Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

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MAubrey
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by MAubrey » July 30th, 2014, 2:55 pm

Decker's summary of Porter's dissertation is a very good one. That was smart thinking on Ken's part. I haven't written up anything myself that could really help. At some point over the years, I got tired of investing the time and energy into talking about and demonstrating why so many of his ideas related to grammar are fundamentally flawed. It is a truly exhausting enterprise. My 'benefit of the doubt' statement is tied to that fact.
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » July 30th, 2014, 3:11 pm

wonder if it is beneficial (to anyone) to join the chorus:

have numerous reservations with "frameworks" including the ones I actually use, e.g, Helma Dik, Luigi Battezzato (Attic Tragedy).

I gave S.E. Porter, Jeffery Reed, the "benefit of the doubt" investing many hours of pouring over monographs and determined that it was framework I just could not understand so cut my losses and never looked back.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

RandallButh
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by RandallButh » July 30th, 2014, 5:29 pm

Perhaps a little clarification is also in order about Decker's summary mentioned above.

It is a fairly good summary of Porter,
However, Decker's summary is not a good summary of Greek,
nor does it point out the many errors in Porter's analysis and reasoning.
(Decker was taken in by Porter's system and largely followed it.)

How can this be framed for NT Greek students?
Any system saying that the Greek indicative does not include time is antiGreek.
Fortunately, these are few.
νοείτω ὁ ἀναγινώσκειν Let the reader be aware.
μανθανέτω ἑλληνιστί

Peter Streitenberger
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by Peter Streitenberger » July 31st, 2014, 5:26 am

>any system saying that the Greek indicative does not include time is antiGreek.
At least someone dares to say clearly what's the case - the Porterian ideas have nothing to do the sound Greek scholarship. He has to gain very Basic insights first to understand, how the temporal System of Greek works. If this is heavily unclear the Impression is that someone just wanted to write something new - right or wrong is not the main issue - it had to be new, unknown, fancy and different. The aspect only theorie is able to block serious further Research in the field. I don't buy it at all and so I don't buy any further books based on such theories. There is something better to do with time.
Yours
Peter

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by Stephen Hughes » July 31st, 2014, 3:15 pm

Two more general questions on the topic
  1. Does Porter claim that his analysis works in all situations at all times? Is it proposed as a megalith or is he laying a new tool on the table that may be useful in some circumstances?
  2. Do any actually spoken languages have only aspect and no tense? Chinese is said to be like that, but actually we understand what time reference one another's utterances have.
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(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 31st, 2014, 4:47 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:Two more general questions on the topic
  1. Does Porter claim that his analysis works in all situations at all times? Is it proposed as a megalith or is he laying a new tool on the table that may be useful in some circumstances?
The choices are a bit artificial, but more the former than the latter.
Stephen Hughes wrote:
  • Do any actually spoken languages have only aspect and no tense? Chinese is said to be like that, but actually we understand what time reference one another's utterances have.
Tense and understanding time references are not the same thing. Look at page 8 of the Poor Man's Porter linked above with Decker quoting Porter quoting Comrie: tense is the "grammaticalisation of location in time."
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » July 31st, 2014, 5:01 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:Two more general questions on the topic
  1. Does Porter claim that his analysis works in all situations at all times? Is it proposed as a megalith or is he laying a new tool on the table that may be useful in some circumstances?
  2. Do any actually spoken languages have only aspect and no tense? Chinese is said to be like that, but actually we understand what time reference one another's utterances have.

Porter and fellow travelers are not just about verb aspect. The "framework" which was called Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) was a method of analyzing texts. The framework was demonstrated in publications like:

A Discourse Analysis of Philippians: Method And Rhetoric in the Debate Over Literary Integrity
Jeffrey T. Reed Sheffield Academic Press, 1997

I have read this multiple times, particularly the early chapters on methodology. Digesting this material at the same time I was working with the first edition (1992) of S. Levinsohn's "Discourse Features" I eventually gave up on Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL). The level of opacity (obfuscation) in Systemic Functional Linguistics appeared to me to exceed that of S. Levinsohn's "Discourse Features." This may be hard for some people to believe. It was a highly subjective judgement. Later on there were disciples of Porter and Levinsohn who produced simplified presentations of the respective methodologies. I am suspicious of all simplified presentations for the simple reason that you can't claim to understand what Porter and Levinsohn are doing if you don't attend closely to the nuances. "The devil is the in the details." A presentation that strips out the qualifying and limiting aspects of the discussion produces a distortion of the framework.

Porter gets beat up about temporal semantics in verb aspect. But Porter is saying things that are more interesting than that and some of his other ideas are hard to understand. So people just nail him on an easy one, temporal semantics of the Aorist.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

RandallButh
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by RandallButh » July 31st, 2014, 5:23 pm

Clay,

the discourse ideas making perfect the most prominent and tying semantics to pragmatic prominence on a one-to-one are just wrong. (I may not be using the terms from Porter, this is a citation from memory and providing the bottom line.)

Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » July 31st, 2014, 6:52 pm

RandallButh wrote:Clay,

the discourse ideas making perfect the most prominent and tying semantics to pragmatic prominence on a one-to-one are just wrong.
Randall,

So what you are saying is, there is something fundamental in the approach that is broken. There are some lingering misunderstandings floating around from the 1990s that some of us are still confused about. The verb-aspect "dialog" left a cloud of confusion in its wake.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

RandallButh
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by RandallButh » August 1st, 2014, 4:28 am

Clay,
A couple of points.

On discourse:

In linguistics, texts are viewed as having a mainline structure and in narrative this is typically a past-tense perfective aspect providing the basic skeleton/framework of events, other tenses are used for filling in the picture as background. Porter turns that inside out, where his aorist is called "background", the imperfective (imperfect, too?!) is called foreground, and then the perfect is called frontground and most prominent. That is not a system of discourse analysis used by anyone and it is definitely not the way that Greek works.

On verbs, this reminds me of a Duck Dynasty TV situation:

Sy comes up to Jason: "I've been trying to understand the Greek verb and wonder if I should try reading this here book?"
Jason: "Let me explain it to you in Spanish: ¡ No ! "
(for the purposes of "getting the joke" it should be known that Jason's line is a quote from a Duck Dynasty attribution seen on a T-shirt.)

Put simply, the problem in the 80-90's was that by and large NT departments were out of touch with linguistics.so they had a difficult time explaining why Porter was wrong, though most people recognized that something was wrong with aspect-only Greek. Hey, they were having a hard enough time deciding whether NT was an 8-case system (confusing form and meaning) or a 5-case system, and were confusing semantic meaning of lexical items ("Aktionsart") with aspect. My first encounter with Porter's system was in Africa via a neutral summary of things going on in biblical studies. My first reaction on the Porter item was that the abstracter or typist had made a mistake. Later, on fuller acquaintance, my reaction was that the whole discussion in NT studies was surreal and unbelievable.

Think about the big picture and what this says about the field of NT studies. If Porter were right, then no one has been reading Greek correctly, ever, including the ancient Greeks. If Porter is wrong, then NT studies is in a mess by not being able to clarify this for students. Either way, NT studies comes out limping along pretty weakly on the language side. One way to fix this is to have people learn the language to point of communicating in the language. Our Greek profs need to be presenting papers to each other in Greek.
And they won't be saying things like *αὔριον ἐποίησεν. Let's hear it from Jason on aspect-only Greek verbs: No. And clarified in Spanish: No.

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