Grammatical Terms in Greek

Biblical Greek morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics

Re: Grammatical Terms in Greek

Postby Paul-Nitz » November 8th, 2013, 10:06 am

cwconrad wrote:The question, however, is what word/term should we use for the morphological category whereby we distinguish λαμβάνω from λή(μ)ψομαι, ἔλαβον,εἴληφα, εἴλημμαι, and ἐλή(μ)φθην -- in English -- or in Greek?


Just to emphasize, this is the current question on the docket.


RandallButh wrote:2. ὁ μέλλων is closer to ἀόριστος ὅψις  than παρατατική. However, only modern Greek distinguishes 'continuative' and 'perfective/aorist' in the future


Yea... I discovered that for myself with a blush. There I am showing my students this sheet of verbs and pointing out how consistently παρατατικη stem is through out εσθιω and ησθιον and, and, and.... well... I guess φαγομαι doesn't quite fit. I think my corrected explanation of that is going to be "So, the future doesn't really have anything to say about οψις, but it sure does look aoristic, doesn't it."

Actually, I would never use the word "aoristic" with my students. That must of popped out from a note I read yesterday in Rienecker/Rogers Linguistic Key...
    "αφίενται pres. pass. ἀφίημι to release, to forgive, an aoristic pres. indicating punctilliar action (s. RG. 864f.)."

I'm sure that means something.
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi
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Re: Grammatical Terms in Greek

Postby RandallButh » November 8th, 2013, 2:23 pm

Yes, Paul.
Not only does it look aoristic, but it functions that way, too.

Generally, in a particular context, the view of the future is wholistic:
when we say "he will come" we picture the whole event, including the arrival, and we are not looking at the incomplete process, nor at repetitious events.

However, modern Greek allows a distinction
θα αγορασω τα κρέα(τα) I will buy the meat(s) (for the picnic, etc.) aoristic future
θα αγοραζω τα κρέα(τα) I will be buying the meat(s) (off and on for our recurrent meals together). continuative future
[PS: modern Greek has changed the morphology of the ancient noun towards regularizing extended stems, as it is wont to do, though I'm only guessing on the form here.]
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Re: Grammatical Terms in Greek

Postby cwconrad » November 9th, 2013, 8:44 am

Paul-Nitz wrote:
cwconrad wrote:The question, however, is what word/term should we use for the morphological category whereby we distinguish λαμβάνω from λή(μ)ψομαι, ἔλαβον,εἴληφα, εἴλημμαι, and ἐλή(μ)φθην -- in English -- or in Greek?


Just to emphasize, this is the current question on the docket.

`A la recherche du temps perdu ... = "hunting for the lost "tense" ..." In the absence of any words of higher wisdom regarding a term for this grammatical category, I would suggest that we abandon the quest for the Holy Grail (for now, at least) and stick with the Greek term χρόνος and the English term "tense." The Greek word is in fact employed for a whole range of usages having to do with temporal duration and temporal relationships, and I think (being fully prepared to be corrected on this matter) that the distinct subcategories of verbal aspect ordinarily discussed are all concerned with temporal perspective, so that the word "tense" = French temps = Latin tempus = Greek χρόνος may continue to suffice to designate what we have in fact traditionally referred to as "tense."

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here ... " There is, of course, little danger that Biblical Greek pedagogy will acknowledge or even take note of what terminological suggestions are made in our little communiity of teachers and students, but that should not deter us from endeavoring to reach some consensus among ourselves regarding these matters.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
ἄτοπον, ἔφη, λέγεις εἰκόνα καὶ δεσμώτας ἀτόπους.
ὁμοίους ἡμῖν, ἦν δʼ ἐγώ. Plato, Rep. 7 (515a)
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Re: Grammatical Terms in Greek

Postby Stephen Carlson » November 29th, 2013, 10:31 am

MAubrey wrote:
RandallButh wrote:1. a 'tense' is a linguistic categorary that can encompasses both aspectual and temporal reference.


Maybe 100 years ago, but it isn't any longer standard usage.

Well... it's not so clear just what is standard usage. I just so happen to be reading something from 2012 that uses tense in the sense of Randall Buth above. The citation is Pier Marco Bertinetto, "Tense-aspect acquisition meets typology," Cahiers Chronos 25 (2012): 45-68.

Here's how Bertinetto, no marginal player in modern research into aspectuality, argues for his terminology:
Bertinetto 2012:45-46 wrote:1. A matter of clarification

Throughout this paper, the semantic domain under scrutiny will be designated by the acronym ATAM (i.e., Actionality / Temporality / Aspect / Modality). This involves a modification of the usual practice, in which TAM (or TMA) is routinely used. As will soon become clear, however, the Actionality category cannot be neglected, considering its role in the semantics and acquisition of tense and aspect phenomena.

Note also – as the spelling-out of the above acronym suggests – that the term ‘temporality’, rather than ‘tense’, is used here. This is not a mere terminological expedient, as it points to an important conceptual issue. The term ‘tense’ is best constrained to the morphosyntactic categories observed in the grammar of individual languages, rather than used to refer to the semantic / cognitive domain of temporality. Consider for instance the Romance Imperfect : in its prototypical uses, this tense conveys the aspectual value ‘imperfectivity’ and the temporal value ‘past’. It thus conveys both aspectual and temporal information. Consequently, it is confusing to use the word ‘tense’ to indicate both a particular grammatical category (in this example, the Imperfect) and the temporality domain at large. Furthermore, the Romance Imperfect is no exception. Any tense conveys both aspectual and temporal information, even though one of the two (or both) may be underdetermined. The German Preterite, for instance, conveys the temporal value ‘past’, but is aspectually underdetermined as it neutralizes the values ‘perfective’ and ‘imperfective’. Yet, in most cases, the language user may assign the relevant aspectual interpretation to the German Preterite by exploiting the appropriate contextual cues (Bertinetto 2008). Indeed, all the relevant semantic dimensions (actionality, temporality, aspect and mood) are necessarily detectable in each predicative utterance, although some oppositions may be neutralized, either due to lack of explicitness in the given language, or to occasional contextual factors. Therefore, this paper systematically distinguishes between ‘tense’ and ‘temporality’.


The basic problem is that tense has been used to refer to both a morphosyntactic category and to a semantic notion. Those wishing to distinguish them generally propose a synonym such as temporality and then assign one term to the morphosyntactic category and the other to the semantic notion. Unfortunately, there seems to be no coordination among researchers and sometimes inconsistent terminologies get used.

An advantage of Bertinetto's terminology is that the morphosyntactic categories of Greek have already been named "tenses", going all the back to the χρόνοι of Dionysius Thrax (pseudo or otherwise), so one can retain a certain terminological continuity within the Greek grammatical tradition that is not completely at odds with those working in aspectology, esp. of Romance. A disadvantage is that his terminology tends to obscure the fact that aspect too relates to time (or temporality sensu lato), though in a different way than the Germanic tenses.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
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