verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

serunge
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by serunge » November 10th, 2011, 11:01 am

I agree with your sentiment, Carl. I avoided this debate for a long time as it seemed like a black hole for time and energy. I expect that this was never really in issue in Classics since people had a more balanced view to begin with. However, the fact that the debate exists here and continues to be perpetuated means we can't really go back and hit "undo." What is needed is a simple sketch of the system--largely without reference to the debate--that can be presented to students. If they want to fall into the black hole, that's their business. If the sketch traced a bit of the history about commentators trying to claim absolute time, then the rise of a non-temporal view is more understandable as a response.

For my part, I do not plan on investing more time on this issue, other than hopefully the kind of sketch I alluded to. I just wanted to get the ball rolling in a new direction. From what I understand there are a few theses underway that should carry things further, Mike Aubrey's being one of them.
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by cwconrad » November 10th, 2011, 12:02 pm

serunge wrote: ... the fact that the debate exists here and continues to be perpetuated means we can't really go back and hit "undo." What is needed is a simple sketch of the system--largely without reference to the debate--that can be presented to students. If they want to fall into the black hole, that's their business. If the sketch traced a bit of the history about commentators trying to claim absolute time, then the rise of a non-temporal view is more understandable as a response.

For my part, I do not plan on investing more time on this issue, other than hopefully the kind of sketch I alluded to. I just wanted to get the ball rolling in a new direction. From what I understand there are a few theses underway that should carry things further, Mike Aubrey's being one of them.
Agreed, we really can't go back. I think, however, that the imperative to discuss it when teaching NT Koine Greek is probably bound up with the traditional pedagogy of grammar and translation and the notion that you have to understand the grammar in order to read NT Greek. In modern language teaching, grammar comes along later in the course of acquisition of skills (as I recall, our majors in German and in Romance languages at Washington University didn't do formal grammar in their language until the third-year course). If the communicative-immersion pedagogy for Biblical Greek ever catches steam (I wish ... but I'm not holding my breath), verbal aspect will be more a matter for discussion among those who already are competent in Greek rather than one of the rungs on the ladder that students are supposed to climb on their way to competence.

I appreciate your formulation, Steve, very much. And what I do lament is the fact that it seems so difficult to lay out just what the guy asked for -- a simple and clear statement of matters of consensus regarding verbal aspect in Biblical Koine.

I will add that I'm glad we finally got this thread moved over to the "Greek Language and Linguistics" forum and away from the Beginners' Forum, where it was always something of an elephant ...
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by MAubrey » November 10th, 2011, 2:14 pm

serunge wrote:For my part, I do not plan on investing more time on this issue, other than hopefully the kind of sketch I alluded to. I just wanted to get the ball rolling in a new direction. From what I understand there are a few theses underway that should carry things further, Mike Aubrey's being one of them.
The thing is, I'm not convinced that aspect is profound enough of a topic to even deserve the book length treatments it has received, perhaps it is useful to devote a book to aspect as a theoretical subject or aspect cross-linguistically, but it seems less than worth it to focus on it in a single language for such a multitude of pages (at least without some external linguistic question being asked). I have continued to find absolutely fascinating this amazing focus on aspect by NT Greek scholarship. For the rest of the linguistic world, its something that's just there: languages mark grammatically the very basic (in the sense of foundational and non-derivative) concepts of progression, completeness (i.e. wholeness), and completed-ness. And that in Greek the present marks the first, the aorist marks the second, and the perfect marks the third has been recognized with virtually 100% consensus for hundreds of years--I've charted a substantial amount of that history in the past couple months.

There's nothing amazing about it or profound. It just is.
cwconrad wrote:And what I do lament is the fact that it seems so difficult to lay out just what the guy asked for -- a simple and clear statement of matters of consensus regarding verbal aspect in Biblical Koine.
Capture.JPG
Capture.JPG (19.14 KiB) Viewed 2177 times
This is what I've used for explaining it to students I tutored. It generally works pretty well.
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by Jonathan Robie » November 10th, 2011, 2:30 pm

MAubrey wrote:
cwconrad wrote:And what I do lament is the fact that it seems so difficult to lay out just what the guy asked for -- a simple and clear statement of matters of consensus regarding verbal aspect in Biblical Koine.
Image

This is what I've used for explaining it to students I tutored. It generally works pretty well.
Here's a table based on Rijksbaron that I put into the Beginner's Forum thread:

