verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

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

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » February 25th, 2012, 6:12 am

I don't want to start another topic on aspect, so I continue here.

I found an interesting article: http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/honors/77/. "This study surveys the works of the leading contributors in this field and offers critiques of their major points. The subject matter is divided into three sections: methods, areas of agreement, and areas of dispute, with a focus on the latter."

I haven't read it through yet, but I found it informative and it's helping me to understand and think further. I'm interested in hearing other people's opinions.
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Alex Hopkins
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by Alex Hopkins » February 25th, 2012, 8:44 am

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote
I found an interesting article: http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/honors/77/. "This study surveys the works of the leading contributors in this field and offers critiques of their major points. The subject matter is divided into three sections: methods, areas of agreement, and areas of dispute, with a focus on the latter."

I haven't read it through yet, but I found it informative and it's helping me to understand and think further. I'm interested in hearing other people's opinions.
A little rambling:

Christopher Johnson introduces his article as follows:
“There is a prevalent but false assumption that everything in NT Greek scholarship has been done already,” so argues Lars Rydbeck as he urges scholars to continue to work in studying the Koine language.
This immediately suggests the nature of the work as a reflection on others' writings rather than an innovative contribution to the debate. The words are likely a quote of a quote; certainly, they mirror the introduction to the first chapter of Porter's Verbal Aspect: (p17)
As late as 1974, Rydbeck, commenting on the state of research into NT grammar, said, "today research into post-classical Greek in general and NT Greek in particular has come almost to a standstill." One of the reasons he gives for this is that "there is a prevalent but false assumption that everything in NT Greek scholarship has been done already"
(The quote continues popular. See the first two sentences of the Introduction to Wallace's Granville Sharp's Canon and Its Kin. Rydbeck should be receiving royalties! I doubt Johnson had Wallace's work in mind; Wallace's work was published in 2009, Johnson's appeared in the Spring of that year.)

My saying that Johnson's work is a reflection on others' work is not a criticism of it, but I do mention it because Eeli asks for others' opinions. Part of my response to that request is that any person thinking of reading this study of 90 or so pages might do well to ask themselves what they expect to find in the study and what benefit it might offer. The Greek student is probably better advised to read as much Greek as possible rather than a study of others' studies of the Greek; the Greek scholar will want to wrestle directly with the seminal studies on this topic rather than with Johnson's study. This is no more than to say that Johnson was writing for a particular purpose, as A Senior Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for graduation in the Honors Program at Liberty University in the Spring of 2009. My quick skim suggests he's done a fine job for his intended purpose. But I do doubt that that purpose fits his work as an object of study by those whose chief interest is to grapple with the Greek.

I'm a little surprised that Olsen's A Semantic and Pragmatic Model of Lexical and Grammatical Aspect is not mentioned at all, even in his bibliography (and particularly since Johnson can hardly have been unaware of it, since Campbell, whom Johnson does respond to, gives time to Olsen's work.)

As intimated above, there is very little interaction with the Greek itself. A reader who is unfamiliar with McKay, Porter, Fanning, and Campbell will derive little benefit from the study (and again, this is not to be critical of the study itself).

I like the following quote in relation to aspect (particularly in reference to the use of the aorist and the perfect):
'It lay with the writer's mode of viewing the event he narrates, and indeed frequently with his habit of mind, whether he used the aorist or perfect.
.

These words from Joseph Agar Beet's 'The Greek Aorist, as used in the NT' were published in 1880. On page 83 of Johnson's study he refers to "a long history of grammarians’ understanding the perfect as indicating some form of state in relation to the action". It was good to see this acknowledgement here. My quick skim of Johnson's work suggests that otherwise his reader might be led to think that prior to the studies of the four major authors he reacts with, very little was understood about the Greek verbal system at all. A view of such a nature is one that I do not share.

I was interested - and pleased - to read the following (p76):
First of all, Campbell begins his analysis of the perfect by demonstrating that the definitions of McKay, Porter, and Fanning are inadequate. The problem with this analysis is that he has misrepresented the definitions of each of these scholars. For example, Campbell states that “. . . McKay’s approach [concerning the perfect] mandates that it is the responsibility of the subject that is in view . . . ,” and he provides a number of examples from McKay’s work that produce awkward interpretations with this understanding. The problem with this analysis is that McKay simply does not “mandate” that the perfect tense-form indicates the responsibility of the subject.
When reading Campbell's work, this was a significant doubt that I had about Con's argument at this point - I simply couldn't recall McKay saying what Campbell claimed at all.

