01: The Semantic Value of the Tense Stems

Exploring Albert Rijksbaron's book, The Syntax and Semantics of the Verb in Classical Greek: An Introduction, to see how it would need to be adapted for Koine Greek. Much of the focus will be on finding Koine examples to illustrate the same points Rijksbaron illustrates with Classical examples, and places where Koine Greek diverges from Classical Greek.

Re: 01: The Semantic Value of the Tense Stems

Postby Jonathan Robie » June 5th, 2012, 5:22 pm

RandallButh wrote:On verb choice, I like the middle verbs in order to get the student in a new track of thinking and outside of morphology. On the other hand, most of the "good" verbs are irregular are are not attested in all four classes in NT/LXX. πορεύε-σθαι, πορευθῆ-ναι, πεπορεῦ-σθαι, πορεύσε-σθαι could work but borders on irregularity by switching to a theta-based aorist. Maybe better would be λούε--σθαι, λούσασθαι, λελοῦ-σθαι, λούσε-σθαι. It has the advantage of being the verb that most USA-NT students pronounce and in a verb that is very practical for daily use. However, the 'continuative/imperfective' stem is not so common outside of the indicative, only turning up in the Bathsheba story in biblical Greek.


Yeah. Lots of tradeoffs here.

I'd hate to start discussion of the Greek verb with the middle, and I do want lots of good examples ... πιστεύω is sounding good to me.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: 01: The Semantic Value of the Tense Stems

Postby RandallButh » June 6th, 2012, 1:27 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:
This is reasonably clean at this point, but I haven't managed to keep it clean while adding in these:

VIII. First passive, first aorist and first future passive.
IX. Second passive, second aorist and second future passive.

Any thoughts on how best to fit these two cleanly into the model? Do these principal parts each represent two different stems? Makes it a strange model, but it does account for the facts ...


The tension or problem that you are feeling is caused by Rijkbaron's mixing the historical development of the morphological system of the language with the syntactic/semantic structure of the language.

The theta-eta stems are a development in the morphological sytem. The theta-eta stem was used and added to two different tense-aspect categories, aorist and future.

Likewise, the 'second' system was an older layer of a perfective verb that morphed and was retained in both the aorist and perfect system.

So the solution is to add a note to section one:

Rijksbaron is using verbs stems to label and to refer to the four tense-aspect categories of the Greek verb: 1. present/continuative/imperfective, 2. aorist/perfective/undifferentiated, 3. perfect/resultative/stative, 4. future/purposive. (These last two are mixed into a fifth with the very rare 'future-perfect'.)
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Re: 01: The Semantic Value of the Tense Stems

Postby Jonathan Robie » June 6th, 2012, 5:08 pm

RandallButh wrote:The tension or problem that you are feeling is caused by Rijkbaron's mixing the historical development of the morphological system of the language with the syntactic/semantic structure of the language.


That's a helpful way to look at it.

RandallButh wrote:The theta-eta stems are a development in the morphological sytem. The theta-eta stem was used and added to two different tense-aspect categories, aorist and future.


Was θη added to two distinct stems that existed earlier? Or did the future develop from the aorist θη?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: 01: The Semantic Value of the Tense Stems

Postby RandallButh » June 7th, 2012, 2:33 am

On the future passive, you can see that the -θη- + -σ- was a "theta-eta" development with -σ- . That is, "Theta-eta entered both the aorist system and the future system.
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Re: 01: The Semantic Value of the Tense Stems

Postby Alex Hopkins » June 10th, 2012, 6:55 am

I'd like to join the conversation, though a little late.

As this is my first post to this dicussion (other than regarding preliminary matters), I'll mention first what I have said in another thread some time ago, that my Greek education was through a classics department; I did some linguistics but wouldn't consider it more than a nod to the field, so I'd be pleased to be corrected wherever my thinking and terminology goes astray.

My initial impressions on R's first section are that I like the simplicity of his approach, not being concerned with the morphology but with the semantics of the different stems. I do not subscribe to the view that Greek does not grammaticalize tense in the indicative, so I am on-side with him in that.

