Tense-Aspect (esp. Future) in Non-Indicative Moods

Tense-Aspect (esp. Future) in Non-Indicative Moods

Postby nicholasj.ellis » February 25th, 2013, 10:29 pm

I'd be interested in the B-Greek opinions on tense/aspect categories of the non indicative moods and specifically how this works out in the Future. Unfortunately "future" "non indicative" and "tense" are too common of terms for a successful forum search, so to break the ice:

(1) In the classroom I typically describe verbs in the indicative mood as aspectual (perfective, imperfective, stative) + grammaticalized time. There are the obvious caveats here, given the non-temporal Decker/Porter/etc. camp, but let's run with this. The tense/aspect combined categories are morphologized as follows:

Perfective Aspect: Aorist Indicative (past time via past-time augment), and Future Indicative (future time). These two tenses manifest a shared morphologizing of their aspect via: shared sigmatic morphology (pardon to Sihler and second aorists); their shared development of the θη to morphologize passivity beyond the medio-passive shared by the other aspects; anecdotal evidence via historical comments by Dionysius Thrax.
Imperfective Aspect: Present Indicative (present time), Imperfective Indicative (past time via past-time augment)
Stative (Fientive?) Aspect: Perfect Indicative (resultant state in the present time), Pluperfect Indicative (resultant state in the past time)

(2) Following the modern zeitgeist of aspect theory, I typically view the non-indicative moods as NOT marking/morphologizing time, but only grammaticalizing aspect (again, perfective, imperfective, stative aspects). This explains why the imperfect is subsumed into the present (both being imperfective in aspect) and the pluperfect is subsumed into the perfect (both stative in aspect) since there is no grammaticalized time to distinguish each pair. Accordingly, I think about so-called "aorist/perfective" infinitives as generally unmarked or "viewed as a whole" (note: not "completed", as in Rijksbaron); I think about so-called "present/imperfective" infinitives" as marked for imperfectivity; I think about so-called "perfect" infinitives as marked for stativity. (So far so good, in my mental construct of the language anyways).

However, then I reach the Future non-indicatives: If the future and aorist as both perfective in aspect, and if "time is not grammaticalized outside the indicative", why do we have future participles, imperatives, infinitives? I.e., why are the future non-indicatives not subsumed into the aorist participles, imperatives, infinitives, as happened with the imperfective and stative aspects?

Is this continued presence of the future non-indicative a function of:
(a) a breakdown in the aspectual categorization (i.e., we shouldn't actually think about the Future and Aorist as both being perfective in aspect - hence why Rijkbaron describes a fourth "Future Aspect", in which case we'd need to reconsider the three-aspect system across the board, also in the indicative; but in this case, why the shared sigma with the aorist, and also consistently, why the shared development of the θη with the aorist in the passive voice, moving in tandem away from the medio-passive morphology, across the range of modality?).

Or, is this continued presence of the future non-indicative:
(b) simply a function of the future being always marked for future time, even outside the indicative mood (perhaps given its late development within the history of the language)? In this case, the Future tense would retain its perfective aspect (hence the shared morphologizing features with the aorist), but uncharacteristically retain its future-oriented markedness across the range of modalities?

In any case, whether stocking to my aspectual guns or not, shouldn't I change my basic description of time outside the indicative: since the Future (Perfective?) is still around in the non-indicative moods while the past time-specific forms have collapsed in the non-indicative moods, rather than saying "time is not grammaticalized outside the indicative" is it better to simply say that "NON-FUTURE time is not grammaticalized outside the indicative" (i.e., future time is grammaticalized outside the indicative, but nothing else is so grammaticalized), thereby leaving room for future time across the modal spectrum?

Hope that is clear. Rijksbaron would seem to solve some of this by adding the additional fourth aspectual category of the "future aspect", but in doing so he marks aorist as "completed" rather than "unmarked or seen as a whole", and more frustratingly he doesn't address the morphological similarities between the aorist and the future that would appear to morphologize some kind of shared aspect.