Image

Pretty similar, I think. But the tables do differ in a few details. I suspect either would be useful for a beginner, no?
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by MAubrey » November 10th, 2011, 2:35 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:Image

Pretty similar, I think. But the tables do differ in a few details. I suspect either would be useful for a beginner, no?
Yep. I should state that the differences in the details are only surface differences. I could subscribe to Rijksbaron perfectly--"resulting state" just takes up so much more space. ;)
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by Ken M. Penner » November 10th, 2011, 3:14 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:Pretty similar, I think. But the tables do differ in a few details. I suspect either would be useful for a beginner, no?
The difference in charts highlights a labelling problem: How does "complete" compare to "completed"? I'm with Mike's use of labels.
I still see a lot of value in Hans Reichenbach's 1947 description using "Speech Time," "Reference Time," and "Event Time" (Elements of Symbolic Logic). I would modify it so that these "Times" are not points but intervals of time.
If Event Time follows Speech Time, use future.
If the Event Time is included in the Reference Time (Aubrey's "Complete"), use aorist .
If the Reference Time is included in the Event Time (Aubrey's "In Progress"), use present.
If the Event Time entirely precedes the Reference Time (Aubrey's "Completed"; Rijksbaron's "resulting state"), use perfect.
Additionally, if the Speech Time precedes the Reference Time, use imperfect or pluperfect instead of present and perfect, respectively (Aubrey's "Past").
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by Alex Hopkins » November 10th, 2011, 4:50 pm

On waking up in Australia and looking at what's been posted on BGreek overnight, I see the discussion has moved on considerably.

I'd like to go back for a moment to a comment of Carl's,
I am not at all convinced that verbal aspect is a matter that beginners will really profit from an exploration of. That's heresy, I well know, but that's what I think. I honestly can't believe that a reader of the Greek text will be confused by the tense-forms of the verse, πορεύου εἰς γῆν Ἰσραήλ τεθνήκασιν γὰρ οἱ ζητοῦντες τὴν ψυχὴν τοῦ παιδίου. One does need to understand, of course, that present participles may represent both present and imperfect indicatives and that perfect participles may represent both both perfect and pluperfect indicatives. And of course one needs to understand about aorists that they not uncommonly refer to action anterior to the time of the main verb and so are comparable to pluperfects. I don't think, however, that coming to recognize these usages in Greek texts requires a student learning ancient Greek to dig into the newfangled lore of verbal aspect.
Despite my engaging with David Lim in regard to the τεθνήκασιν γὰρ οἱ ζητοῦντες τὴν ψυχὴν τοῦ παιδίου snippet, I fundamentally agree with what Carl has said here.

I do think that "the newfangled lore of verbal aspect" is - or can be - particularly challenging to those of us whose foundations in Greek were laid before the debate turned to aspect. I read Barry Hofstetter's comment made before the thread was moved to this forum, and could relate to it:
I was a educated as a classicist before I started formal theological and biblical studies, going through the M.A. I started Greek in 1977, and during that period read a lot of authors, and had some excellent professors, including Steve Tracy of OSU (a leading epigraphist and Homericist). Let's put it this way – none of these guys, who make their living reading, understanding and interpreting ancient Greek (and Latin), ever once mentioned anything about verbal aspect except in a few brief comments at the beginning level on how non-indicative verbal forms should be understood in relationship to the tense of the main verb. The first time I heard about this discussion was when I was pursuing my Th.M. in NT (years after getting the M.A. in Classics).
I started my studies in 1974, had excellent teachers in Alan S. Henry (also a fine epigraphist) and Gavin Betts, and had finished my doctorate before hearing about this discussion. My doctoral work was in self-sacrifice in Euripidean drama; in its own way, that in itself was a reflection of the times. I had wanted to do a purely language study, it being my real interest, but was told that a student who'd completed their honours year was expected to know Greek, and what was left was to apply it. (Who was it that remarked on the time when it was believed that everything to be known about Greek was known?). So I was marshalled into literary work (which, happily, I also came to love).

Then a student of mine told me of finding in Porter's new theory of verbal aspect support for views - which I considered dubious - the student intended to work into her own thesis. Now there was something new to grapple with, it mattered because it was going to make a direct impact on the understanding of significant texts, and it was discussed in a metalanguage quite other than that I'd been trained in.

That's why, I think, aspect has taken up so much time - suddenly classicists found themselves having to justify in the terms of a different discipline matters on which there had long been a consensus.

