The Historical Present: φησί

Mark Lightman
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Joined: May 6th, 2011, 6:30 pm

Re: The Historical Present: φησί

Post by Mark Lightman » March 4th, 2012, 12:50 pm

The problem isn't so much what is said but when, how often and how. We can continue this discussion with private messages if you want to.

Thanks, Eeli, you are correct, I think, about the proper forum decorum here. In fact, this morning I did have several helpful Private Message exchanges about the excellent ἡ περὶ τῆς τῆς λαλίας λαλίας λαλία question that Carl raised. To everything there is a season and a correct format.

If anyone is interested, p.m. me and I can send you my end of these p.m.’s without including anything written by others.

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Re: The Historical Present: φησί

Post by RandallButh » March 5th, 2012, 6:19 pm

In the paper that Eeli asked about
p. 708
The remainder of this paper adopts Porter’s aspectual theory as a provisional model in order to investigate the historical present’s function in the narratives of John’s Gospel. The main reason for choosing this theory is the conceptual power of “aspectual distinction” in explaining the historical present’s appearance alongside non-present forms such as the aorist and imperfect tenses in past-time context. The other three theories are unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for the coexistence of present and non-present tenses, and the frequent jumping between them, within the textual context of a given narrative.
Just another confused student. But we don't deal with pedagogy here.

Eeli Kaikkonen
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Location: Finland

Re: The Historical Present: φησί

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » March 5th, 2012, 7:43 pm

RandallButh wrote: Just another confused student. But we don't deal with pedagogy here.
Heh. Does anyone else have something to say...?

Seriously, it's not theoretically very rigorous or deep. But it has some good material to work with - for example it's easy to find examples of different kinds of verbs because (probably) all HPs in John except λεγω are referenced. I noticed νευω in 13:24 which is semelfactive and judging by the context non-repetitive. (See the other thread, Augment and Aspect.)

EDIT: it has also λεγω instances in a footnote.

Louis L Sorenson
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Re: The Historical Present: φησί

Post by Louis L Sorenson » November 21st, 2012, 7:17 am

I'm reading through ΛΟΥΚΙΟΣ Η ΟΝΟΣ 'Lucian, or the Ass' and am finding many historical presents. Has anyone noted this? This work should be looked at as good Greek source material for trying to understand what is titled 'the historical present'. I'll try and put together a few of the passages where it occurs. But in the meantime, take a look.

Tony Pope
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Re: The Historical Present: φησί

Post by Tony Pope » December 3rd, 2012, 7:47 am

Louis L Sorenson wrote: I've been reading through Chariton's Challirhoe (see below), recently, and have come across some instances of what seem to me to be the historical present for the φημί (3s φησί-ν). φημί has only the present and imperfect ἔφην, no other tense forms are present.

φησί occurs 132 times in the book. φημί occurs so often that the reader (myself) merely passes over the tense form. Chariton does use ἐφη_ about 43 times.

What I specifically wonder, is can Runge's explanation handle the reverse usage frequency for φημί in Chariton's novel? Or is φημί tenseless and merely a stylistic variation? Here are a few examples. How far can the present of φημί be deferrred into a quote and still have it give the kind of segmentation/discourse transition that Runge sees happening. In addition, it often follows conjunctions such as δέ or οὖν which have already segmented the discourse. Or is it that some speech verbs that are so common, eventually lose their tense and discourse theory cannot be applied to them? And thus what is found in Chariton is an example of that? [Note, a search of Plato brings of 2375 instances of ἔφη_ and 172 instances of φασι_, which would tend to bolster the fact that φημί is marked]. Why is Chariton's usage so skewed?
Mark Lightman wrote:
LoSo: Or is φημί tenseless and merely a stylistic variation?
I've seen in lexicons the claim that ἔφη is a 2nd aorist form as well as imperfect. This makes me wonder why the present tense form φημί would be regarded as tenseless and merely a stylistic variation. It's interesting that in Chariton's Callirhoe there are quite a number of instances of ἔφη as well as the admittedly enormous number of instances of φησί. Even if ἔφη is being used as an imperfect, not an aorist, Chariton also uses other aorist verbs introducing direct quotations, like εἶπεν (about 80x), as well as other less frequent ones. With these other aorist verbs at his disposal, why would Chariton write φησί just for variation? (Incidentally I counted only 5 intances of λέγει used as HP in the whole work.)

