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Gnomic Aorists: No Problem! The Greek Indicative Verb System as Four Ordered Pairs
This paper has proposed that Greek indicative verb forms form a system network with four ordered, binary oppositions: (1) perfective versus imperfective aspect; (2) for perfectives, aorist versus future; (3) for imperfectives, simple versus perfect and (4) present versus past.
In connection with the above network, two strong claims have been made:
(1) that so-called “gnomic aorists” should not be viewed as unusual instances of a past tense in which contextual factors override the tense parameter, nor as spatially remote56, but as default usages in non-narrative of a perfective form that either has non-future tense or (my prefe- rred option) is unmarked for tense.
(2) that attempts to come up with a single semantic meaning for the perfect that is true for every token, regardless of the verb class, start at the wrong place. Rather, the analyst should ask for each verb, in the first instance, whether the perfect is part of a set of imperfective forms with more than one member. If both perfect and simple imperfective forms of the verb are attested, then the two are distinguished by the perfect being “combinative” (with an event portrayed as completed producing a stative or other imperfective result), whereas the simple imperfective simply portrays the event as ongoing at the point of reference. When no simple imperfective is attested for the verb concerned, as is the case for οἶδα and ἵστημι, then for these and only these verbs, it is not unreasonable to argue with Campbell that the perfect is simply +Imperfective.