Understanding the usage of +/- in linguistic papers?

Biblical Greek morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics
Tim Evans
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Understanding the usage of +/- in linguistic papers?

Post by Tim Evans » August 22nd, 2018, 10:01 pm

I have noticed that Randall Buth, Porter, and others like to describe the grammar of the verb using a particular formula, for example, I see Porter do it on page 9 of his monograph, writing [+aspectual / +finite: -assertion +direction] and assuming people know what it means. (Is it defined later in his book? Perhaps, but its going to take me a while to get through this massive work.)

Where does it come from, and where do I go to understand it better? (For example, does minus suggest a marked decision against an option, or perhaps minus could mean something is unmarked)
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Understanding the usage of +/- in linguistic papers?

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 22nd, 2018, 11:39 pm

It's a convention to describe linguistic features. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feature_(linguistics)
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serunge
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Re: Understanding the usage of +/- in linguistic papers?

Post by serunge » August 23rd, 2018, 1:17 pm

Hi Tim,

There is a somewhat older article that does a nice job of tracing the history of the idea of markedness that would be worth skimming, available for download here: http://www.academia.edu/749962/1989_Mar ... _150_years The minuses can be deceiving, but Anderson does a nice job of laying out what was called "zero meaning," where some feature may or may not be present. Without some formal marked there to signal it's presence, context would be the guide. It might be more helpful to think of the minuses as blanks instead, meaning no marker one way or the other, not as the opposite of the plus. The classic example is with words like "lion" or "deer" being unmarked regarding gender (could be either M or F) compared to terms that are specifically marked for gender like "lioness" or "doe". I can't talk about a male doe or lioness, but I can talk about a female deer or lion.

You also need to note that Porter conflates two different approaches to markedness as he applies it to prominence. I critiqued his application in the attached article. We have significant agreement where he applies asymmetrical markedness to basic semantic description, but significant disagreement where he departs from conventional linguistic understandings as he applies it to prominence (conflating symmetrical and asymmetrical understandings). The model of markedness I am using (and Porter too in certain areas) is the same as that applied by Buth, Levinsohn, and more broadly in linguistics.

If you want to dive deeper, Edna Andrews' monograph on markedness is a classic introduction, especially her chapter on the myths of markedness. See also Martin Haspelmath's "Against Markedness" (also attached) that Porter rather ironically cites positively.
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Haspelmath-Against markedness.pdf
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Tim Evans
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Re: Understanding the usage of +/- in linguistic papers?

Post by Tim Evans » September 26th, 2018, 8:59 pm

Thanks both of you for your responses, I was not aware of that BBR issue, I need to dig into that. To check I understand correctly, using a diagram from Decker (simply because that is what I have in front of me), this diagram suggests regarding the "tense-forms" in Koine Greek:

1. The verb may have feature "perfective aspect" or it may not have the feature "perfective aspect".
2. If not, it must have either the feature of "imperfective aspect" or "stative aspect".
3. Finally, the verb may or may not have the feature of remoteness.

Long story short this chart is intended to communicate linguistic features, but does not intend to communicate thought regarding "weight" or "prominence" or "markedness" (should we accept that concept).

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Tim Evans
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Re: Understanding the usage of +/- in linguistic papers?

Post by Tim Evans » September 26th, 2018, 9:27 pm

And this would be Campbells?

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Tim Evans
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Re: Understanding the usage of +/- in linguistic papers?

Post by Tim Evans » September 27th, 2018, 1:30 am

For completeness, perhaps Campbell would be better summarised like this:

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RandallButh
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Re: Understanding the usage of +/- in linguistic papers?

Post by RandallButh » September 27th, 2018, 4:14 am

To speak as simply as possible:

There is no such thing as a "spatially remote perfective" aspect or "spatially remote imperfective aspect."

Spatial remoteness is a figment of imagination, where a metaphor "spatial remoteness" has been been given ontological status as a defining feature based on some kind of "reality." However, the metaphor is not a definition, but was used as a euphemism to avoid talking about TIME. It is metalanguage gobbledygook for hiding the emperor's "clothes."

Yes, the imperfect in Greek is none other than +imperfective aspect +past time.

Yes, in fact, that is "remote," in the past, from before the indicative present "now" or indicative future. So the metaphor can work when defined correctly. But students should not be blindfolded by metaphors. Tense/Time is part of the Greek indicative system.

That is kind of simple.
Some NT grammarians and students need to smell the coffee. :)
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Understanding the usage of +/- in linguistic papers?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » September 27th, 2018, 6:12 am

RandallButh wrote:
September 27th, 2018, 4:14 am
To speak as simply as possible:

There is no such thing as a "spatially remote perfective" aspect or "spatially remote imperfective aspect."

Spatial remoteness is a figment of imagination, where a metaphor "spatial remoteness" has been been given ontological status as a defining feature based on some kind of "reality." However, the metaphor is not a definition, but was used as a euphemism to avoid talking about TIME. It is metalanguage gobbledygook for hiding the emperor's "clothes."

Yes, the imperfect in Greek is none other than +imperfective aspect +past time.

Yes, in fact, that is "remote," in the past, from before the indicative present "now" or indicative future. So the metaphor can work when defined correctly. But students should not be blindfolded by metaphors. Tense/Time is part of the Greek indicative system.

That is kind of simple.
Some NT grammarians and students need to smell the coffee. :)
Annoyed with you, Randall, that you read my mind and stole my post. I have a colleague who when inordinately pleased about something likes to say "I could marry that." I don't feel that strongly about your post, but I could buy it roses and take it out to dinner. And you sounded almost as curmudgeonly as me. Nice.
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Tim Evans
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Re: Understanding the usage of +/- in linguistic papers?

