The Instantaneous Imperfect???

David Lim
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Re: The Instantaneous Imperfect???

Post by David Lim » April 9th, 2012, 9:45 pm

MAubrey wrote:
David Lim wrote:I just came across one example when reading the LXX:
[Exo 5] [6] συνεταξεν δε φαραω τοις εργοδιωκταις του λαου και τοις γραμματευσιν λεγων [7] ουκετι προστεθησεται διδοναι αχυρον τω λαω εις την πλινθουργιαν καθαπερ εχθες και τριτην ημεραν αυτοι πορευεσθωσαν και συναγαγετωσαν εαυτοις αχυρα [8] και την συνταξιν της πλινθειας ης αυτοι ποιουσιν καθ εκαστην ημεραν επιβαλεις αυτοις ουκ αφελεις ουδεν σχολαζουσιν γαρ δια τουτο κεκραγασιν λεγοντες πορευθωμεν και θυσωμεν τω θεω ημων [9] βαρυνεσθω τα εργα των ανθρωπων τουτων και μεριμνατωσαν ταυτα και μη μεριμνατωσαν εν λογοις κενοις [10] κατεσπευδον δε αυτους οι εργοδιωκται και οι γραμματεις και ελεγον προς τον λαον λεγοντες ταδε λεγει φαραω ουκετι διδωμι υμιν αχυρα [11] αυτοι υμεις πορευομενοι συλλεγετε εαυτοις αχυρα οθεν εαν ευρητε ου γαρ αφαιρειται απο της συνταξεως υμων ουθεν
It is to me a perfect use of the imperfect to denote an ongoing event, and I do not see why we would need to see "ελεγον" as a means to segment discourse.
David, its perfectly fine that you're not convinced. The problem is that in not being convinced you've introduced a category into the language that is superfluous. Steve's explanation maintains the purely imperfective semantics of the verb, while yours rejects it completely. At face value, there is absolutely no reason why one should prefer an explanation (yours) that so dramatically violates the basic semantic structure of the language as realized in its own morphological patterns, especially when there is another explanation (Steve's) that maintains that structure, i.e. for Steve, ἔλεγον is still imperfective in nature.
Sorry I do not understand what you mean; I never introduced any new category. I indeed was saying that the imperfect verb is imperfective, and especially denotes an ongoing event in the past. The main difference with Steve is that I do not see a need to identify imperfect verbs of speaking as a means to segment discourse. To me it is simply behaving like any other imperfect verb.
MAubrey wrote:But that's at face value. Drawing a final conclusion is dependent upon your counter evidence:
David Lim wrote:learly there is no discourse here, and in fact both imperfects are essentially referring to the same event: "the taskmasters and scribes themselves were hastening and were saying to the people, saying, this says [the] Pharaoh, no longer do I give to you chaff. you yourselves, going, collect for yourselves chaff from wherever you shall find. for nothing is taken away from your [work] arrangement." In other words, in somewhat informal English we might say: "they were going around and were saying to the people, ..." emphasising the continuous nature of the action over that period of time, though it is hardly different in meaning from the somewhat more formal statement "they went around and said to the people, ..." There are also more examples in the same text, both of which convey continuous action, though "they were beholding" will be unnatural English for "εωρων":
The problem with this argument is that the example isn't relevant. Steve isn't making a claim about all instances of ἔλεγον. He's making a claim about some instances of ἔλεγον and only in a specific syntactic environment: instances of ἔλεγον where it is hedged in on both sides by direct discourse. He's also technically not making a claim specifically about the verb λέγω, but about a larger class: verbs of speaking, in the imperfect, in narrative. In principle just about any verb of speaking that has an imperfect form could be used in this way. How does your counter example size up? Let's check:

Verb of Speaking: Pass
Imperfect: Pass
Narrative: Pass
Hedged in on both sides by direct discourse: Fail

