verbal aspect

Grammar questions which are not related to any specific text.

Re: verbal aspect

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » November 8th, 2011, 6:47 pm

Jesse Goulet wrote:
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:Wallace writes clearly, is easy and light to read

Are you serious? It took everyone in my class 10 minutes just to understand the first page. We all ended up skimming through our weekly reading because none of us had the time to stop and actually try to figure out what Wallace was talking about.


I'm serious, but it may be a matter of taste, and depend on what you already know. I'm curious to know what page you are referring to.

Jesse Goulet wrote:Has he changed his mind at all since 1995?

Difficult to say - I haven't seen him commenting on this. "Not at all" would be an overstatement because so much has been said since -95, but I would bet my money on "not turned around".

Jesse Goulet wrote:I just want whatever the basic consensus is for now. I don't plan on getting into details of things until later on.

I think the consensus is that there is the thing called aspect, it's imperfective for present and imperfect "tenses" and perfective for aorist. It's the basic meaning of "tense" forms in all moods. Almost everything else is debated, and my definition could be debated, too. The hot issue is, as already noted, whether "tense" indicates time in indicative or not, but there are quite many smaller issues.
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Re: verbal aspect

Postby Jonathan Robie » November 9th, 2011, 11:03 am

Thanks, Rod, for the useful summary.

So Rod, for whom I have enormous respect, still agrees with Porter on this. If Jesse wants, we can discuss why some people agree with Porter and others with Fanning, but that's a bit much for the Beginner's Forum.

Jesse - you're working through Mounce. I think Mounce is particularly good on the morphology of verbs - his Summary of Basics of Biblical Greek is worth having on your hard disk or printing out and putting in your Bible, it has great tables that explain the form of verbs clearly.

I also think that he's a little fuzzy on what these verb forms mean, and some of that has to do with the time he wrote the book. I suspect that the excerpts of Rijksbaron, together with Mounce, might be helpful for learning the traditional view of how the Greek verb functions (Rod calls this the Fanning view). It's been helpful for me. So that's my personal recommendation.

Unless your teacher is in the Porter camp. If so, I don't know anything better than Rod Decker's summary, which you already have.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: verbal aspect

Postby Jonathan Robie » November 9th, 2011, 11:08 am

Alex Hopkins wrote:Nevertheless, I agree with the point Randall Buth made a couple of years back - "All people using Greek have ALWAYS appreciated aspect. Including today," ( http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-greek/2009-April/048813.html ), and this being so, earlier scholars have written valuable material on the verbal system even without using the term "aspect". Zerwick in his Grammar has perceptive things to say, for example.

I agree with Rod that "Aspect refers to the way in which a speaker/writer *views* an action", but I don't think it is actually this understanding of what "aspect" is that is contentious - I think that's a useful definition, and generally accepted. It's what the term "aspect" has come to connote that is contentious - that is, the question of whether the indicative mood grammaticalizes time.


Yes, I think most people here would agree that the verb clearly grammaticalizes aspect - which is one of the dimensions in Rijksbaron's tables. Even in the indicative.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: verbal aspect

Postby Barry Hofstetter » November 9th, 2011, 8:33 pm

Wow, aspect again. I'll put it this way – I was a educated as a classicist before I started formal theological and biblical studies, going through the M.A. I started Greek in 1977, and during that period read a lot of authors, and had some excellent professors, including Steve Tracy of OSU (a leading epigraphist and Homericist). Let's put it this way – none of these guys, who make their living reading, understanding and interpreting ancient Greek (and Latin), ever once mentioned anything about verbal aspect except in a few brief comments at the beginning level on how non-indicative verbal forms should be understood in relationship to the tense of the main verb. The first time I heard about this discussion was when I was pursuing my Th.M. in NT (years after getting the M.A. in Classics).

That's it. No complicated theory, no debate. As far as I can tell, it's still not much of a concern to most classicists. Carl Conrad could certainly say more about this, as he was already well established in the field by the time I started in my academic career.

So here's my advice about this discussion. Ignore it. It's not important for learning the language. Not a bit. If you are a native English speaker, by the time you were 5 years old you were already speaking English, using complicated grammar and syntax and plenty of good daily use vocabulary. Maybe your parents and teachers corrected you on your formal grammar and as your grew older people fussed about getting a good score on your SAT's and so forth, but they could do so because you had already acquired the language, and all without any worries about linguistic theory. Plautus wrote his plays in good Latin before there were any published grammars of Latin (which were designed to help people with rhetoric more than anything else), and what grammar did Homer use to write his poems?

Concentrate on learning and understanding your Greek. Then when you've got that under your belt, you can revisit the discussion, and see if it still has the same importance for you.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Re: verbal aspect

Postby cwconrad » November 9th, 2011, 9:34 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:Wow, aspect again. I'll put it this way – I was a educated as a classicist before I started formal theological and biblical studies, going through the M.A. I started Greek in 1977, and during that period read a lot of authors, and had some excellent professors, including Steve Tracy of OSU (a leading epigraphist and Homericist). Let's put it this way – none of these guys, who make their living reading, understanding and interpreting ancient Greek (and Latin), ever once mentioned anything about verbal aspect except in a few brief comments at the beginning level on how non-indicative verbal forms should be understood in relationship to the tense of the main verb. The first time I heard about this discussion was when I was pursuing my Th.M. in NT (years after getting the M.A. in Classics).

That's it. No complicated theory, no debate. As far as I can tell, it's still not much of a concern to most classicists. Carl Conrad could certainly say more about this, as he was already well established in the field by the time I started in my academic career.

So here's my advice about this discussion. Ignore it. It's not important for learning the language. Not a bit. If you are a native English speaker, by the time you were 5 years old you were already speaking English, using complicated grammar and syntax and plenty of good daily use vocabulary. Maybe your parents and teachers corrected you on your formal grammar and as your grew older people fussed about getting a good score on your SAT's and so forth, but they could do so because you had already acquired the language, and all without any worries about linguistic theory. Plautus wrote his plays in good Latin before there were any published grammars of Latin (which were designed to help people with rhetoric more than anything else), and what grammar did Homer use to write his poems?

Concentrate on learning and understanding your Greek. Then when you've got that under your belt, you can revisit the discussion, and see if it still has the same importance for you.


As I've read carefully through Barry's comment here and then re-read it carefully, I'm almost surprised to find that I am very much in agreement with what he has said. I began studying Greek in 1952 and was teaching classes in Greek before 1960; I never ran into discussions of verbal aspect in ancient Greek until I first became involved in B-Greek in the earlier 1990's. I don't think that anything I've ever learned about verbal aspect has radically swayed the way I have read and understood the verb-forms in Greek literary texts. I don't know whether this is really true or not, but I wonder whether the relatively recent sharp focus on verbal aspect in Biblical Koine Greek especially doesn't have something to do with a sense that getting aspect right can or should make exegesis more precise. For my part, I'm convinced that using Greek as a vehicle of communication -- reading, writing, speaking, listening -- is only tangentially related to talking about how the language functions and analyzing texts into its constituent grammatical elements. I think it is wrong -- fundamentally wrong -- to suppose that a precise and accurate knowledge of how the elements of a language function to convey meaning is the same thing as knowing how to read and write texts or speak and hear speech in a language with understanding. In fact, I think, one must understand what an utterance or a text means before one can endeavor to explain how the utterance or text conveys its meaning.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
ἄτοπον, ἔφη, λέγεις εἰκόνα καὶ δεσμώτας ἀτόπους.
ὁμοίους ἡμῖν, ἦν δʼ ἐγώ. Plato, Rep. 7 (515a)
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