What does "marked" mean in a verbal context?

Grammar questions which are not related to any specific text.
Douglas Nast
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What does "marked" mean in a verbal context?

Post by Douglas Nast » March 11th, 2017, 8:59 pm

I have just worked my way through Black's fine introduction to reading NT Greek. In smug satisfaction I was reading the concluding chapter and encountered the following sentence: "Generally speaking, aoristic aspect is the unmarked aspect"...he went on to note that "markedness" increases in the imperfective, and reaches its peak in the perfective. Realizing that I hadn't the slightest idea what he was talking about, I casually turned the pages back to the introductory discussion of aspect. I found that when the extent of "marking" associated with a verbal aspect was introduced it was done without any explanation. Fully engaged now, and in growing alarm I googled "verbal marking" and other variants of this phrase only to learn exactly nothing. I hurriedly thumbed through my ace-in-the hole handbook of Greek and English grammar by Mondi and Corrigan...again drawing blanks.

The most obvious answer would be that it refers to the size and/or number of infixes associated with the morphology. But this is not consistent with Black's formulation since the Aorist and Ιmperfective of λυω each have 4 morphemes; the missing connecting vowel (e or o) in the aorist is compensated for by the aoristic aspect morpheme (sa); that is, the aorist and imperfective are equally "marked" from this perspective.

Well, clearly there is a very simple an embarrassingly obvious answer to this, and though I am prepared to take my medicine like a man, some forbearance would be appreciated. It can't refer to diacritical marks surely, and it can hardly be explained by reference to the archaic meaning in "mark well", as in Ezekiel 44: What on earth does this use of the word "marked" mean in this context?
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MAubrey
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Re: What does "marked" mean in a verbal context?

Post by MAubrey » March 11th, 2017, 11:55 pm

Best advice: Ignore all reference to the "markedness" and you'll be just fine.

Biblical scholars have an obsession with the term that's far larger than the importance of the term and use it in goofy and unhelpful ways.
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RandallButh
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Re: What does "marked" mean in a verbal context?

Post by RandallButh » March 12th, 2017, 3:46 am

MAubrey wrote:Best advice: Ignore all reference to the "markedness" and you'll be just fine.

Biblical scholars have an obsession with the term that's far larger than the importance of the term and use it in goofy and unhelpful ways.
I would agree with Mike's advice but I'll try something simple that might help.

Black appears to be using "marked" as the opposite of "default". He is saying that aorist is "default, basic starting point", imperfective is less default, less basic and perfect the least default.

If that doesn't help, then go beck to "ignore ... and you'll be just fine."
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Douglas Nast
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Re: What does "marked" mean in a verbal context?

Post by Douglas Nast » March 12th, 2017, 4:21 am

I checked OED using my ancient print copy which requires the use of a magnifier, pouring over several pages of microscopic print under the subject of "mark". The best I can come up with is that a thing that is "marked" is "noticed". In this sense aorist would be unmarked because as the default it draws little "notice", and the perfective is the most marked (i.e.noticed) because of its relative scarcity.

This does not contradict the suggestion made by Buth, and was actually anticipated by my reference to Ezekiel 44, where mark takes the sense of notice.

In any case, I dashed off a note to Dr. Black on this question and will post any answer he may provide here. He has been generous enough to answer once or twice over the last 3 months, but I was trying to avoid embarrassment by asking this one. Since it seems to be a more interesting question than I realized, I am no longer reticent.
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: What does "marked" mean in a verbal context?

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » March 12th, 2017, 7:45 am

Search for "linguistics markedness".
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MAubrey
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Re: What does "marked" mean in a verbal context?

Post by MAubrey » March 12th, 2017, 1:58 pm

'Markedness' is a technical term in linguistics, so it is only tangentially related to the common dictionary definition.

Some uses:
  • An entity is marked for a semantic meaning: Verbs are marked for tense. Nouns are not marked (unmarked) for tense.
    An entity is marked with a particular morpheme: Verbs marked with the morpheme -άζ often express causative meaning.
In English, a lion is unmarked for gender (it can be used for males or females), but lioness is marked for feminine (it can be used only for females). Lion is the default form; lioness is the marked form.

Depending on the context, it is probable that Black is referring to the fact that the aorist is the default verb-form for narrative. Like 'lion' it can be used for any number of discourse functions, but is not inherently defined by those functions. Other verb-forms, on the other hand, are marked for particular functions in narrative discourse.

Then there are some more unusual uses like:
Marked = uncommon/unmarked = common (a terrible usage)
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Douglas Nast
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Re: What does "marked" mean in a verbal context?

Post by Douglas Nast » March 12th, 2017, 4:07 pm

I think Aubrey gives a very good answer to this question, which I intend to pursue with further reading in linguistics. I like this new concept and feel the better for having made its acquaintance. Thanks.
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MAubrey
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Re: What does "marked" mean in a verbal context?

Post by MAubrey » March 13th, 2017, 12:55 pm

Douglas Nast wrote:I think Aubrey gives a very good answer to this question, which I intend to pursue with further reading in linguistics. I like this new concept and feel the better for having made its acquaintance. Thanks.
Sadly, that makes me regret giving the answer. There are few linguistic concepts that have caused more problems for New Testament language studies than markedness and I would love to be able to go back in time and prevent the concept from entering the field to begin with.
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Paul-Nitz
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Re: What does "marked" mean in a verbal context?

Post by Paul-Nitz » March 14th, 2017, 8:30 am

I’m disappointed to hear that the term “markedness” has been used incorrectly and misleadingly by NT scholars. Well, even if it is a wrong term, I learned from what was lumped under that wrong term in reading Discourse Grammar.

“To summarize, markedness theory presupposes that one member of a set is the most basic or simple member, called the “default” member. All of the other members signal or “mark” the presence of some unique quality, one that would not have been marked if the default option were used. The marked options are described based on how they uniquely differ both from the default and from one another.”

Runge, S. E. (2010). Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis (p. 11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: What does "marked" mean in a verbal context?

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » March 16th, 2017, 1:35 pm

In the late 90s there was a notion being floated that in narrative aorist:perfective was an unmarked verbal aspect. When the aorist was used the idea was that something happened, period. Whereas the imperfective aspect added semantic nuance over above the simple notion of something happening. Has that idea been discarded for a better way? I know this has been discussed ad nauseam.
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