and myself),
>"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)?

I'm general speaking of temporal reference, whether by 
morphological tense on a verb, syntactic tense using 
auxilaries (e.g. English "will" or the Russian and Greek
use of the copula for periphrastic futures), or deictic markers,
such as "now" or "back then." 

My point about Greek was that temporal reference was 
only expressed in Greek secondarily through the augment. 
Since temporal reference by means of spacial metaphor 
is relatively universal in languages, to say that the augment 
in Greek denotes a remote proximity does not deny that 
the vast majority of the cases past temporal reference 
will be the functional result of remoteness.

What makes a spacial view of the Greek verb so attractive
is that it can account both for how time is expressed (spacial
metaphor) and also the many examples where augment
expresses some other form of remoteness other than temporal.

Now turning to more of Dr. Buth's comments:

>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.

The future is definitely a tense. Definitely, definitely, definitely. Porter's
little game of saying the future is the semantic encoding of expectation
is meaning less because that's exactly what a future tense does.
That's all any language can do for the future meaning. But there is no
"future" morpheme, something that I don't have time to explain, though
I will say that such a claim is defensible synchronically, diachronically,
and cross-lingusitically with other Indo-European languages, particularly 
the Slavic languages, which have retained more "old" linguistic features
than other languages (Specifically, the Russian future perfective also does
not have a "future" morpheme and its tense/aspect system parallels Greek
in a number of amazing ways).

(this is going to be a point of contention between us) I'm cynical about 
whether the Emic/Etic distinction is helpful here. Linguistic field workers
are taught not to ask the native speaker "what does X mean?" for the
reason that it isn't necessarily true - As much as English speakers think
they have 5 vowels, there are still eleven regardless.

BUT with that said, Porter and company do not help anything when 
they refuse to recognize that pragmatically speaking, it might as well
be called past tense, which is why I can agree with what you say below:

>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.

Basically, we're arguing about labels more than anything else - something
I don't really care for doing, so I hope we can at least both recognize the
other's perspective.



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