And since your example doesn't meet the criteria, it isn't relevant. And since it isn't relevant your argument fails. To demonstrate that Steve is wrong, you must only work with the data that satisfies his criteria before you can demonstrate that the explanation doesn't work.
I am not sure if I could have stated my point of view more clearly. To repeat, I do not think there is such a thing as an instantaneous imperfect, so of course I agree with what Steve said in "Levinsohn remarks that the imperfect is used “to portray events as incomplete.”" and in "The aspect of the imperfect itself is used for ongoing or incomplete action." What I disagree with is his explanation that it is the natural choice in order to segment speech. I am not saying that it cannot be used for that but that it is not more suited for that purpose. The purpose of my example was to show how imperfective verbs of speaking are used with no other intention except to convey an ongoing event in the past. Thus for Steve to demonstrate his claim, he would need to give evidence that an imperfect verb of speaking is indeed a linguistically natural way to segment long speech, not just stylistically frequent for some authors. Otherwise, I see no difference between imperfect verbs of speaking and imperfect verbs in general.
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MAubrey
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Re: The Instantaneous Imperfect???

Post by MAubrey » April 9th, 2012, 10:37 pm

The confusion arises by your words "a perfect use of the imperfect," which can be read as "a non-continuous use of the imperfect" or as "an ideal use of the imperfect." Considering that Wallace is claiming precisely that the examples from Mark are non-continuous uses of the imperfect, I hope you can understand why someone might read your statement as meaning for former rather than the latter.

But, then, if that's the case, I still have absolutely no idea why your Exodus example is at all relevant since it appears in a context that is clearly iterative. Conversely, these examples that appear in the middle of direct speech are not clearly iterative or continuous. Steve (and Levinsohn) are simply providing an arguing that demonstrates that they are.
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David Lim
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Re: The Instantaneous Imperfect???

Post by David Lim » April 10th, 2012, 12:44 am

MAubrey wrote:The confusion arises by your words "a perfect use of the imperfect," which can be read as "a non-continuous use of the imperfect" or as "an ideal use of the imperfect." Considering that Wallace is claiming precisely that the examples from Mark are non-continuous uses of the imperfect, I hope you can understand why someone might read your statement as meaning for former rather than the latter.
Haha.. sorry I thought it was an unambiguous pun. ;)
MAubrey wrote:But, then, if that's the case, I still have absolutely no idea why your Exodus example is at all relevant since it appears in a context that is clearly iterative. Conversely, these examples that appear in the middle of direct speech are not clearly iterative or continuous. Steve (and Levinsohn) are simply providing an arguing that demonstrates that they are.
I think we are talking about two different things. Indeed Steve and I are both saying that all imperfect verbs are really imperfective, but I am talking about the reason he gives for its function. I cannot restrict myself to only the instances of imperfect verbs of speech that appear in the middle of direct discourse, because certainly those would seem to segment the discourse. What I was claiming is that they do not segment anything, any more than any other imperfect verbs segment narrative. So I felt that the example in Exodus was relevant because it was an example of an imperfect verb of saying that was clearly used to refer to some form of speech of some duration, in my opinion placing the reader in the perspective of one who was there hearing the ongoing speech. I just cannot see why we cannot understand every instance of an imperfect verb of speech to have exactly the same meaning as this, rather than to be the natural choice to segment direct discourse.

For example, in English I could say either of the following and the past progressive has nothing to do with segmenting discourse:
"He was telling us all about his travels."
"He told us all about his travels."

