Re: 'default' aorist

Carl W. Conrad (
Tue, 29 Oct 1996 11:40:38 -0600

At 10:52 AM -0600 10/29/96, KEN LITWAK wrote:
>Let me ask a hypothetical question about the default aorist then.
>If a NT writer wanted to say that someting happened in the past, and it
>was important that it happened once in the past, what would one expect?
> A Perfect? If NT authors use an aorist, does that mean we cannot say
>that they "intend" (yes, I know all the problems about intention) to say
>that the event took place completely in the past?

Ah, Ken--you WOULD add "completely," wouldn't you? You've MARKED it, and
not lightly: it's over and done with, can never recur: isn't that precisely
what the perfect tense indicates? As when Pilate says, hO GEGRAFA GEGRAFA!
Now French and Italian (I won't speak for Spanish) have a tense derived
>from the old Latin perfect tense that is termed "Definite Past": Fr.
j'aimai, It. amai, perhaps best translated, "I DID love." I suspect that
your question, although I know you're deadly serious about it, is all too
hypothetical for any fully satisfying answer, but I myself will be very
interested to hear what real linguists such as Mari Olsen and Rod Decker
and Phil Graber (is Mikeal Palmer still on the list?) have to say about it.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR