aorist, etc. (whoops: sent it to '...digest' first)

Mari Broman Olsen (
Mon, 9 Dec 1996 21:43:01 -0500 (EST)

I am only referring to the indicative in my analysis of tense and
aspect. It would be interesting to extend the study to at least the
participles, since aspect seems to be preserved in participials, as
pointed out in Bernard Comrie's book on tense (Cambridge,
1985--there's also one on aspect, Cambridge, 1976: both good
typological studies).

Compare: The passengers AWAITING flight 76 proceeded to gate 5.
With: The passengers DENIED boarding proceeded to gate 5.

The imperfect participial allows the waiting to continue through the
proceeding, while the past (perfective?) participial precludes that
interpretation. The imperfect participial allows the waiting to
continue through the proceeding, while the past (perfective?)
participial precludes that interpretation: the denial is completed.
Here the temporal reference arises from aspect, a phenomena that
extends to temporal reference in languages without tense, e.g. some
dialects of Arabic, in which the imperfective generally has present
reference and the perfective generally past. BUt no one claims that
these forms are therefore tenses also.

My goal in keeping such things separate is to avoid the confounding of
grammar and content, for which Don Wilkins criticizes Don Carson. As
I have said on occasion, the goal is to be able to say conclusively
what the form is going to mean in the NEXT context one sees (e.g. the
student learning Greek) and what bits of meaning we have to look
elsewhere for.

As for the augment, Jonathan stated my position most clearly: the
augment had past time reference and lost it. Morphology is more
persistent than semantics, as shown by a similar case in modern
German: the "perfect" form now has the force of a simple past (even
drifting toward bare perfective aspect, since one can use it with
future time adverbials: Morgen bin ich gegangen = Tomorrow have I gone
(am I gone). As for the time in which it happened, I am not expert to
judge. As I wrote Don Wilkins privately today (our messages must have
crossed in the e-mail, since I get only digest form of b-greek), my
reading is limited to the Koine: NT and some early church fathers. My
approach attempts to take its breadth from (continuing) study of how
aspect and tense work cross-linguistically. A historical TLG study
would surely be of interest, with perhaps a statistical analysis of
the percentage of forms that were past-referring, e.g. I think Ann
Taylor (at Penn when I last wrote her) has done similar studies on
other constructions in Koine, particularly word order.

Finally, I was amused to find myself referred to as "Mari Broman",
which hasn't happened in 15 years (when I first studied Greek...).
Takes you back :-D

Mari Broman Olsen
Research Associate

University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
3141 A.V. Williams Building
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742