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Re: Tense-Aspect (esp. Future) in Non-Indicative Moods

Postby klriley » February 26th, 2013, 1:59 am

If you want an historical answer, Sihler has a good section of the development of the Indo-European verbal system in his "New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin" beginning p 442, and he deals with the future on pp 256-7.

The Greek perfect started out as merely 'stative', and changed from there to include more of the sense of 'past', at least for some verbs. The Future started as a 'desiderative' and developed into the future in a number of languages, including Greek.

I believe there is a fundamental mistake made in assuming that Greek - at least in the time during which we have records - was a pure 'aspect' language. It is not unusual for a language to grammaticalise a mix of time, aspect and/or mood. I would say the 'future' is pretty much a 'tense' from the earliest records we have, whatever the rest of the system may be doing.
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Re: Tense-Aspect (esp. Future) in Non-Indicative Moods

Postby Stephen Carlson » February 26th, 2013, 3:43 am

The future outside of the indicative is kind of marginal in Koine, and it does not really fit neatly into the aspectual system. It does not even fit cleanly as a pure tense, since, as with many future-referring forms in other language, there is a modal flair to its meaning. So the future sometimes behaves like a non-past perfective, sometimes like a future, and sometimes with a modal value of purpose or expectation. This may be due to its mixed origin. Though it's still somewhat unsettled in the literature, the category appears to be a merger of old short-vowel aorist subjunctives and desideratives, both featuring a sigma coincidentally (I do not take an either-or approach).

Whatever temporal and modal senses the future has, it does not really fit cleanly into the present-aorist-perfect aspectual system of verbal stems. It seems to me that during the paradigm building phase of the Greek verb system, ultimately realized in Classical Greek, the future stem was an attempt to integrate grammaticalized time more fully into the system, but the effort was incomplete and never really took. It's just part of the messiness of human language. (Modern Greek would later replace the synthetic classical future with a fully aspectualized future construction, which I find to be more "logical" or at least more systematic.)
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Re: Tense-Aspect (esp. Future) in Non-Indicative Moods

Postby Alan Patterson » February 26th, 2013, 7:58 am

Nicholas wrote:

Following the modern zeitgeist of aspect theory, I typically view the non-indicative moods as NOT marking/morphologizing time, but only grammaticalizing aspect (again, perfective, imperfective, stative aspects). This explains why the imperfect is subsumed into the present (both being imperfective in aspect) and the pluperfect is subsumed into the perfect (both stative in aspect) since there is no grammaticalized time to distinguish each pair.


Would you mind elaborating on or clarifying this. What seemed immediately foreign to my thinking was your comment
there is no grammaticalized time to distinguish each pair.


Would you agree with the following 2 sentence?

Perfect and Pluperfect. The Pluperfect will be prior to the Perfect IN TIME.

Present and Imperfect. The Imperfect will be prior to the Present IN TIME.

In essence, I would be tempted to state that the pairs, distinguished by their morph also, are distinguished primarily by TIME.

Were you making a different point altogether?

As a side note, you mentioned the nature of Aspect in relation to the Future Indicative. Since the event to happen in the Future has not taken place (indeed it may not happen), I think it is disqualified for conveying Aspect. This would hold with all Futures.
χαρις υμιν και ειρηνη,
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Re: Tense-Aspect (esp. Future) in Non-Indicative Moods

Postby nicholasj.ellis » February 26th, 2013, 10:29 am

Thank you for the link to Sihler's discussion on the future.

Alan wrote:

Would you mind elaborating on or clarifying this. What seemed immediately foreign to my thinking was your comment

there is no grammaticalized time to distinguish each pair.


Would you agree with the following 2 sentence?

Perfect and Pluperfect. The Pluperfect will be prior to the Perfect IN TIME.
Present and Imperfect. The Imperfect will be prior to the Present IN TIME.

In essence, I would be tempted to state that the pairs, distinguished by their morph also, are distinguished primarily by TIME.
Were you making a different point altogether?


Sorry for being unclear here. We are in agreement: the distinction between the Perfect and Pluperfect, and between the Present and Imperfect, is entirely a question of time. My point was that moving outside the indicative the pluperfect subsums into the perfect, and the imperfect to the present, precisely because there is no time leaving only aspect. Since the language doesn't need the redundant form in either the imperfective or stative aspects, there's no need to maintain an imperfective or pluperfect aspect form.


As a side note, you mentioned the nature of Aspect in relation to the Future Indicative. Since the event to happen in the Future has not taken place (indeed it may not happen), I think it is disqualified for conveying Aspect. This would hold with all Futures.


If the future is disqualified from conveying aspect, why is it so closely linked to the Aorist both morphologically (the sigma, and θη passivity) and historically (e.g., stoic grammarians, Dionysius Thrax, etc.). Both Randall Buth and Con Campbell have argued (with separate emphases) that the Aorist and Future are linked aspectually: the future controls perfective aspect in the future, and the aorist controls perfective aspect in the past (for Con this is due to "remoteness", for Randall due to Time).


Stephen wrote:
The future outside of the indicative is kind of marginal in Koine, and it does not really fit neatly into the aspectual system. It does not even fit cleanly as a pure tense, since, as with many future-referring forms in other language, there is a modal flair to its meaning. So the future sometimes behaves like a non-past perfective, sometimes like a future, and sometimes with a modal value of purpose or expectation. This may be due to its mixed origin. Though it's still somewhat unsettled in the literature, the category appears to be a merger of old short-vowel aorist subjunctives and desideratives, both featuring a sigma coincidentally (I do not take an either-or approach).

Whatever temporal and modal senses the future has, it does not really fit cleanly into the present-aorist-perfect aspectual system of verbal stems. It seems to me that during the paradigm building phase of the Greek verb system, ultimately realized in Classical Greek, the future stem was an attempt to integrate grammaticalized time more fully into the system, but the effort was incomplete and never really took. It's just part of the messiness of human language. (Modern Greek would later replace the synthetic classical future with a fully aspectualized future construction, which I find to be more "logical" or at least more systematic.)


This is where I intuitively end up, kind of in a muddled "part-aspectual"/"part temporal"/"part modal" feature across the range of moods. "Non-past perfective" tends to be my default description, but outside the indicative this feels redundant with the aorist (though perhaps [+nonpast +perfective] takes it beyond the simple [+perfective] of the aorist, and so does add something to the aspectual matrix). The modal value of purpose/expectation seems clear, but so takes it outside the tense/aspect conversation entirely.

Are we happy to say that the future was a creation of necessity, that developing a bit ad hoc to meet the requirements of the language the "standard" imperfective-perfective-stative aspectual system couldn't control?
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Re: Tense-Aspect (esp. Future) in Non-Indicative Moods

Postby serunge » February 26th, 2013, 10:55 am

Hi Nick,

To add to Stephen's point, you need to consider the (few) contexts where non-indicative futures occur. At least for me, they make a lot more sense there than they do in the abstracted theory. This is where Stephen Colbert's line is useful: "It doesn't work in theory, only in practice." Here's what I mean.

According to the Logos morph in the SBLGNT text, there are 6 future infinitives, 13 future participles, and no future imperatives or optatives. I am not really concerned whether a different morph has fewer or more, the same principles outlined below should hold. Let's start with the future infinitives.

Four of the six occur in what I would consider to be catenative constructions, which Porter describes as "Certain verbs in Greek—e.g. μέλλω, θέλω, δύναμαι, δεῖ, and a few others—appear frequently in conjunction with infinitives" (Idioms of the Greek New Testament, 197). Acts 11:28; 24:15; and 17:10 all feature μέλλω as the matrix verb, pretty classic catenatives. However, in each case the matrix verb μέλλω is also an infinitive, based on the contextual constraints of what the writer was trying to say, In other words, it's some pretty kooky context here. Two infinitives back-to-back create the need for some kind of temporal semantics, if that is something the writer wants to specify. The future infinitive fit the bill, and fit with the irrealis-like semantics of μέλλω.

In John 21:25, οὐδʼ αὐτὸν οἶμαι τὸν κόσμον χωρήσειν τὰ γραφόμενα βιβλία, you have what might be construed as another catenative based on the semantics of οἴομαι. Generally you suppose some action or state of affairs, not simply a noun phrase. The matrix verb cannot represent the temporal/realis status of the dependent action. If a future form of οἴομαι had been used, he would not actually be supposing. Again, the kookiness of the contextual needs makes the future infinitive look pretty appealing.