That's why I am grateful that others, better trained in linguistics, have now done so much work to address the imbalance of the aspect-only approach. In reading this Australian morning over comments from Carl, Steve, Mike, Ken, and Jonathan, I am surprised at the degree of consensus that is expressed. I'm not sure that the dust has quite settled yet.

Must head off to work.

Alex Hopkins
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by Stephen Carlson » November 10th, 2011, 4:56 pm

Ken M. Penner wrote:I still see a lot of value in Hans Reichenbach's 1947 description using "Speech Time," "Reference Time," and "Event Time" (Elements of Symbolic Logic). I would modify it so that these "Times" are not points but intervals of time.
If I'm not mistaken, Wolfgang Klein, Time in Language (1994), has made a similar modification to Reichenbach's triple parameter theory for tense to use spans instead of points. Corien Bary has applied Klein's model to (Classical) Greek.

Stephen
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by MAubrey » November 10th, 2011, 5:26 pm

Ken M. Penner wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:Pretty similar, I think. But the tables do differ in a few details. I suspect either would be useful for a beginner, no?
The difference in charts highlights a labelling problem: How does "complete" compare to "completed"? I'm with Mike's use of labels.
My labels rely very much upon my studies of the 19th century grammarians.
Ken M. Penner wrote:I still see a lot of value in Hans Reichenbach's 1947 description using "Speech Time," "Reference Time," and "Event Time" (Elements of Symbolic Logic). I would modify it so that these "Times" are not points but intervals of time.
If Event Time follows Speech Time, use future.
If the Event Time is included in the Reference Time (Aubrey's "Complete"), use aorist .
If the Reference Time is included in the Event Time (Aubrey's "In Progress"), use present.
If the Event Time entirely precedes the Reference Time (Aubrey's "Completed"; Rijksbaron's "resulting state"), use perfect.
Additionally, if the Speech Time precedes the Reference Time, use imperfect or pluperfect instead of present and perfect, respectively (Aubrey's "Past").
I could accept that with the caveat that we would need to emphasize that Reference Time in this system cannot be viewed an any sort of necessarily direct representation of objective reality, but only a conceptualization by a speaker.
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by Jonathan Robie » November 10th, 2011, 5:32 pm

Alex Hopkins wrote:Then a student of mine told me of finding in Porter's new theory of verbal aspect support for views - which I considered dubious - the student intended to work into her own thesis. Now there was something new to grapple with, it mattered because it was going to make a direct impact on the understanding of significant texts, and it was discussed in a metalanguage quite other than that I'd been trained in.

That's why, I think, aspect has taken up so much time - suddenly classicists found themselves having to justify in the terms of a different discipline matters on which there had long been a consensus.
I didn't come to this as a classicist, but I had learned some modern languages and taken a handful of classes in linguistics and psycholinguistics. The metalanguage of some of the classic grammars classicists use is not the same language that I used in any of these domains, it uses terms and concepts a good century older than I am (and I'm not young!). And I first encountered it via A.T. Robertson, whose examples are great, but who uses many terms imprecisely when trying to describe aspect (I generally use Robertson for examples, then turn to Smyth to figure out what Robertson was trying to say, because Smyth at least uses these older terms and concepts more precisely).

So people my age who have studied other languages find this older terminology frustrating. When I tried to work through this stuff, I kept screaming WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS SIMPLY AND PRECISELY IN MODERN TERMINOLOGY?

The first reasonably precise description that made sense to me was Mari Olsen's. Porter and Fanning both used language that I understand, and I think that may be what made the debates so compelling. People were finally writing about the Greek language in terms that made sense to me as a modern American - but in terms that weren't familiar to many classicists. I think that gave an advantage to people who knew linguistics, as opposed to people who knew Greek.

Rijksbaron is refreshing, and Aubrey's table is great. Micheal Palmer's grammar also gives simple, precise explanations. You don't need to think like a classicist from the last century to understand these things, and you don't have to know much about linguistics. Here's hoping we'll see a new generation of biblical Greek textbooks based on these approaches. I think we're at the point that it's a lot easier to teach this traditional ("Fanning") view to people who have grown up thinking like modern Americans.

But I don't think we've convinced some very good scholars like Rod Decker yet. Now that we've moved the thread, perhaps he will join the discussion. And if so, I hope we will make it a discussion rather than a debate, sometimes we've gotten a little too excited about this topic.
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