To bring my ramblings to an end - if not a conclusion, it seems to me that the main point to make about the study is that this looks - on a cursory glance - to be a fine study, but one written to a purpose that doesn't necessarily recommend it to a wide circle of readers, even those interested in the topic it addresses, for they are likely to be better served by directly working either with Greek text or with the works of the grammarians whose books form the subject of Johnson's study.

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

Post by MAubrey » February 25th, 2012, 12:56 pm

Alex Hopkins wrote:Eeli Kaikkonen wrote
I found an interesting article: http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/honors/77/. "This study surveys the works of the leading contributors in this field and offers critiques of their major points. The subject matter is divided into three sections: methods, areas of agreement, and areas of dispute, with a focus on the latter."

I haven't read it through yet, but I found it informative and it's helping me to understand and think further. I'm interested in hearing other people's opinions.
My saying that Johnson's work is a reflection on others' work is not a criticism of it, but I do mention it because Eeli asks for others' opinions. Part of my response to that request is that any person thinking of reading this study of 90 or so pages might do well to ask themselves what they expect to find in the study and what benefit it might offer. The Greek student is probably better advised to read as much Greek as possible rather than a study of others' studies of the Greek; the Greek scholar will want to wrestle directly with the seminal studies on this topic rather than with Johnson's study. This is no more than to say that Johnson was writing for a particular purpose, as A Senior Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for graduation in the Honors Program at Liberty University in the Spring of 2009. My quick skim suggests he's done a fine job for his intended purpose. But I do doubt that that purpose fits his work as an object of study by those whose chief interest is to grapple with the Greek.
I think I'd agree with this. To the extent that this is the senior thesis of a bachelors program its a rather impressive work. As an advancement of the discussion it doesn't do so hot. But that's not particularly surprising because no body teaches students (undergrad or grad) the methodology necessary for doing this kind of grammatical analysis. Personally, for understanding the verbal system, I would continue referring people to Albert Rijksbaron's book.
Alex Hopkins wrote:I'm a little surprised that Olsen's A Semantic and Pragmatic Model of Lexical and Grammatical Aspect is not mentioned at all, even in his bibliography (and particularly since Johnson can hardly have been unaware of it, since Campbell, whom Johnson does respond to, gives time to Olsen's work.)
Actually, you'd be surprised by how unknown Olsen's work is.
Alex Hopkins wrote:I was interested - and pleased - to read the following (p76):
First of all, Campbell begins his analysis of the perfect by demonstrating that the definitions of McKay, Porter, and Fanning are inadequate. The problem with this analysis is that he has misrepresented the definitions of each of these scholars. For example, Campbell states that “. . . McKay’s approach [concerning the perfect] mandates that it is the responsibility of the subject that is in view . . . ,” and he provides a number of examples from McKay’s work that produce awkward interpretations with this understanding. The problem with this analysis is that McKay simply does not “mandate” that the perfect tense-form indicates the responsibility of the subject.
When reading Campbell's work, this was a significant doubt that I had about Con's argument at this point - I simply couldn't recall McKay saying what Campbell claimed at all.
McKay says it. It's definitely in his article, "The use of the Ancient Greek perfect down to the 2nd c. AD," and I'm sure it appears elsewhere, too. Granted, I'm not sure about Campbell's use of the word "responsibility" here. At the same time, McKay isn't so dogmatic as to say that the perfect must always refer to the subject and the transitive perfects referring to to the state of the object are possible and represent a later usage.

Anyway, Eeli, I hope that gives you some of my thoughts on this thesis, while commenting on Alex's.
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Mark Lightman
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by Mark Lightman » February 25th, 2012, 1:26 pm

ἔγραψεν ὁ Ἀλέχαδνρος: The Greek student is probably better advised to read as much Greek as possible rather than a study of others' studies of the Greek...
I agree with what you say here, but with one important caveat. I would remove the word “probably.”
To bring my ramblings to an end - if not a conclusion...
τέλος μὲν, σύντελος δ’ οὐ.
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » February 25th, 2012, 2:13 pm

