Apollonius Dyscolus on Temporal Adverbs and Tense

Stephen Carlson
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Apollonius Dyscolus on Temporal Adverbs and Tense

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 25th, 2014, 5:15 am

Those interested in the temporality of the Greek verbal system may wish consider what a Greek grammarian said on the topic:
Apoll. Dysc., On Adverbs, wrote:τὰ χρονικὰ ἐπιρρήματα συμφωνοῦσαν τοῖς τοῦ ῥήματος χρόνοις ποιεῖται σύνταξιν. οἷον τὸ ἐχθές παρῳχημένῳ συντετάξεται, ἐχθὲς ἔγραφον, ἐχθὲς ἔγραψα. τὸ γὰρ αὔριον ἀντικείμενον τῷ παρῳχημένῳ, οὐ συντετάξεται ἢ πάλιν τοῖς ὁμολογοῦσι τὸ <μὴ> παρῳχῆσθαι, αὔριον γράφω, αὔριον γράψω, αὔριον ἀναγινώσκω. τὰ μέντοι οὐ διορίζοντα τὸν χρόνον, κοινὴν δὲ παράτασιν δηλοῦντα τοῦ παντὸς χρόνου, συμπαραλαμβάνεται κατὰ πάντα χρόνον, ὡς ἔχει τὸ νῦν ἐφρόνησα, νῦν φρονῶ, νῦν φρονήσω· ἤδη ἔγραψα, ἤδη γράφω, ἤδη γράψω. ὁ αὐτὸς λόγος συντεινέτω ἐπὶ πάντων τῶν τοιούτων.

The temporal adverbs agree with the times of verbs. For example, the word ἐχθές ("yesterday") is constructed with the past: ἐχθὲς ἔγραφον ("yesterday I was writing"), ἐχθὲς ἔγραψα ("yesterday I wrote"). For the word αὔριον ("tomorrow") is incompatible with the past; it is not constructed [with the past] but on the contrary with those verbs that do not acknowledge the past: αὔριον γράφω ("tomorrow I am writing"), αὔριον γράψω ("tomorrow I will write"), αὔριον ἀναγινώσκω ("tomorrow I am reading"). Yet those adverbs that do not delimit time, but mean a common duration of any time, they can be used in accordance with any time, as for example νῦν ἐφρόνησα ("just now I thought"), νῦν φρονῶ ("now I am thinking"), νῦν φρονήσω ("now I will think"); ἤδη ἔγραψα ("I already wrote"), ἤδη γράφω ("I am already writing"), ἤδη γράψω ("I will already write"). Let the same word be concerned with all such times.
A couple points of interest. One is that this native Greek felt that there was a temporal incompatibility with the adverb αὔριον ("tomorrow") and past tense verbs. Another is that the basic temporal distinction he employs is between past and non-past, rather than a past, present, future trichotomy; thus, the present tense can be used with non-past adverbs. A third point is that the adverb νῦν is not a point present but rather covers a duration of time that may also include the past and future. This last point suggests to me that the collocation of νῦν with various verb forms is not a reliable test for present time meaning.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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RandallButh
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Re: Apollonius Dyscolus on Temporal Adverbs and Tense

Post by RandallButh » February 26th, 2014, 8:31 am

Thank you, Stephen.
I didn't know, or didn't remember, that Apollonios was using the αὔριον argument. Nice.
That gives it quite an old pedigree. By writing this post, maybe I'll remember.

You'd think that people today would just AGREE with Apollonios rather than invent spatial metaphors for time in order to reject time! May the field go forward by spending more TIME in internalizing Greek.

As for binary vs. tripartite temporal distictions, the pragmatic use of the present in many languages is very fluid. However, Apollonios appears to use a tripartite distinction in the quote that you give:
νῦν ἐφρόνησα, νῦν φρονῶ, νῦν φρονήσω

It is the VERBS that provide the tripartite distinction, not the adverbs. (Why is this note significant? This use of verbs for marking time instead of adverbs is in contradistinction to the predictions of the "spatial metaphor school" of Greek [aka "aspect-only"]).
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Re: Apollonius Dyscolus on Temporal Adverbs and Tense

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 26th, 2014, 10:01 am

RandallButh wrote:Thank you, Stephen.
I didn't know, or didn't remember, that Apollonios was using the αὔριον argument. Nice.
That gives it quite an old pedigree. By writing this post, maybe I'll remember.
I was reading that and I thought, "Hey, he sounds just like you!"
RandallButh wrote:As for binary vs. tripartite temporal distictions, the pragmatic use of the present in many languages is very fluid. However, Apollonios appears to use a tripartite distinction in the quote that you give:
νῦν ἐφρόνησα, νῦν φρονῶ, νῦν φρονήσω
Point taken.
RandallButh wrote:It is the VERBS that provide the tripartite distinction, not the adverbs. (Why is this note significant? This use of verbs for marking time instead of adverbs is in contradistinction to the predictions of the "spatial metaphor school" of Greek [aka "aspect-only"]).
There's also Aristotle's notion of a verb as connoting time (Ῥῆμα δέ ἐστι τὸ προσσημαῖνον χρόνον).
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Re: Apollonius Dyscolus on Temporal Adverbs and Tense

Post by RandallButh » February 26th, 2014, 2:52 pm

So where has the peer-review process failed?