Likewise in Mark 2:23-26, there are three instances of the imperfect, none of which can be explained as a means to segment discourse, given that they are simply repeated one after another:
"και εγενετο παραπορευεσθαι αυτον εν τοις σαββασιν δια των σποριμων και ηρξαντο οι μαθηται αυτου οδον ποιειν τιλλοντες τους σταχυας και οι φαρισαιοι ελεγον αυτω ιδε τι ποιουσιν εν τοις σαββασιν ο ουκ εξεστιν και αυτος ελεγεν αυτοις ουδεποτε ανεγνωτε τι εποιησεν δαυιδ οτε χρειαν εσχεν και επεινασεν αυτος και οι μετ αυτου πως εισηλθεν εις τον οικον του θεου επι αβιαθαρ αρχιερεως και τους αρτους της προθεσεως εφαγεν ους ουκ εξεστιν φαγειν ει μη τοις ιερευσιν και εδωκεν και τοις συν αυτω ουσιν και ελεγεν αυτοις το σαββατον δια τον ανθρωπον εγενετο ουχ ο ανθρωπος δια το σαββατον ωστε κυριος εστιν ο υιος του ανθρωπου και του σαββατου"
"and [it] came to be [that] he passed by in the sabbath through the sown [fields] and his disciples began to make [a] path, plucking the heads of grain. and the pharisees were saying to him, behold, why do they do in the sabbath that which is not allowed? and he was saying to them, did you not even once read what David did when [he] had need and was hungry? he and the [ones] with him, how [he] entered into the house of God before Abiathar [the] chief priest and ate the bread [loaves] of the display, which [one] is not allowed to eat except for the priests, and gave also to the [ones] being with him? and [he] was saying to them, the sabbath came to be because of man, not man because of the sabbath. so also the son of man is lord also of the sabbath."
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MAubrey
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Re: The Instantaneous Imperfect???

Post by MAubrey » April 10th, 2012, 1:18 am

David Lim wrote:
MAubrey wrote:But, then, if that's the case, I still have absolutely no idea why your Exodus example is at all relevant since it appears in a context that is clearly iterative. Conversely, these examples that appear in the middle of direct speech are not clearly iterative or continuous. Steve (and Levinsohn) are simply providing an arguing that demonstrates that they are.
I think we are talking about two different things. Indeed Steve and I are both saying that all imperfect verbs are really imperfective, but I am talking about the reason he gives for its function.
Ah! Gotcha. Well, the answer is that Steve isn't giving a reason. The segmentation of the text isn't a reason. It's a result. The imperfective nature of the verb allows for the pragmatic (usage) effect of text segmentation. It's the closest you're going to get a linguist to talk about style.
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: The Instantaneous Imperfect???

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » April 10th, 2012, 3:41 am

MAubrey wrote:The segmentation of the text isn't a reason. It's a result. The imperfective nature of the verb allows for the pragmatic (usage) effect of text segmentation. It's the closest you're going to get a linguist to talk about style.
How's that possible? Are you saying that a writer chooses the imperfect (over historical present or possibly aorist) for no reason, and it just happens to segmentate the text logically?
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Re: The Instantaneous Imperfect???

Post by David Lim » April 10th, 2012, 8:12 am

MAubrey wrote:
David Lim wrote:I think we are talking about two different things. Indeed Steve and I are both saying that all imperfect verbs are really imperfective, but I am talking about the reason he gives for its function.
Ah! Gotcha. Well, the answer is that Steve isn't giving a reason. The segmentation of the text isn't a reason. It's a result. The imperfective nature of the verb allows for the pragmatic (usage) effect of text segmentation. It's the closest you're going to get a linguist to talk about style.
Hey I considered you a linguist, and aren't you talking about style? ;) Anyway I claim that the author never even intended to create an effect of text segmentation, which is why I said that I cannot see how anyone could say that the natural choice at some place in the text would be an imperfect based on a claim that it has such an effect.
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
MAubrey wrote:The segmentation of the text isn't a reason. It's a result. The imperfective nature of the verb allows for the pragmatic (usage) effect of text segmentation. It's the closest you're going to get a linguist to talk about style.
How's that possible? Are you saying that a writer chooses the imperfect (over historical present or possibly aorist) for no reason, and it just happens to segmentate the text logically?
My answer is that the imperfect verb of speech conjures a slightly different picture in the reader's mind, one of an incomplete speech (imperfect) rather than a speech just at hand (present) or a past speech (aorist). Verbs of speech with different forms could theoretically segment a text, logically or otherwise, but I think that kind of consideration is not on the author's mind. I remember the time when I was taught in my literature class how to annotate a poem, and at that time I was young and just obeyed instructions but now on hindsight a lot of those annotations were pure nonsense. For example, "the author used an iambic pentameter throughout but here the accent falls at a different place, thus he must have been emphasizing this word." This is what I call looking for things that do not exist. Since we cannot ask the authors of the new testament texts, the only remaining way to prove that some structure exists is to show that it is consistently followed throughout the text. This, I am certain, is not true with regard to the use of the imperfect verbs of speech. Moreover unless this is demonstrated for majority of the texts, it can at the most be ascribed only to the style of some authors and not a natural use of the imperfect.
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MAubrey
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Re: The Instantaneous Imperfect???

Post by MAubrey » April 10th, 2012, 11:58 am

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:How's that possible? Are you saying that a writer chooses the imperfect (over historical present or possibly aorist) for no reason, and it just happens to segmentate the text logically?
No, everything is motivated. Always. Even style. I'm saying that style itself is motivated. It was both style and pragmatics that led me to segment the previous utterance with periods in a manner that's entirely unnecessary but creates a specific effect that I take advantage of in communication. Pragmatics is usage. Style is usage. And for that matter, in my view, grammar is usage, too! The problem is that the word "style" has often been used to simply refer to that which cannot be explained.
David Lim wrote:Anyway I claim that the author never even intended to create an effect of text segmentation, which is why I said that I cannot see how anyone could say that the natural choice at some place in the text would be an imperfect based on a claim that it has such an effect.
Well, the text is segmented.
David Lim wrote:My answer is that the imperfect verb of speech conjures a slightly different picture in the reader's mind, one of an incomplete speech (imperfect) rather than a speech just at hand (present) or a past speech (aorist). Verbs of speech with different forms could theoretically segment a text, logically or otherwise, but I think that kind of consideration is not on the author's mind.
Nobody here would say an imperfect doesn't create a different mental representation. But the fact is that Mark never uses an aorist in a narrative break in direct speech. He conceivably could have done so, but he doesn't. So Steve and Levinsohn provide an explanation for that. The difference between iambic pentameter and this is that iambic pentameter is largely a conscious choice made by the poet, but the use of verbal forms is nearly always a subconscious process. Even if its not on the authors mind the facts these:

1) The text is segmented.
2) Mark consistently uses the imperfect at these break.

These facts are still around even if you don't think Mark was thinking about it.
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David Lim
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Re: The Instantaneous Imperfect???

Post by David Lim » April 11th, 2012, 6:37 am

MAubrey wrote:
David Lim wrote:My answer is that the imperfect verb of speech conjures a slightly different picture in the reader's mind, one of an incomplete speech (imperfect) rather than a speech just at hand (present) or a past speech (aorist). Verbs of speech with different forms could theoretically segment a text, logically or otherwise, but I think that kind of consideration is not on the author's mind.
Nobody here would say an imperfect doesn't create a different mental representation. But the fact is that Mark never uses an aorist in a narrative break in direct speech. He conceivably could have done so, but he doesn't. So Steve and Levinsohn provide an explanation for that. The difference between iambic pentameter and this is that iambic pentameter is largely a conscious choice made by the poet, but the use of verbal forms is nearly always a subconscious process. Even if its not on the authors mind the facts these:

1) The text is segmented.
2) Mark consistently uses the imperfect at these break.

