verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

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

Post by Alex Hopkins » February 26th, 2012, 6:58 am

Mike Aubrey noted my approvingly citing the following quote from Johnson:
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.
In response to Johnson I wrote,
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.
And to this comment of my own, Mike responded,
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 the state of the object are possible and represent a later usage.
Mike’s answer is helpful and balanced, and its full weight is not easily appreciated without referring to the McKay article which he cites, ‘The Use of the Ancient Greek Perfect down to the Second Century A.D.’; it’s from BICS 12 (1965), pp1-21. I read it a good while ago; it was well worth it, at the prompting of Mike’s note, to read again.

Perhaps the clearest statement of McKay’s position – in this article, at any rate – is that found on page six:
The ancient Greek perfect essentially denotes a state or condition, originally and usually of the subject; possibly, at a later state, of the object; and usually (possibly always) a state which has arisen from a prior action.
At the end of his article, McKay gives “a summary of Greek perfect usage from Homer to the Roman period,” and the first point he notes is
1. State or condition, normally, if not always, of the subject ...
So, yes, it’s there and McKay does write (p2) that
The resultative perfect was probably not as important as Wackernagel, Chantraine and others have suggested,
(the resultative perfect being that “in which the state or condition represented by the perfect is not that of the subject, but that of the object” p1).

Nevertheless, what I find attractive about McKay’s writing, as exemplified by this article, is its nuanced nature and its dealing directly with so many examples from the Greek. With Johnson, I remain less than convinced that Campbell allows McKay’s position to be fully appreciated. As Mike notes,
McKay isn't so dogmatic as to say that the perfect must always refer to the subject and the transitive perfects referring to the state of the object are possible and represent a later usage.
But this brings me back to one of my original hesitations in recommending Johnson’s study, fine piece though it seems to be. The person who is really interested in this subject is well advised to read McKay. They will also, perhaps, wish to read Campbell. And in reading Campbell, they will read Campbell’s response to McKay’s response to the Greek. Now, with Johnson’s article, they can read Johnson’s response to Campbell’s response to McKay’s response ... to the Greek.

It was probably inevitable that the on-going study of verbal aspect in Greek would start feeding upon itself, but I’d still argue that most readers interested in the topic will find it more profitable to work both with the Greek and with the seminal studies themselves which are the object of Johnson’s study. And if a reader should be of an inclination to read a thesis study of these seminal works, well and good, for we have different interests and different ways of learning; but a potential reader – I have in mind those who may read our BGreek musings – is well advised to understand what Stephen points out:
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.
Alex Hopkins
Melbourne, Australia
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RandallButh
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by RandallButh » February 26th, 2012, 7:58 am

but I’d still argue that most readers interested in the topic will find it more profitable to work both with the Greek and with the seminal studies themselves
I've been following the thread casually and I think I've noticed a recurring, underspecified problem in this thread and threads like it.

"The squeaky wheel gets all of the attention", even if the wheel is bad.
Students need to focus on good wheels when they are learning a language. Instead of focussing all of the time on Porter, McKay (partially), Decker, and Campbell, students should start with Rijksbaron, and maybe something from general linguistics like Comrie on Aspect, or later studies. Greek takes care of itself nicely if people first have a good idea about what aspect is.

Bank tellers are trained to recognize counterfeit currency by spending a lot of time handling real currency. Only then are they able to recognize counterfeit. The opposite doesn't work, spending lots of time with counterfeit currency just confuses bank tellers. there is a lesson here.

Back in the 70's and 80's I would never have predicted that NT studies would have developed a 'debate on aspect', just like there is no real debate on "eight cases". It was clear that the primary need was to clean up their metalanguage and bring "NT Greek", and classical, too, in line with general linguistic metalanguage.

There are two issues involved in NT Greek 'aspect' studies, one is legitimate, the other is not, being mispredicting and refuted. NT Greek students seem to fixate on the second.

It is legitimate to ask about the best way in which to write up and handle aspect within a theory of language. There is legitimate room for debate and reformation, and for categorization and defining of boundaries, hazy or otherwise.

On the other hand, a position that denies 'time' in the Greek verb is incorrect, mis-portrays aspect, and befuddles beginning students. Let them learn aspect, let them learn Greek, and then they will see the squeaky wheels for what they are and are not. The 'debate' may be more of a testimony to the shallowness of the NT Greek field than to Greek itself. I believe that C. J. Ruijgh was correct in dismissing Porter's theories in toto. (review of Porter, Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol. 48, Fasc. 3 (Jun., 1995), pp. 352-366.) (And I thank Mike for sending me a copy of Ruigh's review last year. So what is it about Dutch-speaking scholars that puts them 'on track', 'in the ballpark'? Oh yeah, multilingualism, basic linguistic common sense, and maybe some good linguistic training. [PS: I like Rijksbaron better on the imperative than Ruigh in his review.])
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MAubrey
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by MAubrey » February 28th, 2012, 9:34 pm

RandallButh wrote:I've been following the thread casually and I think I've noticed a recurring, underspecified problem in this thread and threads like it.