I notice also in reading the text that, although φησί occurs throughout the book, its distribution is uneven and there are stretches of text where it seems to be particularly clustered. These might perhaps be correlated with peaks in the story, which would be further evidence that φησί has a genuine rhetorical function. For example, the first such cluster occurs in Book 1 sections 13 and 14, where the high-born Callirhoe is being sold as a slave.

Is Runge’s explanation in terms of discourse segmentation convincing? Levinsohn preferred an explanation in terms of prominence in §12.2 of the 2nd edition (2000) of his Discourse Features book.

In the NT ἔφη and φησίν are most common by far in Acts. I do find it hard to see what the rationale is for choosing φησίν in some of the places.

Louis L Sorenson
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Re: The Historical Present: φησί

Post by Louis L Sorenson » December 3rd, 2012, 10:02 pm

Here is a TLG-e extract of a search for φησι in Lucian's The Ass. There are only a few instances of φησι... here. But if one were to look at historical presents, this is a book which should be included in the analysis...

Pseudo-Lucianus Soph., Asinus (0061: 001)
“Lucian, vol. 8”, Ed. Macleod, M.D.
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967.
Section 4, line 12

ὡς δὲ πλησιαίτερον
γίνομαι, προσαγορεύει με ἡ γυνή, καὶ ἀμείβομαι
αὐτῇ ὁμοίως, καὶ φησίν, Ἐγὼ Ἄβροιά εἰμι, εἴ
τινα τῆς σῆς μητρὸς φίλην ἀκούεις, καὶ ὑμᾶς δὲ
τοὺς ἐξ ἐκείνης γενομένους φιλῶ ὥσπερ οὓς ἔτεκον
αὐτή· τί οὖν οὐχὶ παρ' ἐμοὶ καταλύσεις, ὦ τέκνον;

Go to Context

Pseudo-Lucianus Soph., Asinus
Section 11, line 19

ἡ δὲ Παλαίστρα, Παῦσαι, φησί, προσπαίζων.

Go to Context

Pseudo-Lucianus Soph., Asinus
Section 22, line 34

Ναί, φησίν, ῥίψωμεν αὐτὸν καθαρισμὸν τοῦ στρατοῦ

Go to Context

Pseudo-Lucianus Soph., Asinus
Section 55, line 1

καὶ ὁ ἄρχων, Λέγε, φησίν, ἡμῖν ὄνομα τὸ σὸν
καὶ γονέων τῶν σῶν καὶ συγγενῶν, εἴ τινας φῂς ἔχειν
τῷ γένει προσήκοντας, καὶ πόλιν.

Go to Context

Pseudo-Lucianus Soph., Asinus
Section 17, line 26

εἶτα ἐμβὰς εἰς τὸν κῆπον θριδάκων μὲν
καὶ ῥαφανίδων καὶ σελίνων, ὅσα ὠμὰ ἐσθίει
ἄνθρωπος, ἐνεπλήσθην, τὰ δὲ ῥόδα ἐκεῖνα οὐκ ἦν
ῥόδα ἀληθινά, τὰ δ' ἦν ἐκ τῆς ἀγρίας δάφνης
φυόμενα· ῥοδοδάφνην αὐτὰ καλοῦσιν ἄνθρωποι,
κακὸν ἄριστον ὄνῳ τοῦτο παντὶ καὶ ἵππῳ· φασὶ
γὰρ τὸν φαγόντα ἀποθνῄσκειν αὐτίκα.

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