Normally, "peer-review" protects a field from untenable hypotheses.
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Re: Apollonius Dyscolus on Temporal Adverbs and Tense

Post by MAubrey » February 26th, 2014, 3:39 pm

Apollonius Dyscolus's statement is technically not inline with the typological studies as well. Bhat (1999) warns that collocation with temporal adverbs cannot be used to determine the status of tense in a language. Tense as a verb category and temporal adverbs maybe related, but they are separate systems.
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Re: Apollonius Dyscolus on Temporal Adverbs and Tense

Post by RandallButh » February 27th, 2014, 2:35 am

Michael, do you have a page reference or paragraph? Bhat says a lot of things about adverbials. My impression is that that he would not be against the AYRION test but he does recognize wide and sometimes poorly defined usages, especially relating to aspect/telicity, etc..
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Re: Apollonius Dyscolus on Temporal Adverbs and Tense

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 27th, 2014, 3:16 am

RandallButh wrote:Michael, do you have a page reference or paragraph? Bhat says a lot of things about adverbials. My impression is that that he would not be against the AYRION test but he does recognize wide and sometimes poorly defined usages, especially relating to aspect/telicity, etc..
I'm not Mike, but try p. 36.
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Re: Apollonius Dyscolus on Temporal Adverbs and Tense

Post by RandallButh » February 27th, 2014, 4:52 am

Yes, adverbials and TAM markers on verbs are different systems. (p 36). I suppose I was looking for more clarification on whatever was discussed or intended by Michael's statement above "cannot be used".
collocation with temporal adverbs cannot be used to deterine the status of tense in a language

On the most simple reading, Bhat is not interested in whether or not a language marks or refers to time in its verb, he is interested in whatever parameter from Tense-Aspect-Mood is the most dominant in a language. Certainly, the inability of an adverb like αὔριον to collocate with a FUTURE verb only tells one that time is part of Greek's verb system, it does not reveal the pervasive extent of the aspect system. I consider Greek to be one of the prototypical examples of an aspect-prominent language, (contra the muddied situation in Hebrew [the better someone knows the language, the better they are aware of inconsistencies on all sides]). Greek is certainly aspect-prominent AND it certainly includes tense/time in the verb system.

As for adverbial discussions in Bhat:
Bhat, p35
However, tense is independent of temporal adverbials and can stand on its own without the support of the latter; the adverbials, on the other hand, are constrained by tense even though there do occur some contexts in which they may conflict with tense (see 2.5.4).
and also
Bhat, p36
The term "temporal adverbials" is also used traditionally for denoting adverbials which modify the aspectual character of the verb, i.e., adverbials which indicate the duration. frequency, extent (from or to a particular point of time), etc. of an event. I propose to examine these latter type of adverbials separately in the next chapter (3.6). The present section is concerned only with adverbials that provide additional information about the temporal location of an event. It may be noted in this connection that even some of the most recent researchers have failed to differentiate between temporal and aspectual adverbials, and have thereby unnecessarily made the description of tense rather complicated.


As Apollonios noted with νῦν and αὔριον the adverbs can be used to clarify how verbs may or may not be used. I would think that everyone is 'on the same page' (metaphor for 'broad agreement', not referring literally to citations from a book), this far, regarding the positive evidence of adverbials.
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Re: Apollonius Dyscolus on Temporal Adverbs and Tense

Post by MAubrey » February 27th, 2014, 9:19 am

RandallButh wrote:Yes, adverbials and TAM markers on verbs are different systems. (p 36). I suppose I was looking for more clarification on whatever was discussed or intended by Michael's statement above "cannot be used".
I'm actually looking at page 35.

If we're talking about a "from scratch" grammatical analysis of the Greek verb, we cannot rely upon temporal adverbs full for the determination of (a) the existence of tense or (b) the type of tense. There are some scholars who believe the correlation of tense morphemes with temporal adverbials could be used to test the category of tense, this is not reliable since these two systems are independent of each other. “Tense is independent of temporal adverbials and can stand on its own without the support of the latter; the adverbials on the other hand, are constrained by tense even though there do occur some contexts in which they may conflict with tense” (35). For this reason in terms of performing a fresh grammatical analysis, it would be an acceptable approach to evaluate the meaning of temporal adverbials on the basis of tense, but the converse would be theoretically and descriptively risky.
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Re: Apollonius Dyscolus on Temporal Adverbs and Tense

Post by Ken M. Penner » February 27th, 2014, 9:55 am

MAubrey wrote:it would be an acceptable approach to evaluate the meaning of temporal adverbials on the basis of tense, but the converse would be theoretically and descriptively risky.
Just to clarify in simple English, let me use an example.
Given that we see a correlation of "will do" with "tomorrow" and "did" with "yesterday," are you saying it's okay to use "will do" to tell us what "tomorrow" means and "did" to figure out what "yesterday" means, but it's not okay to use "tomorrow" to figure out what "will do" means and "yesterday" to figure out what "did" means?
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