Re: Porter on the present

From: David Moore (
Date: Mon Oct 23 1995 - 14:51:43 EDT

"Philip L. Graber" <> wrote:

>But what is the "usual tense content" of a form? That is what is in
>question. If in fact relative time is not encoded in the tense forms at
>all, then thinking that it is will result in faulty exegesis.

        Granted there are entire moods in Greek that are not marked for
tense except in the future. (The subjunctive and imperative, of course
lack the future altogether.) But in the indicative, we have the augmented
forms that do appear to usually indicate time. At least many grammarians
see the temporal augment as a time indicator and as having originated for
the purpose of expressing time. Then there are the other forms of the
indicative which have come to have a usual tense content by default, in
their lacking the augment that usually indicates past time and in lacking
the future form that indicates future. (Please don't misunderstand by
thinking I deny that these forms may also express _aktionsart_ or aspect.)
There is also the participle which contains forms that normally indicate
anteriority, but maybe these should be seen as a case apart rather as the
future tense is viewed. Faulty exegesis, may I point out, can grow out of
any false conception related to the grammar of a language.

>It is better
>to pronounce forms unmarked for tense if there is reason to believe that
>they are in fact so unmarked (part of scholarship is just trying to
>increase knowledge of how things really are). It is also practical in that
>(if they are really unmarked for tense) this pronouncement will keep us
>from reading a particular form as having a particular tense when it does

        Let's make a comparison at this point. Just about everyone today
is agreed that Hebrew is practically tenseless. If one compares Greek to
Hebrew on this point, it appears that Greek represents an advance (if
that's the right word to use) from Hebrew in terms of grammaticalization
of time (Bl-DeB, #318). Since Greek expresses, through grammatical form,
certain time factors where Hebrew expresses none, how can we say that
Greek does not grammaticalize time or tense? Could we say, "Greek is
unmarked for tense, and Hebrew is even more unmarked"? Wouldn't that be
an oxymoron?

David L. Moore Southeastern Spanish District
Miami, Florida of the Assemblies of God Department of Education

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