Post by Tim Evans » September 27th, 2018, 7:06 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
September 27th, 2018, 6:12 am
Annoyed with you, Randall, that you read my mind and stole my post. I have a colleague who when inordinately pleased about something likes to say "I could marry that." I don't feel that strongly about your post, but I could buy it roses and take it out to dinner. And you sounded almost as curmudgeonly as me. Nice.
Haha, yes, I love Randall's post's as they always exude strong personality which is a nice change from most academic material. When I attempted to draw out Campbells position, the first thing that occurred to me is that it would be easy to snipe about the fact that Campbell could be construed to be promoting 5 or 6 aspects. I am interested to hear out what Campbell (and Porter) have to say, primarily because of the usage of the aorist in this verse.
καὶ φωνὴ ⸂ἐγένετο ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν⸃· σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα. (Mark 1:11)
In most cases, there are sound contextual reasons that we can argue (for example) an aorist is not past referring. i.e. We can say (for example) its gnomic or "dramatic" and support it by the context of the text itself. However, in Mark 1:11, it seems a little like the commentaries gloss over this one without much thought. I would love to hear how people on b-greek understand the usage here.
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serunge
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Re: Understanding the usage of +/- in linguistic papers?

Post by serunge » September 27th, 2018, 8:01 pm

Hi Tim,

Here are a couple quotes that you will undoubtedly need to follow up on in order to fully understand the argument, but both specifically address the question you ask from different angles, both demonstrating that Campbell's solution is questionable.

"5.3 Analysis of Procedural Character
Third, as Evans has noted, much more analysis is needed of the procedural character of Greek verbs and verb constellations. Shain makes an important step forward by investigating procedural character using tests of the sort typically utilized by linguists. For example, 'An appropriate test for dynamicity … is whether a predicate can have a habitual interpretation in an imperfective aspect: if it can, then it is not stative.' In addition to the tests she employs, she notes that many others could be developed. For example, 'adverbial phrases, particularly time phrases' can be used to diagnose procedural character. Typically 'atelic predicates take duration adverbials, and telic predicates take time-frame adverbials.' This is a promising avenue, despite some weaknesses in Shain’s analysis that illustrate the complications inherent in such an approach.
Attention to procedural character is relevant not only for understanding aspectual usage in the Greek New Testament, but also for the ongoing debate over whether Greek verbs express tense (location in time) alongside aspect. For example, Campbell cites the clause ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα in Mark 1:11 as an example of a non-past-referring aorist, on the basis of the translation 'with you I am well pleased.' He comments 'Suffice to say that no one translates the last clause of this verse, ‘in you I was well pleased.' 'But this does not suffice. What is needed is a principled consideration of the procedural character of εὐδοκέω along the lines suggested above. Campbell appears to assume, on the basis of its English translation equivalent, that it is a stative verb meaning 'be pleased.' But if a possible construal of εὐδοκέω is as an achievement expressing entry into a state (i.e., if it is what Croft calls an inceptive state), then the event time is indeed prior to the speech time."

Thomson, Christopher J. “What Is Aspect?: Contrasting Definitions in General Linguistics and New Testament Studies.” Pages 13–80 in The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis. Edited by Steven E. Runge and Christopher J. Fresch. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016, 71–72.

And from Peter Gentry:
"This discussion of the augment is not to say that there are not other markers of tense or temporal reference in the language such as adverbs and conjunctions, but these arguments retain the notion that tense is grammaticalized through the augment and personal endings (primary versus secondary).
Constantine Campbell follows Porter in arguing that the forms of the verb in Greek are not marked for tense. One example from Campbell to demonstrate aorists are not past-referring is Mark 1:11:

Mark 1:11 καὶ φωνὴ ἐγένετο ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν· σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα.

And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.”

Campbell states: 'Suffice to say that no one translates the last clause of this verse, "in you I was well pleased." It simply doesn’t fit the theological or literary context to read the aorist that way. There are many such instances within the usage of the aorist where this so-called past tense is obviously not past referring.'
What is the difference between Campbell’s example and 1 Cor 1:21?

1 Cor 1:21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔγνω ὁ κόσμος διὰ τῆς σοφίας τὸν θεόν, εὐδόκησεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος σῶσαι τοὺς πιστεύοντας·

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe (NIV).

Campbell’s examples are unfair and untrue because he does not distinguish semantic meaning and pragmatic effect for them the way he does for the case examples given later in his work. By Campbell’s own analysis, there are probably only 10–15 % of instances where the aorist does not seem to be past-referring. Why doesn’t he explore this as a result of pragmatic effect rather than as a proof that there is no semantic meaning of past in the other 85%? Bernard Comrie, for example, in his foundational work on tense, gives examples of the past in English used for nonpast referring situations: “I just wanted to ask you if you could lend me a dollar.” This is a pragmatic effect in English and does not prove that the form is not a past tense."

Gentry, Peter J. “The Function of the Augment in Hellenistic Greek.” Pages 353–78 in The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis. Edited by Steven E. Runge and Christopher J. Fresch. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016, 373—74.

Also refer to Christopher Fresch's article on non-past referring aorists: Fresch, Christopher J. “Typology, Polysemy, and Prototypes: Situating Nonpast Aorist Indicatives.” Pages 379–415 in The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis. Edited by Steven E. Runge and Christopher J. Fresch. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.
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