RE: Aspect, Aktionsart, and Perfect Periphrastic Participles

From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Wed Mar 19 1997 - 12:03:02 EST

Wes Williams wrote:

>I truly enjoy the aspect/ aktionsart distinctions and contribution from
>Rolf, and Dale. Thank you all. I've read Mari's thesis, McKay, parts of
>and am now halfway through Fanning. I like the theories, but Luke 1:7 bugs
>To see the dynamics in action, can you elaborate on Luke 1:7? It might all
>settle well with me if I understand this. KAI AMFOTEROI PROBEBHKOTES EN TAIS
>hHMERAIS AUTWN HSAN "and they were well along in years."
>Porter/ Fanning say that the perfect participle emphasizes an aorist
>"punctiliar" beginning followed by a state.
>Question: At what "point" has one become geriatric (I always say 15 years
>than I am at any point in time)? I want to therefore reject the notion of a
>"punctiliar" beginning for the perfect participle. Am I correct?
>Dale noted (correctly I believe) that the addition of periphrasis does not
>necessarily add more durative aktionsart.
>Question: So why DOES Luke add the periphrastic with the perfect
participle? Why
>does not Luke simply use the perfect? Why doesn't Luke just use the
imperfect to
>emphasize durative aktionsart here if duration is his point? Or is the
>periphrasis added for emphasis? If emphasis, WHY does it emphasize?
>Porter emphasizes the periphrastic perfect participle is nothing but
>state with a beginning, and he may well be right although I remain
reserved on
>the "beginning." But how do the dynamics of aspect and aktionsart play on
>periphrasis and the perfect in Luke 1:7?
>I am having given thanks in advance,

The perfect of PROBAINW also occurs at Luke 1:18, 2:36 (hANNA....hMERAIS
POLLAIS !!!???) and Josh 13:1; 23:1 LXX. BAGD and M&M seem to indicate that
the perfect of PROBAINW has become almost a frozen form to indicate the
arrival at some stage of development (cf., Lysian 24:16, PROBEBHKWS THi
hHLIKIAi), and all of the printed examples in M&M and L&S, save one, when
referring to people use the perfect. This use of the Perfect "feels" right
to me both with respect to the Aktionsart of the verb PROBAINW (I'd say a
prefaced-durative; BAGD, "go on, advance"; you've got to start, but no end
is suggested), and the Aspect of the Perfect. With respect to the
Periphrastic in Luke 1:7, it seems to me that normally (not always, cf.,
Burton _Moods_, #84) the Periphrastic Perfect puts emphasis on the
resultant state, rather than the prefacing action which brought about the
entrance into that state. My sense is that Luke (note the word order) is
trying to make clear that these folks (as Ellen pointed out) CANNOT (OU +
MH + Subjunctive) have children. I've always read this as BOTH Elizabeth
has been barren (though L&S have examples of this applying to menopause),
AND, even if she were to somehow become fertile it wouldn't have made any
difference since both had long since passed their fertile years.

I think you are right, Wes, that there is a conceptual point at which, by
common knowledge (though not scientific accuracy) women are considered to
be to old to bear children. Once that point is reached (whatever it might
be commonly considered to be), she is then considered to be "advanced in
years." Thus the statement using the Periphrastic Perf makes good sense
(indeed its the best way Luke could have said it, I think); they had both
reached the stage of advanced age, and that was the stage they were going
to stay in.

BTW, my comment about periphrastics applies mainly to the Present and
Imperfect substitutes of EIMI + Ptc; the periphrastic perfects seem to be
different in many cases. One of those differences is that the emphasize an
existing *state*, which in my mind is different than saying an action is
durative. There is a difference between "I am laughing." and "I am
jealous." The perfect tends to point to existing states, not durative actions.


Dale M. Wheeler, Th.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:10 EDT