Opinions about the book "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek"

Grammar questions which are not related to any specific text.
Mitch Tulloch
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Joined: November 4th, 2017, 2:52 pm

Opinions about the book "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek"

Post by Mitch Tulloch » November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm

First post to the B-Greek forum. I thought about posting this to the Books forum but decided I'd better post it here since I'm still a beginner in some respects.

I mentioned in my post in the Introductions subforum that I'm getting back into Biblical Greek after many years away from it, so my hope is to get started on the right foot by taking advantage of recent scholarship and to avoid dead-ends and rabbit trails as much as possible. Hence one of the books I recently bought is Con Campbell's "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek" which I purchased based on its Amazon reviews, but that was before I found the B-Greek forum :-)

Anyways, I've finished reading Campbell's book and have also spent some time browsing this forum, and as a result I have some questions I'd like to ask here. (BTW I've also just finished reading Con's other book "Advances in the Study of Greek" and have read all the posts in the subforum under Books where that book is discussed, but I'll reserve my questions about that book for a later post.)

Below are my questions concerning what's being taught in "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek". Perhaps someone could respond inline *briefly* to each of my questions and describe the consensus (if there is one!) of the group concerning each matter. Thank you in advance!

1. Are perfective and imperfective the only two verbal aspects of importance for the study of Biblical Greek?


2. Is "viewpoint" a good paradigm for understanding verbal aspect? Or is there a better one?


3. Is it really correct to say that aspect is a sematic value while tense and Aktionsart are pragmatic values? To me it seems that Campbell fixes on this as his axiom and then attempts to build a theory upon it, but in doing so it feels to me like he sometimes has to bend some of the data pretty hard to try and make it fit his model, for example his metaphorical conception of remoteness with regard to the aorist tense in Mark 1:11 on pages 37-38.


4. Should we regard the future tense as perfective as Campbell suggests?


5. Regarding the imperfective aspect, Campbell says the imperfect tense is imperfective and remote while the present tense is imperfective and proximate (or non-remote according to Porter). Doesn't this contradict the whole idea of imperfective being an inside viewpoint? i.e. if present and imperfect are both views from the inside (imperfective) then how can either be considered remote?


6. Regarding narrative passages, Campbell says the default use of aorist is for mainline (skeletal) narrative, of imperfect is for background (supplementary) narrative, and present for all forms of discourse. Does this basically hold up when you read most narrative passages in the Greek NT?


7. When I originally learned Biblical Greek years ago I was taught that the default (semantic?) meaning of perfect tense is that of a past action that has a present effect or result. But from reading Campbell's book it sounds like our understanding of the perfect tense in Biblical Greek is currently in a state of flux. Is this true? Or does the traditional understanding of the perfect still basically ring true?


8. Campbell says his understanding of the perfect tense is that it is imperfective like the present tense but has heightened proximity compared to the present. I think he means by this that the perfect tense provides an inside view from a close-up perspective i.e. a kind of "super-present" semantic value. Unfortunately he doesn't include any Greek NT examples to illustrate his idea. What does the group here think about this idea of the perfect?


9. The second part of Campbell's book is a kind of workbook with examples showing how one can take the semantics (according to him) of a verb in a passage and combine it with the essential nature of the lexeme and the surrounding context to arrive at a pragmatic understanding of what Aktionsart the verb has in that particular passage. Does this approach make sense? Is it practicable? Does it mirror what goes on in the minds of B-Greek members when they try to understand the meaning of a verb in a sentence? Is there a better (and hopefully easier) approach to understanding what a Greek verb means in a sentence?


10. Chapter 10 More Participles seems fairly cut-and-dry. Is his categorization of the different types of participles basically correct?


