Re: Attention aspect geeks

From: Mark B. O'Brien (
Date: Tue Apr 08 1997 - 21:58:04 EDT

On Tue, 08 Apr 1997 15:54:37 +0000 Rolf Furuli <> writes:
>The difference between Fanning`s work and the older grammars
>is that he helps us to do necessary abstract thinking, while
>the grammars to a great degree prevent the reader from doing
>just that. Fanning`s principal contribution is that he
>differentiates between Aktionsart and aspect IN A SYSTEMATIC
>WAY. These words are also mentioned in the older grammars,
>but in their definitions of the aorist and the other
>conjugations only Aktionsart-terms are used.

I think you are right on here...

<more snipping>
>In none of the older grammars do I find a definition of
>aspect, i.e. abstract expressions covering all the uses of
>the imperfective and the perfective aspect respectively,
>only descriptions of the different kinds of aorists,
>presents and so forth. The need to know the very essence of
>aspect is not just academic, but such a knowledge may serve
>a very useful purpose, namely that of a controlling device
>(preventing ad hoc explanations). It is well and good to say
>that a particular aorist is gnomic, or that a present
>represent an extension from the past, but what does this
>mean and why? An understanding of the nature of aspect may
>be compared to strings on which the different forms of
>aorists and presents can be hanged. Only when we can
>pinpoint the meaning of a conjugation (tense) in a
>particular context because the perfective or imperfective
>aspect must have this function in the particular context, do
>we understand what aspect really is.

I agree that the older grammars may not have articulated aspectual issues
very clearly, but I think (and again, I think this was what Don was
saying) that this does not mean that aspect is new discovery. I have
found that once you decipher what the older grammars mean by their
terminology (particularly their use of the term "Aktionsart"), it is
clear that they are not that clueless in these matters. This becomes
clear when you read Fanning and he helps to clarify what some of the
older grammars meant. (I notice that I've used the term "older grammars"
quite a bit here, but frankly, I've seen a couple of newer works that
seem a little confused... I actually use this as my personal "taste
test" of new stuff... I turn up the sections on aspect and see what they
have to say! I figure that if they seem to be confused on the Greek
verbal system, then this is not a good sign... <G>)

Anyway, I appreciate your comments, Rolf...


Mark O'Brien
Grad. Student, Dallas Theological Seminary
Adj. Prof., Dallas Christian College

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