Aorist as unmarked aspect

From: Bruce Terry (
Date: Thu Oct 05 1995 - 00:59:59 EDT

On Wed, 4 Oct 1995,, whoever that is, wrote:

>If the aorist tense is understood as a one time completed action in the past,

Since several have written about this, and Carlton has correctly identified
the passage in question as a gnomic aorist, I thought I would float (sorry,
Ellen) a concept on the aorist itself past the list and see what reaction I
might get.

Greek tense is composed of both time and aspect in the indicative. In the
subjunctive it shows only aspect. There are three aspects in Greek. In the
spirit of the Prague School with its concept of marked and unmarked, I would
like to suggest that the three aspects are unmarked, marked as completed, and
marked as continuous. The aorist tense is unmarked as to aspect. This means
that in any given passage, it may represent punctiliar action, continuous
action, or completed action. The aorist tense does not say what kind of
action is represented by the verb. Thus it is a mistake to say that the
aorist tense represents punctiliar action, as used to be a common statement in
grammars; however, punctiliar action may be expressed by using an aorist tense
since it is not marked as either completed or continuous.

Bruce Terry E-MAIL:
Box 8426, ACU Station Phone: 915/674-3759
Abilene, Texas 79699 Fax: 915/674-3769

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