Augment and Aspect

Augment and Aspect

Postby Stephen Carlson » February 28th, 2012, 11:14 pm

What is the role of the augment under aspect-only (Porter et al.) systems?

Under aspect-tense systems, the augment is thought to mark an indicative verb as past (imperfect, aorist, pluperfect). But in an aspect-only system, there's no grammatical past-ness to mark. So what's the augment doing?

I suppose one answer is that the aorist is used to mark secondary verb endings, but this just pushes the question back a level: so what do the secondary endings mark?

Stephen
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Re: Augment and Aspect

Postby MAubrey » February 29th, 2012, 12:44 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:What is the role of the augment under aspect-only (Porter et al.) systems?

Under aspect-tense systems, the augment is thought to mark an indicative verb as past (imperfect, aorist, pluperfect). But in an aspect-only system, there's no grammatical past-ness to mark. So what's the augment doing?

It depends on the person:

Porter wants to connect it to mood somehow, emphasizing the fact that the augument only appears in the indicative, though I can't give you an exact page number for that since Porter's monograph doesn't have a subject index. He also emphasizes that the augment is often occasionally optional in some historical eras (Homeric Greek) and grammatical forms (the pluperfect), which he takes to marks its unnecessary nature.

Rod Decker, I think, has talked about the relationship between the augment and the secondary endings as having a purely formal relationship (Temporal Deixis, 39-40). He might be able to say more about his view directly.

Con Campbell simply changes the label: the augment marks remoteness.
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Re: Augment and Aspect

Postby Stephen Carlson » February 29th, 2012, 9:09 am

MAubrey wrote:It depends on the person:


Thanks for the response.

MAubrey wrote:Porter wants to connect it to mood somehow, emphasizing the fact that the augument only appears in the indicative, though I can't give you an exact page number for that since Porter's monograph doesn't have a subject index. He also emphasizes that the augment is often occasionally optional in some historical eras (Homeric Greek) and grammatical forms (the pluperfect), which he takes to marks its unnecessary nature.


I'll have to consult Porter later. Too bad the index is like a lot of academic books. I'm not sure optionality in Homer means much. The article was optional / missing in Homer, and the lack of the augment in Homer follows certain rules (in a series of verbs, only the first needs an augment).

MAubrey wrote:Rod Decker, I think, has talked about the relationship between the augment and the secondary endings as having a purely formal relationship (Temporal Deixis, 39-40). He might be able to say more about his view directly.


Decker may well be right on the relationship between the augment and secondary endings, but this shifts the question from the purpose of the augment to the purpose of the secondary endings (which I don't remember him addressing).

MAubrey wrote:Con Campbell simply changes the label: the augment marks remoteness.


I know Decker states that the imperfect is a remote tense-form because it provides background information while the aorist provides the main story line. This understanding won't work if the augment on the aorist also marks remoteness as you state that Campbell holds.

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Re: Augment and Aspect

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » February 29th, 2012, 10:50 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:I know Decker states that the imperfect is a remote tense-form because it provides background information while the aorist provides the main story line. This understanding won't work if the augment on the aorist also marks remoteness as you state that Campbell holds.


Campbell says: "... while traditional analyses might regard verbs as encoding aspect and tense, here verbs are regarded as encoding aspect and remoteness or aspect and proximity. It is also claimed that these spatial values of remoteness and proximity, which are semantic, normally express temporal reference on the pragmatic level. This means that remoteness, for example, will most often be pragmatically expressed as temporal remoteness - the action is past-referring. ..." (Basics of Verbal Aspect p. 129)

Campbell thinks that this spatial interpretation explains both temporal and non-temporal uses of aorist: when it's not temporal, it's other metaphorical sense of "remoteness". For example, in Mark 1:11 ευδοκησα is not a past action. "Instead, remoteness functions together with perfective aspect to provide a bird's eye view of the scene. As the Father speaks from heaven, he gives his assessment of his Son - he is well pleased." (p. 37-38.)