"The squeaky wheel gets all of the attention", even if the wheel is bad.
Students need to focus on good wheels when they are learning a language. Instead of focussing all of the time on Porter, McKay (partially), Decker, and Campbell, students should start with Rijksbaron, and maybe something from general linguistics like Comrie on Aspect, or later studies. Greek takes care of itself nicely if people first have a good idea about what aspect is.
Like I said to Mark, Randall, this isn't the learning sub-forum. If you want to talk about what's best for students, that's great.

I'd say skip Comrie and read Carlotta Smith's The Parameter of Aspect or D. N. S. Bhat's The Prominence of Tense, Aspect and Mood, personally. The latter is available online for free with registration at http://shop.ebrary.com/home.action along with thousands of other linguistics monographs

But don't do it here.

This isn't the place for it.
RandallButh wrote:Bank tellers are trained to recognize counterfeit currency by spending a lot of time handling real currency. Only then are they able to recognize counterfeit. The opposite doesn't work, spending lots of time with counterfeit currency just confuses bank tellers. there is a lesson here.
That's an urban legend that has no grounding in reality. In fact, reality is exactly the opposite. So if there is indeed a lesson there, it's exactly the opposite lesson than what you want it to be.
RandallButh wrote:Back in the 70's and 80's I would never have predicted that NT studies would have developed a 'debate on aspect', just like there is no real debate on "eight cases". It was clear that the primary need was to clean up their metalanguage and bring "NT Greek", and classical, too, in line with general linguistic metalanguage.
Then let's have that conversation.
RandallButh wrote:There are two issues involved in NT Greek 'aspect' studies, one is legitimate, the other is not, being mispredicting and refuted. NT Greek students seem to fixate on the second.

It is legitimate to ask about the best way in which to write up and handle aspect within a theory of language. There is legitimate room for debate and reformation, and for categorization and defining of boundaries, hazy or otherwise.
Ahh, this is indeed the problem. Where does one end and where does the other begin. Con Campbell has told me explicitly and directly that he's trying to ask the legitimate question, but you are absolutely determine to make him out to be asking the illegitimate question. And until you're willing to stop and recognize that, The good and legitimate conversation about metalanguage will never take place. You derail it. Whether you like it or not Con Campbell is one of those people who needs to be a part of metalanguage discussion and it is precisely because of things you have posted that he doesn't hangout on B-Greek any more. That's you fault, at least partially--I'm sure there are others who helped.

And until you recognize that, we're not going anywhere. We're just going to keep going on in circles.
RandallButh wrote:On the other hand, a position that denies 'time' in the Greek verb is incorrect, mis-portrays aspect, and befuddles beginning students. Let them learn aspect, let them learn Greek, and then they will see the squeaky wheels for what they are and are not. The 'debate' may be more of a testimony to the shallowness of the NT Greek field than to Greek itself. I believe that C. J. Ruijgh was correct in dismissing Porter's theories in toto. (review of Porter, Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol. 48, Fasc. 3 (Jun., 1995), pp. 352-366.) (And I thank Mike for sending me a copy of Ruigh's review last year. So what is it about Dutch-speaking scholars that puts them 'on track', 'in the ballpark'? Oh yeah, multilingualism, basic linguistic common sense, and maybe some good linguistic training. [PS: I like Rijksbaron better on the imperative than Ruigh in his review.])
I agree. I also view the "time" issue as wrong--not the least because aspect, itself is temporal. But the question of what does or does not befuddle beginning students is irrelevant to the Linguistics and Grammar Sub-Forum. The problem is that you're one of the major voices in this discussion and you are unable to leave pedogogy at the door. Metaphorically speaking, Pedagogy is to the Greek Language and Linguistics Sub-Forum what theology is to B-Greek as a whole.
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RandallButh
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by RandallButh » February 29th, 2012, 6:21 am

Mike, I think that you have overly restricted the word 'student'. It's a scalar. I'm a student. And pointing out that something has relevance for beginners is not a discussion of pedagogy.
Let them learn aspect, let them learn Greek, and then they will see the squeaky wheels for what they are and are not. The 'debate' may be more of a testimony to the shallowness of the NT Greek field than to Greek itself. I believe that C. J. Ruijgh was correct in dismissing Porter's theories in toto.
The quote above is not only to 'beginning students' but includes those who should have known better, politely. It should be noted that the same kind of 'debate' as occurs in "New Testament" discussions does not occur in Classics discussion, certainly not in the black-and-white mode of 'aspect-only'.
I am saying that Ruijgh was right. If someone does not know that ἐποίει carries a past tense reference with it, then they need to learn Greek. That is not a pedagogical statement. I am claiming that when the dust in NT studies settles, 'aspect only' will be seen as untenable. *εἶδον τοὺς ἀνθρώπους αὔριον.

You may phrase the question for debate as
"Is 'aspect only' a tenable view of Greek verb categories, does 'aspect-only' have a place on a probability scalar of theory options, or is it something that doesn't make threshhold and shouldn't be presented as a valid option?"
My answer is"No, 'aspect-only' is not part of 'Greek'." I am willing to discuss this in considerable detail (within reason for e-forum, of course.)