Once again thanks in advance for anyone who took the time to answer my questions inline :-)

Cheers,
Mitch Tulloch

MAubrey
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Re: Opinions about the book "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek"

Post by MAubrey » November 6th, 2017, 1:18 am

Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
1. Are perfective and imperfective the only two verbal aspects of importance for the study of Biblical Greek?
No. The perfect is its own aspect.
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
2. Is "viewpoint" a good paradigm for understanding verbal aspect? Or is there a better one?
Yes.
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
3. Is it really correct to say that aspect is a sematic value while tense and Aktionsart are pragmatic values?
No. It's nonsense with no foundation.
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
To me it seems that Campbell fixes on this as his axiom and then attempts to build a theory upon it, but in doing so it feels to me like he sometimes has to bend some of the data pretty hard to try and make it fit his model, for example his metaphorical conception of remoteness with regard to the aorist tense in Mark 1:11 on pages 37-38.
Yep!
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
4. Should we regard the future tense as perfective as Campbell suggests?
Probably, but the data is ambiguous.
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
5. Regarding the imperfective aspect, Campbell says the imperfect tense is imperfective and remote while the present tense is imperfective and proximate (or non-remote according to Porter). Doesn't this contradict the whole idea of imperfective being an inside viewpoint? i.e. if present and imperfect are both views from the inside (imperfective) then how can either be considered remote?
We need to distinguish tense from aspect here. Campbell only wants aspect, when the augment and secondary agreement endings are clear markers of past tense. In that context, if you replace "remoteness" with "past tense" everything works perfectly fine. Campbell & Porter are just doing a silly dance around terminology without justification.
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
6. Regarding narrative passages, Campbell says the default use of aorist is for mainline (skeletal) narrative, of imperfect is for background (supplementary) narrative, and present for all forms of discourse. Does this basically hold up when you read most narrative passages in the Greek NT?
Yes. This is basically what all grammars have said for 200+ years, Going back to at least the 1823 translation of Winer's grammar into English.
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
7. When I originally learned Biblical Greek years ago I was taught that the default (semantic?) meaning of perfect tense is that of a past action that has a present effect or result. But from reading Campbell's book it sounds like our understanding of the perfect tense in Biblical Greek is currently in a state of flux. Is this true? Or does the traditional understanding of the perfect still basically ring true?
The traditional meaning was never very traditional, but it has a tolerable quick & dirty value.
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
8. Campbell says his understanding of the perfect tense is that it is imperfective like the present tense but has heightened proximity compared to the present. I think he means by this that the perfect tense provides an inside view from a close-up perspective i.e. a kind of "super-present" semantic value. Unfortunately he doesn't include any Greek NT examples to illustrate his idea. What does the group here think about this idea of the perfect?
It's nonsense.
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
9. The second part of Campbell's book is a kind of workbook with examples showing how one can take the semantics (according to him) of a verb in a passage and combine it with the essential nature of the lexeme and the surrounding context to arrive at a pragmatic understanding of what Aktionsart the verb has in that particular passage. Does this approach make sense? Is it practicable? Does it mirror what goes on in the minds of B-Greek members when they try to understand the meaning of a verb in a sentence? Is there a better (and hopefully easier) approach to understanding what a Greek verb means in a sentence?
Mostly.
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
10. Chapter 10 More Participles seems fairly cut-and-dry. Is his categorization of the different types of participles basically correct?
I can't remember...
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:30 pm
Once again thanks in advance for anyone who took the time to answer my questions inline :-)
Of course! Any time!
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

Mitch Tulloch
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Joined: November 4th, 2017, 2:52 pm

Re: Opinions about the book "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek"