These facts are still around even if you don't think Mark was thinking about it.
Sure, the text is segmented, but Mark does not consistently use the imperfect only at these breaks. For example, can you explain Mark 2:23-26 which I quoted?
David Lim wrote:Likewise in Mark 2:23-26, there are three instances of the imperfect, none of which can be explained as a means to segment discourse, given that they are simply repeated one after another:
"και εγενετο παραπορευεσθαι αυτον εν τοις σαββασιν δια των σποριμων και ηρξαντο οι μαθηται αυτου οδον ποιειν τιλλοντες τους σταχυας και οι φαρισαιοι ελεγον αυτω ιδε τι ποιουσιν εν τοις σαββασιν ο ουκ εξεστιν και αυτος ελεγεν αυτοις ουδεποτε ανεγνωτε τι εποιησεν δαυιδ οτε χρειαν εσχεν και επεινασεν αυτος και οι μετ αυτου πως εισηλθεν εις τον οικον του θεου επι αβιαθαρ αρχιερεως και τους αρτους της προθεσεως εφαγεν ους ουκ εξεστιν φαγειν ει μη τοις ιερευσιν και εδωκεν και τοις συν αυτω ουσιν και ελεγεν αυτοις το σαββατον δια τον ανθρωπον εγενετο ουχ ο ανθρωπος δια το σαββατον ωστε κυριος εστιν ο υιος του ανθρωπου και του σαββατου"
"and [it] came to be [that] he passed by in the sabbath through the sown [fields] and his disciples began to make [a] path, plucking the heads of grain. and the pharisees were saying to him, behold, why do they do in the sabbath that which is not allowed? and he was saying to them, did you not even once read what David did when [he] had need and was hungry? he and the [ones] with him, how [he] entered into the house of God before Abiathar [the] chief priest and ate the bread [loaves] of the display, which [one] is not allowed to eat except for the priests, and gave also to the [ones] being with him? and [he] was saying to them, the sabbath came to be because of man, not man because of the sabbath. so also the son of man is lord also of the sabbath."
If the places where direct discourse in a narrative text is segmented is only a subset of the places where the author uses the imperfect, then segmentation cannot be considered as a usage of the imperfect verb of speech. Otherwise I can claim that all conjunctions and particles are also used to segment direct discourse. The more reasonable assertion in my opinion is that the context of the discourse itself segments the discourse, not any single word or word form in it, though it is of course more likely for one to use unusual words or word forms at the junctures between sections. To prove it, my test would be to remove the verb conjugation of all instances of "λεγειν" in an extended length of direct discourse that you are not familiar with and you should be able to determine where an imperfect should be used. If you are very accurate, then I would agree with you, because you would clearly demonstrate a correlation between the imperfect verb of speech and the segmentation of direct discourse. ;)
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Re: The Instantaneous Imperfect???

Post by Stephen Carlson » April 11th, 2012, 8:43 am

David Lim wrote:If the places where direct discourse in a narrative text is segmented is only a subset of the places where the author uses the imperfect, then segmentation cannot be considered as a usage of the imperfect verb of speech. Otherwise I can claim that all conjunctions and particles are also used to segment direct discourse.
I guess I'm understanding Steve's claim differently. I think he's claiming that if an author (e.g. Mark) wants to segment a longer speech, then the imperfect is an appropriate choice for that goal. I don't think he's claiming that the imperfect always signals that something is a segment of a longer speech.

Stephen
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David Lim
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Re: The Instantaneous Imperfect???

Post by David Lim » April 11th, 2012, 11:42 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
David Lim wrote:If the places where direct discourse in a narrative text is segmented is only a subset of the places where the author uses the imperfect, then segmentation cannot be considered as a usage of the imperfect verb of speech. Otherwise I can claim that all conjunctions and particles are also used to segment direct discourse.
I guess I'm understanding Steve's claim differently. I think he's claiming that if an author (e.g. Mark) wants to segment a longer speech, then the imperfect is an appropriate choice for that goal. I don't think he's claiming that the imperfect always signals that something is a segment of a longer speech.

Stephen
Ah okay. Anyway I still claim that segmentation of a long speech is not quite the author's intention when he uses the imperfect verb of speech, because all the examples fit the broader classification of the imperfect literally signalling an incomplete event. I therefore think there is not much reason to divide them into two groups, one for segmentation, the other not for segmentation. I choose the simpler, even if more vague, explanation.
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