In Acts 23:30 the future infinitive occurs in a circumstantial participial clause: μηνυθείσης δέ μοι ἐπιβουλῆς εἰς τὸν ἄνδρα. It predicates the existence of the plot which Claudius Lysias has become aware of. Only the plot has not really come about, it has only been reported to be planned. Again, if Claudius Lysias wants to highlight his initiative if averting disaster before it really even came about, the lack of temporal reference in the participle calls for some kind of temporal/realis semantics. The future infinitive fit the bill.

The last future infinitive marked in this morph is an OT quotation, Heb 3:18: τίσιν δὲ ὤμοσεν μὴ εἰσελεύσεσθαι εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσιν αὐτοῦ εἰ μὴ τοῖς ἀπειθήσασιν; The OT reference alluded to (Deu 1:25) uses a future indicative on the LXX. However this action of entering is secondary in this context, and the question of to whom this has been sworn is primary. The infinitive simply captures what was sworn. Again, the kooky constraints of the context make the future form appealing, since the generation in question had not (and would not) enter the rest.

Stephen Carlson: It seems to me that during the paradigm building phase of the Greek verb system, ultimately realized in Classical Greek, the future stem was an attempt to integrate grammaticalized time more fully into the system, but the effort was incomplete and never really took. It's just part of the messiness of human language.


He makes a good point. Even though it didn't stick, there were still places where it proved useful hence its presence in the first place.

Now to the participles, of which the Logos morph identifies 13. There are a few where the participle is substantival, where it serves to conjure up a referent, like ὁ παραδώσων αὐτόν in John 6:64. I suppose a relative clause using a future indicative would have been more proper, but certainly less elegant. So too with Acts 20:22 (τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ συναντήσοντά μοι μὴ εἰδώς), Rom 8:24 (ὁ κατακρινῶν if one takes this as future), 1 Cor 15:37 ( ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ τὸ σῶμα τὸ γενησόμενον σπείρεις), Heb 3:5 (τῶν λαληθησομένων), Heb 3:5 (τῶν λαληθησομένων), Heb 13:17 ( αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀγρυπνοῦσιν ὑπὲρ τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν ὡς λόγον ἀποδώσοντες), and 1 Pet 3:13 (ὁ κακώσων ὑμᾶς). I think the elegance of the participle outweighed the propriety of some more widely attested indicative strategy. These substantival uses account for all the instances outside the gospels and Acts. We now turn to the adverbial uses.

Some of the remainder use a verb of motion as a matrix verb to create a more complex construction, not unlike what we do in English. It is not strictly a catenative or periphrastic, but interesting that most of the adverbial future participles occur in such contexts. There is an observable pattern.
Mat 27:49 Ἄφες ἴδωμεν εἰ ἔρχεται Ἠλίας σώσων ⸀αὐτόν.
Acts 8:27 ὃς ἐληλύθει προσκυνήσων εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ
Acts 22:5 παρʼ ὧν καὶ ἐπιστολὰς δεξάμενος πρὸς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς εἰς Δαμασκὸν ἐπορευόμην ἄξων καὶ τοὺς ἐκεῖσε ὄντας δεδεμένους εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ ἵνα τιμωρηθῶσιν
Acts 24:11 ἀφʼ ἧς ἀνέβην προσκυνήσων εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ
Acts 24:17 διʼ ἐτῶν δὲ πλειόνων ἐλεημοσύνας ποιήσων εἰς τὸ ἔθνος μου παρεγενόμην καὶ προσφοράς

The one remaining instance is Luke 22:49, where the future participle is the object of a verb of perception, what is seen. ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ περὶ αὐτὸν τὸ ἐσόμενον εἶπαν. Although the participle ἰδόντες does not encode temporal semantics, I don't think you'd want them there even if you used an indicative. The non-present semantics have to do with what was seen, not when it was seen. Again, the future participle makes good sense.

