Re: Attention aspect geeks: John 15:6 EBLHQH, EXHRANQH

From: Don Wilkins (
Date: Mon Apr 07 1997 - 16:28:25 EDT

My thanks to Wes for his kind comments regarding my remarks and his
respectful disagreement. Homer is of course the first (and perhaps only)
haven for those who wish to reinterpret the meaning and use of the augment,
but in doing so I think they commit the same general fallacy that the
venerable A. T. Robertson committed many years ago, in that Homeric Greek
is used as an excuse to explain anomalies in much later Greek. The only
real difference is that ATR used Homer to justify perceived irregularities
in koine, while advocates of a meaningless augment use Homer in an attempt
to overthrow standard Greek descriptive grammar in any historical time
period, including Classical. Homer, as you can guess that I would say, has
little or no comparative value for either Classical (Attic) Greek--which is
much closer to Homer in time than is koine--or koine (which is essentially
Attic in dialect compared to Homer's old Ionic). This is not to say that
Homer is not wonderful Greek, of course.
At last Dec's APA convention I couldn't resist the temptation to go into
temporary bankruptcy by purchasing a new work on the grammar of Greek
inscriptions. One reason is that I was interested in the use of the aorist
augment, and the book seemed to affirm what I had already suspected: that
the augment is generally used the same in inscriptions as it is in other
Greek, following established descriptive grammar. I am writing in my office
at the moment and have the book at home, but I would be happy to offer
references if anyone is interested. Another significant fact is that the
augment is quite persistent historically in the inscriptions, indicating
clearly (to me at least) that it does not lose its normal force until well
after the koine period (contra some opinions expressed recently on the list
and quoted from linguistics-oriented publications). I should add that
inscriptions, provided of course that they are both legible and
stylistically and dialectically relevant, are very significant sources
because they are literally etched in stone and not subject to
transcriptional problems. Moreover, with the recent publication of PHI's CD
7 we have a wealth of sources for inscriptions and papyri at our
fingertips, so that further research is not only justified but also
practicable (incidentally, I am almost finished with the next version of my
computer program, and one of the things it will do is search the new CD's;
you can also do this with Pandora, etc.). That said, I would again plead
for more research before we jettison the augment as a meaningful indicator
of time in the indicative.

Don Wilkins
UC Riverside

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