Post by Mitch Tulloch » November 6th, 2017, 8:34 am

Thanks Michael! Just two follow-up questions:
Mitch Tulloch wrote: 1. Are perfective and imperfective the only two verbal aspects of importance for the study of Biblical Greek?
MAubrey wrote: No. The perfect is its own aspect.
OK. But if the perfective aspect is the external or helicopter view (the view from the outside with focus on the whole action from beginning to end but without reference to its internal structure) while the imperfective aspect is the internal or from-the-street view, then how should one define the aspect that the perfect tense conveys?
Mitch Tulloch wrote: 7. When I originally learned Biblical Greek years ago I was taught that the default (semantic?) meaning of perfect tense is that of a past action that has a present effect or result. But from reading Campbell's book it sounds like our understanding of the perfect tense in Biblical Greek is currently in a state of flux. Is this true? Or does the traditional understanding of the perfect still basically ring true?
MAubrey wrote: The traditional meaning was never very traditional, but it has a tolerable quick & dirty value.
What would be a cleaner and less quick understanding of what the perfect tense conveys? :-)

Cheers,
Mitch Tulloch

Peter Streitenberger
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Re: Opinions about the book "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek"

Post by Peter Streitenberger » November 6th, 2017, 10:02 am

As I see I have to underline what Mike wrote and being a linguist myself I just can shake head what damage Porter and Campbell brought in the debate on Greek. The distinction between perfective and imperfective Verbal aspect is nothing the Greek language is all about, and of course never encoded in the morphological information of the verb, the Greek grammarians in ancient times (I read some, but forgot their names meanwhile, was it Thrax and others - too long ago?) did not know of this modern nonsense at all. It is nothing more than a fancy idea, so dont wonder that normal classicist dont mention Porter or Campbell or Matthewsen (I hope I quote his name correct), even if they write advanced studies in the verbal system. Please just consult the classicist as Albert Ricksbaron (I surely misspelled his name) and his work on the Greek verbal system. The Greek verb encodes the time scheme, and it is of importance to distinguish between it, e.g. considering Aorist and Preterite, the first shows action as a whole and in the past, the second in its development and in the past as well, e.g like "When I was writing a letter, my friend came in" (that example is bad, I know, as it is a subclause in front, the Greek would use a participle instead, but the ongoing action of the first clause would agree with a preterite verb and the second, the action shown as a complete whole, would agree with an Aorist). The future tense has nothing to do with what C. states, whether the action is perfective or not, depends on the semantic of the verb, but this is not a major interest, any writer had or Greek encoded in the morphological information of a verb. I recommend to attend to a classic course, or if not possible, to read classicist as mentioned above, on that issue, I would consider "Syntax and Semantics of the Greek Verb" (hope that I could quote the title of the AR book correct, as best intro on that. I would like to see a great sorry of the false theories of Porter and followers on what they have contributed, just causing confusion on the Greek verbal System). Maranatha! Peter

MAubrey
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Re: Opinions about the book "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek"

Post by MAubrey » November 6th, 2017, 1:35 pm

Peter Streitenberger wrote:
November 6th, 2017, 10:02 am
As I see I have to underline what Mike wrote and being a linguist myself I just can shake head what damage Porter and Campbell brought in the debate on Greek. The distinction between perfective and imperfective Verbal aspect is nothing the Greek language is all about, and of course never encoded in the morphological information of the verb, the Greek grammarians in ancient times (I read some, but forgot their names meanwhile, was it Thrax and others - too long ago?) did not know of this modern nonsense at all. It is nothing more than a fancy idea, so dont wonder that normal classicist dont mention Porter or Campbell or Matthewsen (I hope I quote his name correct), even if they write advanced studies in the verbal system. Please just consult the classicist as Albert Ricksbaron (I surely misspelled his name) and his work on the Greek verbal system. The Greek verb encodes the time scheme, and it is of importance to distinguish between it, e.g. considering Aorist and Preterite, the first shows action as a whole and in the past, the second in its development and in the past as well, e.g like "When I was writing a letter, my friend came in" (that example is bad, I know, as it is a subclause in front, the Greek would use a participle instead, but the ongoing action of the first clause would agree with a preterite verb and the second, the action shown as a complete whole, would agree with an Aorist). The future tense has nothing to do with what C. states, whether the action is perfective or not, depends on the semantic of the verb, but this is not a major interest, any writer had or Greek encoded in the morphological information of a verb. I recommend to attend to a classic course, or if not possible, to read classicist as mentioned above, on that issue, I would consider "Syntax and Semantics of the Greek Verb" (hope that I could quote the title of the AR book correct, as best intro on that. I would like to see a great sorry of the false theories of Porter and followers on what they have contributed, just causing confusion on the Greek verbal System). Maranatha! Peter
Peter, maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, but the ancient grammarians knew about aspect and knew that it is encoded on the verb.