Background/foreground vs. remoteness of augment wouldn't be a problem for Campbell, I believe. This pragmatic effect may be due to aspect, not remoteness or lack of it. I don't know whether Decker's and Campbell's views are compatible.

This doesn't mean I would agree with Campbell.
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Re: Augment and Aspect

Postby Stephen Carlson » February 29th, 2012, 1:34 pm

That's helpful, Eeli. Based on what you've (and others) have said, there does appear to be some difference in Decker's and Campbell's understanding of remoteness, but I'd have reread them for that specific distinction in mind.

I wonder what the difference between Campbell's notion of remoteness and the view that the augment marks verb forms as prototypically, but not categorically, past?

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Re: Augment and Aspect

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » February 29th, 2012, 2:06 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:I wonder what the difference between Campbell's notion of remoteness and the view that the augment marks verb forms as prototypically, but not categorically, past?


This is near to upper limit of my understanding, so I may be wrong, but... Campbell tries to find a rule without exceptions and thinks that the exceptionless rule is the semantic meaning (as probably does Porter, too). A proponent of some kind of prototypicalilty view would say that a rule can have exceptions and still describe the semantic meaning. I find the latter view more down-to-earth, practical, realistic and commonsensical. I see this as one of the basic differences between the non-temporal and the aspectual+temporal views of tense.
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Re: Augment and Aspect

Postby Stephen Carlson » March 3rd, 2012, 9:41 am

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:I wonder what the difference between Campbell's notion of remoteness and the view that the augment marks verb forms as prototypically, but not categorically, past?


This is near to upper limit of my understanding, so I may be wrong, but... Campbell tries to find a rule without exceptions and thinks that the exceptionless rule is the semantic meaning (as probably does Porter, too). A proponent of some kind of prototypicalilty view would say that a rule can have exceptions and still describe the semantic meaning. I find the latter view more down-to-earth, practical, realistic and commonsensical. I see this as one of the basic differences between the non-temporal and the aspectual+temporal views of tense.


Thanks for this. I decided to consult the leading textbook of prototype theory, James R. Taylor, Linguistic Categorization: Prototypes in Linguistic Theory (2d ed.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1995), 149-153, and it turns out that he discusses attempts to explain the English past tense, which non-past time usages in terms of counterfactuals and pragmatic softening, in terms of a common semantic component, "remoteness."

Taylor disagrees with recasting the English past tense in terms of remoteness (discussed by Palmer in 1965/1974) for these reasons:
  • Remoteness is "far too general to serve as a formula for predicting the distribution of past tense." In particular, Taylor notes that a notion of "remoteness" should also refer to future events and spatially remote present events, but these hardly happen with the past tense.
  • The different senses of remoteness are "conceptually quite distinct." Taylor feels that remoteness in time is very different from remoteness in counterfactuality or the spatial metaphor for pragmatic softening.
  • The "different uses of the past tense differ in their productivity." The past tense of nearly every verb in English can indicate past time in a variety of syntactic environments, but the peripheral uses of the past tense only occur in limited and specific syntactic environments.

So basically, Taylor's critique of remoteness from a prototype perspective is that that, while the past time category admittedly does not explain certain specialized uses of the past tense, the notion of remoteness is over-inclusive and cannot explain why many apparently remote sense are not in the past tense. It is better, Taylor argues, to understand the past tense as a having a central function of indicating past time--that function, after all, is its most productive use--, but also to acknowledge that it has peripheral non-past functions of counterfactuality and pragmatic softening in certain specialized environments. These environments can be related to its central meaning by certain semantic extensions (e.g., past time -> remote in time -> remote in space -> remote in involvement -> pragmatic softening).

So it looks like to me that linguists already had a debate about the meaning of the past tense and that it occurred before the aspect wars in Greek took off.

Stephen
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Re: Augment and Aspect

Postby Stephen Carlson » March 7th, 2012, 1:03 pm

The (interesting) discussion about the aspect of the historical present has taken on a life of its own, so I split the thread.

See here: Aspect of the Historical Present
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