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

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Mon Apr 07 1997 - 19:28:06 EDT

Mark O'Brien wrote:

> Interestingly, though, it seems to me that the older grammars deal with
> the aorist as generally referring to past time in the indicative, and
> they deal with situations where this is not the case as special usage.

In fact, both Fanning and Mari Olsen would agree that the aorist generally
refers to past time in the indicative. I haven't read Fanning first hand,
and I don't know if he provides a theory that accounts for both
past-referring and non-past referring aorists. Mari does: she says that the
aspect of the aorist provides a view from the time after the action has been
completed; in most cases, this will also be in the past, and the exceptions
will be precisely the kinds of aorists that show up as exceptions in the
older texts, and for reasons quite similar to those proposed by Smyth - the
aorist is used because the event is in the past when viewed from the time of

> However, in some of the more contemporary theories being proposed for
> verbal aspect, some appear to be taking these special cases to build a
> general theory of the aorist as a non-past referring tense [as well as a
> generally non-temporal view of all the tenses]

By "some of the more contemporary theories", I think you mean Porter. Please
don't lump all contemporary theories of verbal aspect into the same category
- after all, Fanning, whom you quote, has also published a contemporary book
on verbal aspect, and I think that both Fanning and Mari Olsen are much more
in the mainstream of contemporary linguistics than Fanning is. (I'm not
enough of a linguist to make that judgement, but my friend the linguist says
so, at any rate.)
For the record, I don't have a settled view of tense and aspect. Currently,
I'm impressed by what I have read in Smyth, Robertson, and Mari Olsen's
thesis. I still haven't read Fanning or McKay, and I know I should some day
if I ever want to know what I'm talking about when I discuss aspect. I'm not
all that sympathetic to Porter.


Jonathan Robie
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Ph: 919.598.5728 Fax: 919.598.6728
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