Re: Porter on the present

From: Philip L. Graber (
Date: Mon Oct 23 1995 - 21:28:52 EDT

On Mon, 23 Oct 1995, David Moore wrote:

> 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.

As someone has already pointed out, how something originated and what it
means at any given point are not necessarily the same thing.

> Faulty exegesis, may I point out, can grow out of
> any false conception related to the grammar of a language.

This is certainly true. However, a conception that allows for a
substantial number of exceptions is a setup for errors--how does one know
whether any given case is an exception or not? This lends itself to
arbitrary and subjective judgments, the kind of thing you rightly stated
we all want to avoid.

> 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"?

I don't wish to comment at all on Hebrew. But I would agree with against
Porter that Greek does grammaticalize time--I just don't think that all of
the tense forms grammaticalize time. I agree with Mari on this one. I
think there is much explanatory power in Mari's view that includes present
and aorist forms that do NOT grammaticalize tense (I'm not really sure
about future; it is a real tense in Mari's scheme, along with perfect,
imperfect and pluperfect). In any case, to say that particular forms
(even if they are traditionally labelled as tenses) do not grammaticalize
time is not to say that the language has no resources for
grammaticalizing time. That is another issue.

Philip Graber Graduate Division of Religion
Graduate Student in New Testament 211 Bishops Hall, Emory University Atlanta, GA 30322 USA

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