RE: tense & aspect / action & states of being

Jonathan Robie (74144.2360@CompuServe.COM)
08 Sep 96 18:48:15 EDT

> I would also agree with Don Wilkins that one cannot ignore either
> context or the fundamental nature of tenses and aspects

Yes, of course. I'm just trying to get him to give me some concrete examples...

> I just don't like the apparent suggestion that every time you see an
> aorist in a new context you must invent a new rule or subdivide an
> old one.

Well, it is easy to get this impression from the grammars and textbooks. I'm
really glad that I bumped into you on this one when I did, because I was just
getting ready to waste lots of time on this one...

> I think one needs to read lots and lots of Greek, consulting the
> grammar and the lexicon as necessary. On occasion one needs to
> spend a good deal of time with the grammar and the lexicon.

This kind of practical advice is very useful. You know, the textbooks I have
don't really say anything about how you should approach learning Greek in the
short, medium, and long term. Right now, I'm reading 1/2 hour to 1 hour a day,
reading the passage out loud at the beginning and end, and using the grammars
and lexicons to try to unwrap the problems that come up as I go. But I'm not
treating reading as a by-product of learning the language, as you suggested we
should, I'm investigating the aspects of the language which catch my attention
as I read.

> But a grammar is not so much a scientific treatise as it is a
> compendium of lore based upon meditation upon what has oneself
> been taught and upon thoughtful observation of and reflection
> upon huge amounts of textual evidence. There's considerable peril
> in theorizing on too small a store of evidence, which is one reason
> for my skepticism about grammars that limit the textual evidence
> for Greek grammar to the New Testament alone.

What grammars would you suggest? Currently, I use primarily BDR and Robertson,
each of which go beyond the GNT to some extent. Don Wilkins suggested that
Smyth's grammar is very good even for people who are interested primarily in the
GNT. I do see advantages to using a text based on a larger pool of Greek, but
I'm also afraid of being overwhelmed by information not relevant to me.

Of course, we "little Greeks" theorize based on an *extremely* small store of
evidence, and I don't read all that much when I spend 1/2 hour reading and
re-reading Greek. I haven't come anywhere near exhausting the GNT yet (and of
course, reading the GNT is my main goal). So I really rely on grammars and
lexicons to present a broader overview. Incidentally, right now I'm using only
BAGD for a lexicon. Is there any reason for a "little Greek" to get involved
with Liddel-Scott-Jones? The small and medium versions didn't look all that
interesting, and the "Great Scott" looked rather overwhelming...

> Yes, didn't I just say something about Modern Greek having two futures?
> The first is based upon the present stem, the second on the aorist. This
> means to me that the distinction between present (continuous, repetitive,
> durative) aspect and aorist aspect is pretty deeply rooted in Greek. I
> don't know Modern Greek at all well, but I'm also impressed by the number
> of new middle "deponents"--even the verb "to be" in MG is EIMAI.