present ind mp looks like present imperfect to me

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Douglas Nast
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Joined: February 14th, 2017, 5:50 pm

present ind mp looks like present imperfect to me

Post by Douglas Nast » February 18th, 2017, 3:39 pm

I am just learning the present middle and passive indicative. I see λυονται οι δουλοι translated as the slaves are being loosed. This sounds to me like an action in the present time which is not completed; therefore the "present imperfect".

When I heard there were 3 aspects and 3 temporal categories, I expected to see all nine elements of the matrix filled in. In Greek I have found only seven are used, and lo and behold, one of the missing slots, the "present imperfect" is being handled by a change in voice with nary a word about aspect, which having served its purpose in introducing the imperfect, perfect, and pluperfect is now relegated to the attic, like the proverbial crazy aunt.

I am a sucker for taxonomy, and any resources which can provide a richer more complete discussion of these issues would be of great interest to me.

Robert Emil Berge
Posts: 33
Joined: August 24th, 2016, 1:34 pm

Re: present ind mp looks like present imperfect to me

Post by Robert Emil Berge » February 18th, 2017, 6:28 pm

Starting from a set of categories and then trying to make the Greek language fit into those is probably not a good way to understand Greek better. Greek, as any other real language, is not a coherent system, and the terminology used to describe how it works will always be imprecise and a simplification. The relationship between tense and aspect in Greek verbs is a fascinating and complex topic, and it doesn't resemble a 3x3 matrix at all. It's more like a jungle and a maze. There are many scholarly discussions going on about this, I think. I don't know about half of it, but I can recommend Rijksbaron's "The Syntax and Semantics of the Verb in Classical Greek: An Introduction". There are probably some good sources focusing on Biblical Greek as well, but I don't know about them.

Michael Sharpnack
Posts: 31
Joined: February 2nd, 2017, 5:13 pm
Location: Nashville

Re: present ind mp looks like present imperfect to me

Post by Michael Sharpnack » February 19th, 2017, 9:38 am

Robert makes a great point, which reinforces what I've been learning; aspect and tense are really complicated. I do think there are some general rules though.

I am still a beginner as well, so someone with more knowledge can correct me. But, as I understand it, the present tense generally denotes a continuous, or incomplete, action, more so than just present time or current action. Only in the indicative mood does time come more into play. This is the same whether the voice is active or mp; voice doesn't change the type of action. So, λυουσι οἱ δουλοι can mean the slaves are loosing, while λυονται οι δουλοι can mean the slaves are being loosed; both are continuous, or not completed, because that's the aspect of the present tense.

As for the the imperfect tense, it's built on the present tense stem, so it has the same type of action as the present - continuous - but the imperfect has an augment, which throws it into the past. Therefore, the present is continuous in general, and the imperfect is past and continuous. So ελυον οἱ δουλοι means the slaves were loosing, and ελυοντο οἱ δουλοι means the slaves were being loosed. The only difference between the imperfect and the present here is the time, due to the augment. And again, this is only in the indicative. That's why there is no imperfect outside the indicative, because time is not much of a factor in the other moods, so only the present tense is used to denote the continuous aspect.

That's my understanding of it at least, maybe it helps, someone else can add a lot more.

Robert Crowe
Posts: 102
Joined: January 8th, 2016, 11:06 am
Location: Northern Ireland

Re: present ind mp looks like present imperfect to me

Post by Robert Crowe » February 19th, 2017, 6:28 pm

In his preface to Tenses, Daniel Wallace (Greek Grammar beyond the Basics, p495) jests that the Greek student can empathise with the plight of a time traveler as portrayed in the following except from The Restaurant at the End of the Galaxy.
The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveler's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you, for instance, how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoid it by time-jumping forward two days. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past, and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations while you are actually traveling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father.

Most readers get as far as the Future Semiconditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up; and in fact in later editions of the book, all the pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs.
I suspect the pages that were no longer printed added the extra complication of imaginary time.
Tús maith leath na hoibre.

Douglas Nast
Posts: 23
Joined: February 14th, 2017, 5:50 pm

Re: present ind mp looks like present imperfect to me

Post by Douglas Nast » February 20th, 2017, 8:01 pm

"Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveler's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations"

Thanks for the recommendation, but I was looking for more of a taxonomy rather than a mere handbook.

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