Phrasing the debate in this way should not be surprising. Porter came along and made a very bold claim, in sum, that there is only aspect in the Greek verbal indicatives. A reasonable response is "no, that claim is false." Unfortunately, no one made such a definite statement for the DA Carson book, so it became a 'debatable option' in NT studies.

PS: I belong to the 'mapping' school of verb descriptions. One takes morphological categories and maps the situations and usages. Labels may be helpful generalizations, as long as one realizes that there will be some play in the system. Afterall, languages change, too.
PPS: Some of language change is caused by 'weighting', where a tolerated phenomenon gets picked up, becomes frequent, and the system then accomodates it, which results in other changes. I am actually reluctant to state *εἶδον τοὺς ἀνθρώπους αὔριον too many times because it may even work its way into our own system. Maybe you've noticed, if you say something 'marginal' or 'incorrect' often enough, it sounds correct. So we need to be careful about what we are doing when we play the ancient Greek game. Language is self-correcting for the individual if we let it, even though the language itself keeps changing. Fortunately for those of us involved in Ancient Greek, we have a fixed point (OK, 'fixed span') that keeps us more in line than modern language users are kept in line. By being fixed, the ancient language inevitably draws us back to it when we play the language game. (Now that really is a pedagogical statement. But it is relevant for 'linguistics' too, in the same sense that observer/event is related in quantumphysics.)
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MAubrey
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Re: verbal aspect (split from Beginner's Forum)

Post by MAubrey » March 6th, 2012, 1:13 am

Sorry, Randall, I've been over my head in grading since your reply and I haven't had time to say anything here--much to my dismay as I see there has been some awesome discussion of the historical present and the augment in another thread.
RandallButh wrote:Mike, I think that you have overly restricted the word 'student'. It's a scalar. I'm a student. And pointing out that something has relevance for beginners is not a discussion of pedagogy.
Let them learn aspect, let them learn Greek, and then they will see the squeaky wheels for what they are and are not. The 'debate' may be more of a testimony to the shallowness of the NT Greek field than to Greek itself. I believe that C. J. Ruijgh was correct in dismissing Porter's theories in toto.
The quote above is not only to 'beginning students' but includes those who should have known better, politely. It should be noted that the same kind of 'debate' as occurs in "New Testament" discussions does not occur in Classics discussion, certainly not in the black-and-white mode of 'aspect-only'.
I am saying that Ruijgh was right. If someone does not know that ἐποίει carries a past tense reference with it, then they need to learn Greek. That is not a pedagogical statement. I am claiming that when the dust in NT studies settles, 'aspect only' will be seen as untenable. *εἶδον τοὺς ἀνθρώπους αὔριον.
I apologize then. I made a wrong assumption about how you were using the words. In my internal lexicon, at least, the narrower sense of student is the default one.
RandallButh wrote:You may phrase the question for debate as
"Is 'aspect only' a tenable view of Greek verb categories, does 'aspect-only' have a place on a probability scalar of theory options, or is it something that doesn't make threshhold and shouldn't be presented as a valid option?"
My answer is"No, 'aspect-only' is not part of 'Greek'." I am willing to discuss this in considerable detail (within reason for e-forum, of course.)

Phrasing the debate in this way should not be surprising. Porter came along and made a very bold claim, in sum, that there is only aspect in the Greek verbal indicatives. A reasonable response is "no, that claim is false." Unfortunately, no one made such a definite statement for the DA Carson book, so it became a 'debatable option' in NT studies.
You know that I'm sympathetic with you and I regret that the early 1990's went they way they did on this front. Unfortunately, it also means that until there is a new consensus, we're going to need to continue having the discussion and it will continue for the foreseeable future...
RandallButh wrote:PS: I belong to the 'mapping' school of verb descriptions. One takes morphological categories and maps the situations and usages. Labels may be helpful generalizations, as long as one realizes that there will be some play in the system. Afterall, languages change, too.
I'm with you there. I'm currently working on looking at semantic differences in the varying perfect verbal paradigms.
RandallButh wrote:PPS: Some of language change is caused by 'weighting', where a tolerated phenomenon gets picked up, becomes frequent, and the system then accomodates it, which results in other changes. I am actually reluctant to state *εἶδον τοὺς ἀνθρώπους αὔριον too many times because it may even work its way into our own system. Maybe you've noticed, if you say something 'marginal' or 'incorrect' often enough, it sounds correct. So we need to be careful about what we are doing when we play the ancient Greek game. Language is self-correcting for the individual if we let it, even though the language itself keeps changing. Fortunately for those of us involved in Ancient Greek, we have a fixed point (OK, 'fixed span') that keeps us more in line than modern language users are kept in line. By being fixed, the ancient language inevitably draws us back to it when we play the language game. (Now that really is a pedagogical statement. But it is relevant for 'linguistics' too, in the same sense that observer/event is related in quantumphysics.)
It sounds like you might like this article: http://americanspeech.dukejournals.org/ ... /263.short
Last edited by Stephen Carlson on March 6th, 2012, 8:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Fix quote nesting
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