Re: Tense and Aspect / Action and States of Being

Carl W. Conrad (
07 Sep 96 22:51:00 EDT

At 9:51 PM -0500 9/7/96, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>Carl Conrad wrote:
>> I cannot help but think that a good deal of the splitting of tense
>> usages into progressively self-ramifying categories says more about
>> our need to translate into the nuances appropriate to English.
>Ah, by "self-ramifying" you mean that I know that a particular usage of the
>aorist is ingressive if the beginning is stressed, and the significance of an
>ingressive aorist is that it means the beginning is stressed? Maybe I don't need
>to worry so much about the names of the categories, but merely need to know that
>an aorist may stress the beginning, stress the end, etc.?

Yes, and also that these usages are indicated by CONTEXT in the Greek rather than by the tense form itself; the category distinctions may be useful if they help the English-speaker to be aware of the varied English modes of expressing verbal action that can be implied by the Greek tenses in varying contexts; but one ought not to imagine that these category distinctions are something built into the Greek tense or consciously governing the Greek writer's selection of the tense. I simply want to differentiate between (1) understanding what the Greek says, and (2) formulating an appropriate translation of the Greek text. I really think that the grammarians who multiply categories and subcategories of aorist are concerned with difficulties of English expression of time relationships more than they are concerned with recognition of what the Greek tense really means. Does that make sense?