[B-Greek] Verbal Aspect theory -- misgivings

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Sun Nov 16 10:52:00 EST 2008

Dear Randall,

You may have troubles with the "'all aspect' 'no time'" people, if 
such one's do exist. But what about 'all aspect' AND 'time' people? I 
have tried to find out what you grammatically (not philosphically) 
mean by "time, but I have not succeeded". So I ask again: When you 
use "time" in a grammatical sense, is the word equivalent to tense, 
i.e., grammaticalized location in time? To put it differently: I 
define tense as the function of event time and reference time. This 
means that aspect is "non-deictic time," time that is not chained to 
a deictic center (while tense id deictic time). Do you accept the 
existence of non-deictic time (grammatically speaking), or is "time" 
always tense?

>Karlos egrapse
>>  I'm sorry, Mike. >
>Me, too.
>Any alleged "future aorist indicative" is always in a rhetorically bounded
>situation. I just looked up Robertson's examples and they are all best
>described as 'gnomic' (proverbial).
>  "if he does it then he did it". Oh no! I just generated a future
>past in English! We'll have to rewrite English grammars or lock me up.
>To quote Burton, "[the futuristic aorist] is rather a rhetorical figure than
>a grammatical idiom.
>Historical present are even more not a reason for throwing out 'time'.
>Historical presents break the mold TWICE over. Yes, they rhetorically
>play with time. But they also rhetorically play with aspect. They are
>typically used in the sequence of completed events. Portraying one or
>more of the initial events as 'open-ended', even when obviously completed
>and ended within a chain of events, is a rhetorical feature.
>And I have a pedagogical gripe with the 'all aspect' 'no-time' people:
>they never try to use the language. It's part of what I call a leaning tower
>of Pisa. The system looks intricate and pretty until you apply a 
>little gravity.
>Personally, I think that deep down they are afraid to use 'their system'
>because they will either constrain it termporally so that it looks like real
>Greek (and they wouldn't want to admit to themselves that they are doing
>that), or they will generate 'la-la land' Greek.
>I've had some success with this with BHebrew teachers (where
>the majority [mistakenly] have been saying there're no time constraints.)
>Some have been willing to try to generate bib Hebrew. When the outcome
>is checked with real Biblical Hebrew, their views start to change.
>(Imagine, having a phD and learning to say "I see the house" correctly
>after twenty years of schoolin'. That is the state of the "other" field, too.)
>The 'no-time' no-talk people shut themselves up into a world where they
>can NEVER internalize the language. The next generation deserves

In my view, to try to test a dead language in the light of the modern 
language (for example, Classical Greek with Modern Greek) is 
fallacious, because inevitably we will read our modern ideas into the 
test. There is absolutely no way to "use" a dead language in order to 
test whether our grammatical views of it are correct, because all the 
informants are dead. I am not "afraid" to use my system, I simply do 
not see that it is scientifically possible. The only way to learn the 
grammar of a dead language is by way of induction, and to a lesser 
extent by deduction. We have to study the texts, and by trying to use 
balanced parameters we will look for patterns.

One of the most important tools for such a study, which is rarely 
used, is the distinction between semantics and pragmatics. For 
example, when a word form often has past reference, is the reason for 
this the context (pragmatics) or has the verb form an intrinsic past 
tense (semantics). In my view, if we are not considering this, our 
grammatical conclusions are nothing but educated guesses.  Mari 
Broman Olsen "A Semantic and Pragmatic Model of Lexical and 
Grammatical Aspect" (1997) systematically made this distinction, and 
in this respect we can learn much from her. Her definition and 
application of the English aspects are excellent, but unfortunately, 
she believed that "aspect" was the same in all aspect languages. If 
this idea is let aside, her parameters can be applied to Greek with 
verygood results.

In order to show that grammatical verb categories can be tenseless, I 
bring a quote from Olsen, p. 161.
On the basis of the examples below she says that "English present 
therefore is unmarked for tense," i.e. it is not a tense. I agree 
with her, and I would like to hear if anyone on the list disagrees 
with this.

Past: So Paul works all yesterday to finish
Present: Paul works from now till 4.
Future: Paul works tomorrow.
Omnitemporal: Paul works.

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli Ph.D
University of Oslo

>Randall Buth, PhD
>randallbuth at gmail.com
>Biblical Language Center
>Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life
>B-Greek home page: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek
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