The problem with contemporary NT scholars is less about aspect (the perfect and future notwithstanding) and more about tense and its existence.
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Opinions about the book "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek"

Post by Barry Hofstetter » November 6th, 2017, 1:43 pm

Forum rules tell us to avoid "amen" posts, but... amen to Mike and Peter. I very much am in the classical philology tradition with a fairly good handbook type of introduction to linguistics under my belt, and it's nice to see real linguists with my conclusions... :shock: :lol:
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
ἐγὼ δὲ διδάσκω τε καὶ γράφω ἵνα τὰ ἀξιώτερα μανθάνω

RandallButh
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Re: Opinions about the book "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek"

Post by RandallButh » November 6th, 2017, 3:02 pm

I would like to say "ναί, βεβαίως" to Mike's answers above, especially if we aren't supposed to say אמן :) .
The answers were clear, blunt, and accurate.

One caveat to question nine: Aktionsart is based in the lexeme (read: semantics) of the verb. It also depends on the satellites present in a clause or context (satellites are "non-obligatory" clause constituents). Only after this Aktionsart-semantic information is processed can one proceed to discussing the pragmatic effect of the Aktionsart.
[So I drop Mike's answer of 'mostly', and might suggest 'potentially misleading, confusing' to the issues, without having read the book or examples.]

Peter Streitenberger
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Re: Opinions about the book "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek"

Post by Peter Streitenberger » November 6th, 2017, 3:54 pm

Dear friends,
Mike said: "Peter, maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, but the ancient grammarians knew about aspect and knew that it is encoded on the verb".

I was, context should have made it clear, esp. referring to the perfect-imperfect distinction of Con Camp. as main theory of explaining the verbal system following Porter and that is something I have never found in ancient grammars, if you did, I would certainly be very open to read it. If I hear not otherwise I remain in the following: unknown, fancy, and causing sensation or better irritation of learners of Greek, not of any benefit, but a danger, insofar as folks are kept away of a normal and sound understanding of the Greek verb, read an ancient Grammar book of the Greek writers and you have something better - but doing this by myself is some years ago and I cant recall to have read any of these strange things written in the Today Porter School.

Yours Peter

Mitch Tulloch
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Re: Opinions about the book "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek"

Post by Mitch Tulloch » November 6th, 2017, 4:03 pm

What's the consensus then here concerning the aspect of the perfect tense? Is it imperfective as Campbell suggests? Or stative? Or resultative?? I just tried wading through "The Perfect in Ancient Greek" by Augustin Speyer and it sounds almost like the perfect tense in the Koine period is confusing because it was in a state of transition concerning how it should be used i.e. different authors used it in different ways at different times--and probably somewhat inconsistently I would guess...

Also it was mentioned above that some ancient grammarians knew about aspect and how it was encoded in verbs. I would be interested in learning more about that, can someone provide a reference to an ancient grammatical manual that does this?

Thanks!
--Mitch Tulloch

MAubrey
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Re: Opinions about the book "Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek"

Post by MAubrey » November 6th, 2017, 5:01 pm

The perfect is surprisingly stable through this period. But that's part of its problem. It's consistently polysemous in its usage, with a split between resultative and telic-transformative/completive meaning, depending on the lexical semantics of the verbs its used with. As a result, its functions are easily extendible from other forms (middle voice & the aorist), which is exactly what happens and why it drops out of the language in a few more hundred years.
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

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