In my view, these uses do not overturn the propriety of the system you outlined, Nick. My one caveat to your formulation would be with the present and perfect simply being non-past, not present-time. The contextual needs--like wanting to express non-present, or wanting a more elegant referential expression than a relative clause--provide satisfactory explanations of the usage. We cannot predict where it would be used, but can make sense of how it was used.

That was quick and dirty and undoubtedly missed some details, but this is all I have time for; hope it helps.
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Re: Tense-Aspect (esp. Future) in Non-Indicative Moods

Postby nicholasj.ellis » February 26th, 2013, 11:13 am

Thank you, Steve. Lots to mull on here. I appreciate you taking the time.

That last caveat was helpful. Is it then proper to talk about the standard temporal force of the Greek verbal system operating in a past/non-past binary, with the exception of the +future forms? Perhaps this could explain why temporality is maintained across the future moods, since the future, unlike the present and perfect, is too marked to operate within the "non-past" option.
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Re: Tense-Aspect (esp. Future) in Non-Indicative Moods

Postby serunge » February 26th, 2013, 12:04 pm

Hi Nick,

Most Ind-European languages--including English--operate on a past/non-past distinction. E.g. "I am going to the store [tomorrow]." The presence of the adverb would force a non-present reading, but the other would be unmarked. It could either be present or future. As far as the Future tense, If one includes irrealis in the semantics, then the need for having a clear temporal element is mitigated, especially outside the indicative. Stephen Wallace referred to tense, mood and aspect as "the trinity." I'd like to think he meant that in the technical sense of distinct entities, yet indivisible. Therefore, you might have the temporal element most salient/prominent in one context, but the modal in another. Lexical semantics of the verb itself will also influence this, besides just the contextual factors. Like Stephen said, messy. But it is still describable.
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Re: Tense-Aspect (esp. Future) in Non-Indicative Moods

Postby nicholasj.ellis » February 27th, 2013, 11:17 am

Ok, to summarize some of these very helpful clarifications so far:

In the non-indicative tenses, we see the following trends
(1) The Imperfective Aspect binary (Present/Imperfect) in the indicative mood can be distinguished only by past/non-past time/remoteness (past marked by the ε-). Aspect is shared via the imperfective stem. Outside the Indicative, given the lack of time/remoteness to provide a distinguishing factor, the imperfect form becomes redundant and collapses into the present (or better: imperfective) stem unmarked for time, the so-called "present" subjunctive/imperative/infinitive/optative.

(2) Similarly, the Stative Aspect binary (Perfect/Pluperfect) in the indicative mood can be distinguished only by past/non-past time/remoteness (past marked by the ε-). Aspect is shared via the perfect/stative stem. Outside the Indicative, given the lack of time/remoteness to provide a distinguishing factor, the pluperfect form becomes redundant and collapses into the perfect (or better, stative) stem unmarked for time, the so-called "perfect" subjunctive/imperative/infinitive/optative.

Finally, and more complex:
(3) the Perfective Aspect binary (Aorist/Future) in the indicative mood share aspect, demonstrated morphologically via the sigma and the parallel θη developments in the passive voice. However, unlike the Imperfective and Stative binaries, this binary is distinguished by more than a pure temporal distinction. Whereas the previous two aspects could be described as simply ([imperfective+nonpast time] vs. [imperfective+past time]) and ([stative+nonpast time] vs. [stative+past time]), the Aorist/Future relationship has more distinguishing characteristics. Perfective Aorist is [perfective+past time] (past marked by the ε-), while Perfective Future is [perfective+non past+future+modal irrealis+desiritive+imperative], likely from the developmental needs of the language that were layered onto the future. As a result, when moving into the non-indicative moods, when the Aorist loses the (ε-) temporal marker and becomes aspectually redundancy with the Future (i.e., perfective aspect, with no [+past time] to differentiate the aorist), unlike the other two aspects, the Future side of the binary still contains multiple semantic markers not shared by the Aorist. Therefore, the Aorist and Future nonindicatives never become redundant, and the future maintains its presence due to its semantic uniqueness.

