[B-Greek] Verbal Aspect theory -- misgivings

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Sat Nov 15 17:03:04 EST 2008

On Nov 15, 2008, at 3:51 PM, Michael Aubrey wrote:

> Dr. Conrad,
> I think that all of your concerns are valid ones.
> My attempts to explain time reference and the verb via a spacial  
> metaphor
> was supposed simply show how little difference there is between the  
> two views.
> And it is exactly that little amount of difference that has made me  
> wonder
> about it being gobbledygook as well. Either way, if I can show how  
> similar they
> are more clearly, perhaps the extreme reaction from the traditional  
> view might
> lessen - or visa versa.
> I wrote a post this morning that tries again to show the similarity  
> simply - I used
> pictures this time. It don't subscribed to either side right now.  
> Steve has convinced
> of his concern about the historical present, but I also have  
> concerns about
> the traditional description as well:
> http://tinyurl.com/5cpp8x
> http://evepheso.wordpress.com/2008/11/15/tense-and-proximity-another-attempt-at-explanation/
> Mike

I'm sorry, Mike. I fear that the blog entry didn't do much for me --  
as I indicated in my comment -- because I never could understand what  
the circle marked "tense" was supposed to represent.

Kimmo Huovila wrote me offlist and called my attention to his  
dissertation; I found his brief summation regarding tense and aspect  
which I like very much:

"The present codes the imperfective aspect with a secondary meaning of  
non-past temporal reference. In past contexts it alternates with the  
imperfect in some styles. This alternation serves a textual function.  
The imperfect codes the imperfective aspect and past temporal  
reference, with a secondary meaning of unreality. The future shares  
features of both tense and mood, and is probably aspectually neutral.  
The perfect prototypically combines the perfective and stative  
aspects, but either can fade out. Temporally it is usually either non- 
past (stative) or past (perfective). The relationship of the  
pluperfect to the perfect parallels the relationship of the imperfect  
to the present. The aorist codes the perfective aspect, with a  
secondary meaning of pastness."

And the formulation, "The imperfect codes the imperfective aspect and  
past temporal reference, with a secondary meaning of unreality.", goes  
nicely toward my question regarding the role of the imperfect  
indicative in Greek counterfactual conditions.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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