Mark Lightman wrote:
ἔγραψεν ὁ Ἀλέχαδνρος: The Greek student is probably better advised to read as much Greek as possible rather than a study of others' studies of the Greek...
I agree with what you say here, but with one important caveat. I would remove the word “probably.”
To bring my ramblings to an end - if not a conclusion...
τέλος μὲν, σύντελος δ’ οὐ.
I don't oppose you two on that, but now I want to remind you that this putting a certain agenda everywhere is becoming tedious. I admit that I should read the original texts more (actually I don't read or understand fluently at all) and too easily I read secondary or tertiary literature, metatheories etc. But I think I actually know what I'm doing and what I want to do. Say what you want, but theory is still needed. Let people discuss about it. There are good opportunities to remind about the importance of first-hand knowledge and common sense, but this wasn't one of them.
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MAubrey
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by MAubrey » February 25th, 2012, 2:15 pm

Mark Lightman wrote:
ἔγραψεν ὁ Ἀλέχαδνρος: The Greek student is probably better advised to read as much Greek as possible rather than a study of others' studies of the Greek...
I agree with what you say here, but with one important caveat. I would remove the word “probably.”
But this isn't the learning sub-forum. This is the grammar and linguistics forum. We're not interested in pedagogy. This sub-forum assumes that you've already been reading as much Greek as possible. We're interested in language structure and the best way to describe it. If you're not interested in that, why are you here?
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Mark Lightman
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by Mark Lightman » February 25th, 2012, 2:51 pm

But this isn't the learning sub-forum. This is the grammar and linguistics forum. We're not interested in pedagogy. This sub-forum assumes that you've already been reading as much Greek as possible. We're interested in language structure and the best way to describe it. If you're not interested in that, why are you here?
Sorry, Mike. I should have read the subforum line more carefully before commenting on Alex's fine answer to Eeli's question. I did not realize that I was in the Linguistics forum. It will not happen again.
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » February 25th, 2012, 7:16 pm

Mark Lightman wrote: Sorry, Mike. I should have read the subforum line more carefully before commenting on Alex's fine answer to Eeli's question.
Mark is now more humble than I was. Thanks for bearing with me and my, hmm, direct comment... And now we can get back to the subject.

Yes, Johnson's article isn't, and isn't meant to be, groundbreaking - it's just a synopsis with critical comments. The audience is limited: it would be good for those who can't for some reason read the major works but still are interested in the theoretical discussion about aspect and already have some background for it. I happen to be one of those. I felt it was competent, but I wanted to hear if those who know more here would find any big deficiences in its claims (which means: whether the writer has understood the major players correctly). I can myself sense a kind of lack of bird-eye view and lack of deep knowlege of linguistic frameworks, but it would require a highly talented and educated linguist to write about them anyways. And he has some very bright moments which made me see things in new light.
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MAubrey
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by MAubrey » February 25th, 2012, 8:22 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:Yes, Johnson's article isn't, and isn't meant to be, groundbreaking - it's just a synopsis with critical comments. The audience is limited: it would be good for those who can't for some reason read the major works but still are interested in the theoretical discussion about aspect and already have some background for it. I happen to be one of those. I felt it was competent, but I wanted to hear if those who know more here would find any big deficiences in its claims (which means: whether the writer has understood the major players correctly). I can myself sense a kind of lack of bird-eye view and lack of deep knowlege of linguistic frameworks, but it would require a highly talented and educated linguist to write about them anyways. And he has some very bright moments which made me see things in new light.
I'd need to read through it more closely. I read the intro and conclusion and a few bits in the middle. At least from those portions, it doesn't look like he's read (or at least understood the old grammars), but the quote that Alex has provided suggests maybe that's not the case in the middle. I'll try to take some time on it this weekend.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 25th, 2012, 10:00 pm

MAubrey wrote:I think I'd agree with this. To the extent that this is the senior thesis of a bachelors program its a rather impressive work. As an advancement of the discussion it doesn't do so hot. But that's not particularly surprising because no body teaches students (undergrad or grad) the methodology necessary for doing this kind of grammatical analysis. Personally, for understanding the verbal system, I would continue referring people to Albert Rijksbaron's book.
My thoughts are the same. Having read through Johnson's thesis, I've gotten the impression that he's read and tried understood as best he can the works of Porter, McKay, Con Campbell, even Decker, etc. There is obviously a lot of effort that went into it and his writing style is generally clear.

What I did not get, however, from the thesis is a good sense of Johnson's Greek ability. The thesis hardly ever presents Greek examples and the very few examples that are mentioned are all derived from the authors he's analyzing. Perhaps he had to limit the Greek in the thesis because one or two of those on his committee are in the English department, but with hardly any interaction with the Greek it reads like a literature review.

Stephen
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