As Steve stated, these non-redundant semantic markers for the Future include irrealis/desiritive modality and intentionality (none of which are embedded within the semantics of its aspectual partner, the Aorist).

If that's the case, and I'm not missing something, that's less messy than I anticipated. Essentially, since the aorist can't support the weight of irrealis etc., the future has to shoulder that load by itself, rather than offloading it to the Aorist in the non-indicative. (Morphologically, the only thing keeping this system from being 'clean' is the Future's use of the imperfective stem, rather than the perfective stem. If someone has insight into that particular historical development I'd be most grateful!)
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Re: Tense-Aspect (esp. Future) in Non-Indicative Moods

Postby MAubrey » February 27th, 2013, 2:00 pm

nicholasj.ellis wrote:If that's the case, and I'm not missing something, that's less messy than I anticipated. Essentially, since the aorist can't support the weight of irrealis etc., the future has to shoulder that load by itself, rather than offloading it to the Aorist in the non-indicative.

More or less, yes.
nicholasj.ellis wrote:(Morphologically, the only thing keeping this system from being 'clean' is the Future's use of the imperfective stem, rather than the perfective stem. If someone has insight into that particular historical development I'd be most grateful!)

Well, the easy answer is to say that the stem isn't imperfective. What marks imperfective aspect in the regular thematic paradigm is the lack of marking--i.e. the lack of the sigma or kappa. So if the sigma is there, then its perfective. If the sigma is not there then its imperfective. As for the agreement marking, if we treat the subject agreement (=primary endings) as marking non-past tense (as opposed to present tense or imperfective aspect, then there's nothing wrong with the future coinciding with it).

Non-past imperfect:
λυ-∅-ω
undo--impfv-nonpst.act.ind.1sg

Past imperfect:
ἐ-λυ-∅-ον
pst-undo-impfv-pst.act.ind.1sg

Aor
ἐ-λυ-σ-α
pst-undo-perfv-pst.act.ind.1sg

Future
λυ-σ-ω
undo-perfv(fut)-nonpst.act.ind.1sg

As a follow up, here's what I had intended to post on Monday, but lost my internet connection before I hit submit and then had to go to class and then everyone else answer the question satisfactorily that it wasn't really needed anyway. But perhaps it still contributes something.

Mike Aubrey's original response wrote:It sounds like you're ending up in the right place. Future forms, cross-linguistically, tend toward muddledness. This is true even in English, where on the one hand the form clearly denotes Future tense in its most prototypical usage, but on the other hand it actually eixsts functionally and paradigmatically in the Modal system. In terms of the actual formal features, English is a language with a past vs. non-past verbal system, even though we native speakers clearly (and rightly) recognize having past, "present" and future tenses.

In terms of Greek, there are two views of the original of the future. It's either derived from the Proto-Indo-European desiderative suffix *-s which looked identical to the current aorist and subjunctive forms. Or its derived from the aorist or aorist subjunctive. Despite the views of some, there is no consensus on the question, though many of the desiderative people like to think there is. Jo Willmott's The Moods of Homeric Greek (2005) gives a recent argument against the desiderative hypothesis. Personally, I'm inclined toward David Lightfoot's observation in his 1975 monograph Natural Logic and the Greek Moods, when he said that there is really no clear way of choosing between the two historical options.

But all of that, in a sense, is water under the bridge. For the Koine period, what really matter is how the native speakers comprehended the form who, when learning the language as toddlers, don't get any of that history explained to them. The system is recreated every generation. Ontogeny does indeed recapitulate phylogeny, but which phylogeny? That is to say, the process of language learning parallel the process of language evolution, but there are multiple paths of grammaticalization to get to a Future tense: Modals, Perfectives, lexical items denoting movement, temporal adverbs, etc.

All of this connects closely to the question tense in relationship to mood. We like to make a big deal of the fact that there's no past tense outside the indicative in Greek, while ignoring the fact that the past tense isn't possible in non-indicative moods for English either. We cannot say "You should went to the store for milk" any more than a Greek could." But like Greek, we can say "You will go to the store for milk" and without a context not be sure whether the sentence is referentially future referring (go there tomorrow), imperative (commanded to go there), or modal (obligated to go there).
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