I am inclined to doubt his claim that the aorist stem denotes a completed action. I regard the aorist as [+completeness] but neutral as regards completion. It's been expressed before, perhaps on B-Greek, but it's true that it's easiest to think of completeness and completion together; but it is possible to view even an incomplete action beginning in the past 'globally' (i.e. in its completeness) without regard to internal processes. There are sufficient instances of aorists used where the action is not completed for me to regard this as uncontroversial; in this connection I mention Smith's 'Errant Aorist Interpreters' not because its treatment of the aorist is excellent beyond others, but it is worth reading and available online (http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/New_Testament_Greek/Text/Smith-Aorist-GTJ.pdf).

The 'he began to reign' type of examples also call into question a claim for completedness, as it seems to me special pleading - since they are not formally distinct - to say of these that they are explained by the beginning of their action being completed, so I look forward to R's account of these.

Another matter that this first section raises in my mind is the matter of semantic value and pragmatic implicature. I'm quite happy with the idea that "completed" is a frequent part of the pragmatic implicature of the aorist in the indicative, but I'm not convinced of this as invariable. So, what is the current consensus - if there is one - regarding the question of 'cancelability'? My understanding is that some writers raise to the status of semantic value only those meanings which are present in all instances, without exception, while others do not set so uncompromising a standard.

I'll also be interested in R's treatment of those aorist participles that clearly do not denote an action antecedent to that of the main verb.

Finally, the meaning he attaches to the word "aspect" is not how I think of it; I take aspect to refer to the way an action is presented, either in its entirety or with regard to its internal process. Campbell (Verbal Aspect..., 2007) begins, "Verbal aspect refers to the manner in which verbs are used to view an action or state. An author/speaker will portray an event either from the inside, as though it is seen as unfolding, or from the outside, as though it is seen as a whole." The meaning R ascribes to aspect seems, from what I have read, closer to what I had thought Aktionsart was used to describe.

So, having declared my ignorance and some of my starting assumptions, I'll be interested to see the unfolding of R's views.

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Re: 01: The Semantic Value of the Tense Stems

Postby MAubrey » June 10th, 2012, 5:32 pm

Alex Hopkins wrote:I am inclined to doubt his claim that the aorist stem denotes a completed action. I regard the aorist as [+completeness] but neutral as regards completion.


I'm generally with you on this one as are, I think, most of the ancient grammarians who explicitly determined to refer to the morphological form as "undefined" and only used the category of compeletedness for the perfect, though it is possible (likely?) that there is little if any difference between the ancients and Rijksbaron here beyond terminology.

Alex Hopkins wrote:Finally, the meaning he attaches to the word "aspect" is not how I think of it; I take aspect to refer to the way an action is presented, either in its entirety or with regard to its internal process. Campbell (Verbal Aspect..., 2007) begins, "Verbal aspect refers to the manner in which verbs are used to view an action or state. An author/speaker will portray an event either from the inside, as though it is seen as unfolding, or from the outside, as though it is seen as a whole." The meaning R ascribes to aspect seems, from what I have read, closer to what I had thought Aktionsart was used to describe.


Maybe you could expand on why you think this. Rijksbaron does not explicitly define the term aspect, so it might be useful for you to clarify your thinking here. Is there something about his discussion that seems to contradict Campbell's definition?

Alex Hopkins wrote:I'll also be interested in R's treatment of those aorist participles that clearly do not denote an action antecedent to that of the main verb.


Why would that be a problem? Completedness does not necessarily necessitate antecedent action. And Rijskbaron is careful in his wording here to only say that anteriority only may be expressed by the aorist. Nowhere does not say it is a necessity.
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Re: 01: The Semantic Value of the Tense Stems

Postby Alex Hopkins » June 10th, 2012, 10:35 pm

First, Mike, thanks for your response, it's appreciated.

Mike quoted my saying,
I'll also be interested in R's treatment of those aorist participles that clearly do not denote an action antecedent to that of the main verb.


and asked,
Why would that be a problem? Completedness does not necessarily necessitate antecedent action. And Rijskbaron is careful in his wording here to only say that anteriority only may be expressed by the aorist. Nowhere does not say it is a necessity.


I was trying to be careful, also, and not say that R is incorrect, but simply that it's an area where, because of my own current understandings, I'm particularly interested to hear what he has to say. If R, and our discussion, sharpens my thinking, that's what I'm looking forward to. But the reason that it seems to me that it may be problematic is as follows. You are absolutely right, "completedness does not necessarily necessitate antecedent action". I'll use English examples for convenience: He understood the joke and laughed; she ran around the track and finished strongly - the understanding doesn't finish before the laughing begins, the running isn't completed before she finished. But, We came to the fence and jumped over. Our preterite is commonly enough used of sequential events, so a pragmatic implicature may be of the anteriority of events according to their sequence in the narrative account; but it's really the sense and context that guide us to that contextual implication. Now, R says that the forms of the present stem "create a framework within which other states of affairs may occur", and are "pre-eminently suited to establish a relationship of simultaneity between two or more states of affairs." None of that is difficult at the level of implicature; but R is saying completedness is a semantic value of the aorist, so when he says (by way of contrast with the forms of the present stem) that "the value [completed] of the aorist stem may serve to express the anteriority of one state of affairs to another," (R's italics), I'm interested to see how he will go on to give a fuller account of these matters.

Mike also picked up my saying,
Finally, the meaning he attaches to the word "aspect" is not how I think of it; I take aspect to refer to the way an action is presented, either in its entirety or with regard to its internal process. Campbell (Verbal Aspect..., 2007) begins, "Verbal aspect refers to the manner in which verbs are used to view an action or state. An author/speaker will portray an event either from the inside, as though it is seen as unfolding, or from the outside, as though it is seen as a whole." The meaning R ascribes to aspect seems, from what I have read, closer to what I had thought Aktionsart was used to describe.


and responded,
Maybe you could expand on why you think this. Baronial does not explicityl define the term aspect, so it might be useful for you to clarify your thinking here. Is there something about his discussion that seems to contradict Campbell's definition?


Mike, here I had in mind some things he says later on. On pages 47-48, see his κόπτοιμ᾿ ἄν example #115 and his saying on page 48, "repeated 'kicking' is meant; κόψαιμι would have indicated that one single blow was concerned." Or page 72, "Notice, incidentally, the opposition of the aorist form ἴδοιεν and the present stem form ὁρῶσι. While the former denotes a momentaneous state of affairs, ὁρῶσι has rather a durative value...". Now, a couple of things. First, I know these examples are from later on in R's book, but I'm wondering if right from the start I've missed something in the way the term "aspect" is used? The second question I have is, wouldn't such understandings be regarded rather as an Aktionsart view of the verb? (I may not disagree with what he says at the level of implicature, but when he says "the former denotes a momentaneous state of affairs" he seems to be talking of semantic values.)

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Re: 01: The Semantic Value of the Tense Stems

Postby MAubrey » June 11th, 2012, 8:03 pm

Alex Hopkins wrote:but R is saying completedness is a semantic value of the aorist, so when he says (by way of contrast with the forms of the present stem) that "the value [completed] of the aorist stem may serve to express the anteriority of one state of affairs to another," (R's italics), I'm interested to see how he will go on to give a fuller account of these matters.


That's fair.

Alex Hopkins wrote:Mike, here I had in mind some things he says later on. On pages 47-48, see his κόπτοιμ᾿ ἄν example #115 and his saying on page 48, "repeated 'kicking' is meant; κόψαιμι would have indicated that one single blow was concerned." Or page 72, "Notice, incidentally, the opposition of the aorist form ἴδοιεν and the present stem form ὁρῶσι. While the former denotes a momentaneous state of affairs, ὁρῶσι has rather a durative value...". Now, a couple of things. First, I know these examples are from later on in R's book, but I'm wondering if right from the start I've missed something in the way the term "aspect" is used? The second question I have is, wouldn't such understandings be regarded rather as an Aktionsart view of the verb? (I may not disagree with what he says at the level of implicature, but when he says "the former denotes a momentaneous state of affairs" he seems to be talking of semantic values.)


You're right. He's not talking about implicature. But that doesn't mean that he's talking about the semantic value of the aorist itself or the semantic value of the present. He's talking about the semantic values of these individual predications and changing the aspect changes the predication.
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