Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

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

Post by Stephen Hughes » August 1st, 2014, 6:35 am

Please clarify my ignorance about a few things...

Randall,
I think I get what you are saying, but could your erudition please clarify my ignorance about a few things...
RandallButh wrote: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.
I have read that there is a difference in aspect between Koine and Modern Greek. Is that also being extended to Ancient Greek.

Has Porter stated (or proved to any but his students' satisfaction) that aspect is inherently different between Ancient Greek and Koine Greek? Does his study extend beyond the Koine period?
RandallButh wrote:And [Our Greek profs] won't be saying things like *αὔριον ἐποίησεν.
Are you quoting an example, or making a point? (Tense switching is a typical mistake I see in those switching from competency in reading and writing English to (in)competency in speaking it.) Is this about ineptitude in oral Greek, or caricature of the Porterite concept of aspect?
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 1st, 2014, 7:21 am

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:have numerous reservations with "frameworks" including the ones I actually use, e.g, Helma Dik, Luigi Battezzato (Attic Tragedy).
I'm not familiar with Battezzato. What is he doing?
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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RandallButh
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by RandallButh » August 1st, 2014, 10:18 am

Stephen H.,

By ancient Greeks I included Koine. The point being that they specified time distinctions in the Greek verb, like Dionysios Thrax.
On aspect, both Koine and modern Greek use aspect all across the board, and quite similarly. I can't see the difference.
Finally, the incorrect Greek was an extrapolation and mis-prediction of Porterite Greek

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

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 1st, 2014, 10:51 am

RandallButh wrote:On aspect, both Koine and modern Greek use aspect all across the board, and quite similarly. I can't see the difference.
I would suggest two (minor) differences, but there are probably more:

The modern Greek future, formed differently, is now fully and explicitly differentiated between imperfective and perfective. The aspectual significance of the Koine future is harder to characterize.

The modern Greek perfect is formed differently and it applies to a smaller set of uses that are easier to characterize.

Stephen, I don't think Porter addressed either of these in any detail since his study really wasn't about the modern Greek verbal system. He's not addressing the questions you seem to be interested in.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » August 1st, 2014, 12:22 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Stirling Bartholomew wrote:have numerous reservations with "frameworks" including the ones I actually use, e.g, Helma Dik, Luigi Battezzato (Attic Tragedy).
I'm not familiar with Battezzato. What is he doing?
Luigi Battezzato http://www.sns.it/en/didattica/lettere/ ... attezzato/

Think Helma Dik in Italian with significant variants. He writes for an audience of classical scholars, very straight forward presentation, minimal obfuscation.

The language of Sophoclesmore Luigi Battezzato https://www.academia.edu/3791189/The_la ... _Sophocles

Linguistic and rhetoric in Greek tragedy (Linguistica e retorica della tragedia greca, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, Rome 2008)
C. Stirling Bartholomew

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

Post by Stephen Hughes » August 1st, 2014, 1:27 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Stephen, I don't think Porter addresseud either of these in any detail since his study really wasn't about the modern Greek verbal system. He's not addressing the questions you seem to be interested in.
Just in my opinion, then, it is a major shortcoming to consider any aspect of Greek without at least understanding it diachronically.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 1st, 2014, 2:52 pm

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:Think Helma Dik in Italian with significant variants. He writes for an audience of classical scholars, very straight forward presentation, minimal obfuscation.
Yeah, H. Dik's work has been seminal in classical studies. Thanks for the Battezzato cites.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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MAubrey
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by MAubrey » August 1st, 2014, 3:52 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Yeah, H. Dik's work has been seminal in classical studies.
Absolutely, though Helma is quite a bit more reserved in terms of how she view it. She told me a few years ago that she was simply content with the fact that Kenneth Dover liked it.
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Re: Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » August 3rd, 2014, 4:20 pm

RandallButh wrote: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.
Randall,

I am reading a recent (2011) book[1] on hermeneutics. The authors appear to have read most of the 1990s stuff on verb aspect and NT pragmatics. They include a short passage on the Greek verb which starts out sounding like vintage 1992 Porter. They cite 1992 Porter (Idioms) in the footnotes. It appears that they have also read some of "Discourse Features" S. Levinsohn since their treatment of the historical present in John seems to be dependant on that book but may not be. Vintage '92 Porter seems to be entrenched and it is being served up to unsuspecting seminary students in Hermeneutics. This is what I find scary about NT Studies and linguistics. The acceptance of some idea seems to be a matter of marketing. The buyer isn't able to evaluate the quality of the work so the blurbs from "authorities" become the basis for credibility.


[1]Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology Kostenberger, Andreas J.; Patterson, Richard 9780825430473


RandallButh wrote: 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.
Randall,

You made a comment about pragmatic analysis earlier. In terms of the greek verb aspect, Levinsohn warns us against treating imperfective aspect as a marker of backgrounded material. There are indicators other than verb aspect to identify a constituent as "in the background" which argue against linking this directly to verb aspect. You think this is part of Porterism, making aspect the principal issue in foreground and background.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

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

Post by RandallButh » August 3rd, 2014, 5:50 pm

The problem with Porterism on aspect and discourse is that he gets things backwards.

Perfectives primarily form a foregrounded framework of narrative and imperfectives primarily provide the background. That is standard linguistic fare and Levinsohn would agree with it, as do I. Linking two aspects primarily with foreground and background in narrative is not a problem, though it cannot be made absolute. For one there are various kinds of subordinations and parentheses. And different genre have different structural needs. Porter flips the perfective and imperfective around, up-side down, inside out, and calls the imperfective foreground. But then to sin boldly he calls the perfect tense "frontground". That is the ridiculous idea and not the way Greek works or most any human language (except maybe spoken French ;) where the perfect takes over the perfective system of the spoken language, nothing like Greek).

Another angle on all of this that Porter got wrong from the beginning is the historical present. Porter claimed to "explain" it by claiming that it was only an imperfective aspect and did not carry present time marking. What he didn't understand and what those listening to him didn't understand is that the historical present is a rhetorical device that plays both time and ASPECT against itsself for rhetorical effect. The historical present is typically used for events that would normally be encoded as perfective in a narrative. Yes, the present is prototypically an imperfective. That is the mismatch. The author introduces a series of perfective events with an imperfective for an event that is complete and completed before the next narrative event. And not only is the aspect violated, but the time is likewise violated, by using the present in a past situation. That is why it has always been called a historical present, pitting both aspect and time against itself for rhetorical effect. Rijksbaren got that right in his little syntax. NT profs didn't and they didn't see that Porter's "positive evidence" was actually counterevidence to Porter's theory.

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