Re: Two-timing aorists

Jonathan Robie (
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 20:09:47 -0500

I didn't see this in the archives, so I assume it didn't make it to b-greek.
My apologies if this is a double-post.

At 10:01 AM 12/13/96 -0500, Randy Leedy wrote:
>Jonathan wrote, responding to me:

>Not having read Mari's work, I don't know how she uses the term
>aspect. What you are describing, Jonathan, is NOT the way I have
>understood aspect. I don't have any grammars at hand just now, but I
>do have my American Heritage Dictionary, which defines "aspect" just
>as I have always understood it: "A property of verbs that indicates
>inception, duration, completion, habituality, or other modes of
>action or being."

I believe that I'm talking about the same thing you are, but perhaps using
an unusual analogy to express myself. The term "aspect" literally involves a
particular way from which something may be looked at or contemplated. In
Russian, the term "vid" is used for aspect, from the root meaning "to see".

Think of the viewpoint as depiction as a video camera in a movie, choosing
to portray particular aspects of the event:

Inception: the view of depiction is at the beginning
Duration: the view of depiction is during the process
Completion: the view of depiction is at the end
Habituality: the view of depiction is the recurring action

>I strenuously disagree here. The simple English present tense is not
>imperfective (at least not in this context; I'm a little reluctant to
>claim that it can NEVER be, though I incline that way). The
>imperfective aspect pictures an action in its incomplete state, in
>some sense "in progress." The English verbs you use state simply that
>the action happens. You get home. Period. You find something out.
>Period. These are viewed as simple actions, not as processes in
>progress. The imperfective aspect is indicated in English, usually at
>least, with periphrastic verb constructions using the present
>participle (the "-ing" ending) such as "Yesterday as I was getting

Well, it turns out that Mari agrees with you on this. She sent me a mail on
this topic:

At 09:54 AM 12/13/96 -0500, Mari Broman Olsen wrote:
>My 'throw up' example was to illustrate absence of tense in the
>present, not imperfective aspect, though that could be an implicature
>(as past tense implicates--not entails--perfective in English). Note
>the contrast between:
>I arrive home and find that my daughter has thrown up. [possible
>imperfective (as below) or perfective: what do I do next]
>I'm arriving home and finding that my daughter has thrown up [when
>something else interjects itself into the imperfective 'nucleus' view].

Back to Randy:

>So one of us is dead wrong about the meaning of aspect.

I hope not, because if one of us is wrong, odds are pretty good that it's
me! However, I think we're both right on this.


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703
Ph: 919.598.5728 Fax: 919.598.6728
email:, <--- shockwave enabled!