Does the "present" have to be non-past?

inthedesert
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Does the "present" have to be non-past?

Post by inthedesert » February 14th, 2017, 12:30 am

Hi guys,

This is my first post here and I'm an absolute beginner so if I make claims that sound like I think I know what I'm doing, I don't. Please be gentle (though feel free to tell me I'm wrong).

I'm trying to wrestle through all the stuff about the meaning of the forms of Greek verbs (yes, some of us have to wade through the mess that your debates are creating!). I've been reading Runge's article on the historic present, The Greek Verb Revisited and a bunch of Mike Aubrey's blog musings. Although I've been using the terms 'Past Perfective', 'Non-Past Combinative' etc. as I've been learning, I'll use the traditional terms here.

I'm perfectly happy that aspect is prominent in Greek and that the Aorist is perfective, the Imperfect/Present are imperfective and the Perfects are resultative (-ish). It also makes good sense to me that the augment prototypically marks past time and that it would be fine for Aorists to be used by metaphorical extension in situations that are not past because you want/need perfective aspect. (I'm still figuring out what I think about the proposal that the pair to the aorist is the future).

If the aorist, imperfect and pluperfect all mark anterior time, I'm wondering what the options are for the present/perfect. You guys have convinced me that Porter goes too far in saying that there is no tense marking at all and that the augment is worth something. My basic question is, why does the opposition to 'past' have to be 'non-past'? I know that is common enough cross-linguistically, but I don't see why it has to be the case. Put another way:
Aorist: +PERF +PAST
Imperfect: +IMPERF +PAST
Present: + IMPERF -PAST

But why couldn't present be undefined?
Aorist: +PERF +PAST
Imperfect: +IMPERF +PAST
Present: + IMPERF +/-PAST

If this were the case (which I'm asking about, not asserting), then the present would be more like a participle in that the surrounding context would tell me about time (so historic present wouldn't be so confusing). All the non-past uses of the present would still be there and make sense (ie: you still choose against marking +PAST for present and future events). The imperfect can be used if you want to and it will establish past time, but you are free to use the present if you need imperfective aspect and you don't need to establish past time (either because it's non-past or because it's already been established).

Would anyone be able to give me an example/link that kills my hypothesis dead?
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Does the "present" have to be non-past?

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 14th, 2017, 9:09 am

inthedesert wrote:Put another way:
Aorist: +PERF +PAST
Imperfect: +IMPERF +PAST
Present: + IMPERF -PAST

But why couldn't present be undefined?
Aorist: +PERF +PAST
Imperfect: +IMPERF +PAST
Present: + IMPERF +/-PAST

If this were the case (which I'm asking about, not asserting), then the present would be more like a participle in that the surrounding context would tell me about time (so historic present wouldn't be so confusing). All the non-past uses of the present would still be there and make sense (ie: you still choose against marking +PAST for present and future events). The imperfect can be used if you want to and it will establish past time, but you are free to use the present if you need imperfective aspect and you don't need to establish past time (either because it's non-past or because it's already been established).

Would anyone be able to give me an example/link that kills my hypothesis dead?
Is this a falsifiable theory? What kind of example could prove that the present tense in English is non-past, or would you assert the same for English? In both English and Greek, we clearly have the historical present, also in German at least, I'm guessing this is a widespread phenomenon in languages where many think of the present tense as marked for time.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

MAubrey
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Re: Does the "present" have to be non-past?

Post by MAubrey » February 14th, 2017, 10:30 am

In everything that I've written (well, everything recent anyway, I'm sure I've flubbed this at some point), nonpast does not mean. -PAST. It has always meant: +/-PAST.

At least to the extent that binary features are useful (they're not).
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inthedesert
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Re: Does the "present" have to be non-past?

Post by inthedesert » February 14th, 2017, 11:12 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:Is this a falsifiable theory? What kind of example could prove that the present tense in English is non-past, or would you assert the same for English? In both English and Greek, we clearly have the historical present, also in German at least, I'm guessing this is a widespread phenomenon in languages where many think of the present tense as marked for time.
For English, I think you could show it by a sentence like:

I used to not own a car, but I have a car.

Here, the present tense is not enough to cancel out the past by itself. You would need an adverb to do that:

I used to not own a car, but now I have a car.

I think that shows that the English simple present isn't tensed.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Does the "present" have to be non-past?

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 14th, 2017, 1:03 pm

inthedesert wrote:For English, I think you could show it by a sentence like:

I used to not own a car, but I have a car.

Here, the present tense is not enough to cancel out the past by itself. You would need an adverb to do that:

I used to not own a car, but now I have a car.

I think that shows that the English simple present isn't tensed.
Mari Broman Olsen's thesis on aspect used the pragmatic implicature of νυν to tease out questions of aspect, so you're in good company with this approach. But my intuition for English says that "I have a car" and "now I have a car" have the same time reference in these two sentences. Am I missing something?
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MAubrey
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Re: Does the "present" have to be non-past?

Post by MAubrey » February 14th, 2017, 3:23 pm

We could also use a real name here.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Does the "present" have to be non-past?

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 14th, 2017, 4:30 pm

MAubrey wrote:We could also use a real name here.
Faulkner?
Faulkner wrote:The past is never dead. It's not even past.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

MAubrey
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Re: Does the "present" have to be non-past?

Post by MAubrey » February 14th, 2017, 6:33 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
MAubrey wrote:We could also use a real name here.
Faulkner?
Faulkner wrote:The past is never dead. It's not even past.
:? :roll: :shock:

I was thinking for our OP here.
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Mike Aubrey, Linguist
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Does the "present" have to be non-past?

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 14th, 2017, 7:37 pm

MAubrey wrote:I was thinking for our OP here.
OK, what name would you suggest?
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

timothy_p_mcmahon
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Re: Does the "present" have to be non-past?

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » February 14th, 2017, 7:54 pm

I'm thinking Mike is requesting that the author of this thread comply with the real name policy for handles on this forum.
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