Re: Aspect/Description

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Fri Apr 11 1997 - 17:26:14 EDT

One request: could you please try to keep the same subject line for a given
thread as long as you are staying on the same subject? It makes things a lot
easier to follow in the archives.

S. M. Baugh <> wrote:

>OU MH KRIQHTE back in Luke 6:37 is important because it follows the
>conventions of a different mood, the dependent subjunctive (prohibitory
>and hortatory subjunctives, however, must be analyzed alongside
>imperatives). In imperatival constructions, there are no construction
>demands--they are independent uses--but in the case of OU MH, the aorist
>subjunctive was *required* by grammatical convention (rarely the present
>subjunctive, but not in the NT; or the rare future indicative) was
>*required* (OU MH is followed by the aorist subjunctive 85 times in the
>NT; never by the present subjunctive). Hence, the tense form of KRIQHTE
>is the "default" form (the one every Greek speaker at the time expected
>as right and proper--linguists call this the "unmarked" form).

How do you know whether the aorist is required by grammatical convention or
by the meaning associated with OU MH? OU MH is a very strong negation, and
it just may be that in this kind of clause, the basic meaning is "lest it"
and is expected to be followed by a verb that expresses "should come to X",
which might force the aorist subjunctive. That wouldn't mean that the aorist
subjunctive is meaningless, it would mean that its meaning is constrained by
the rest of the sentence, and that the proper form is chosen to express this
meaning. Naturally, I'm going to have to read 85 sentences carefully to come
to my own conclusion on this, and I haven't done so (nor will I any time

However, if every use of this emphatic negative forces one particular
grammatical form, that may be a vital clue to the meaning of that
grammatical form. You may be writing off a lot of valuable data by ignoring
constructions that do not occur.

One example: the fact that the imperative and subjunctive are not used with
imperfect, pluperfect, or future. Think of the imperative: you can't command
someone to do something in the past. If the imperfect and pluperfect are
true tenses, expressing absolute time with respect to the speaker or writer,
then it doesn't make sense to use imperative with them. Imperative also
isn't used with the future - of *course* the command is to do something in
the future. It *is* used with the aorist and present. This kind of data
might be telling us something about the meaning of the various tenses.

>Jonathan wants a simple definition of the Greek aorist indicative (don't
>we all!), but I think we should settle for one which covers the most
>common aorist uses while leaving room for the special cases.

Well, you gave this to me as a gauntlet for testing my simple definition,
and I think that it has held so far. I'm not sure that it is right, but I
haven't hit the data that makes me reject it yet.


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703
Ph: 919.598.5728 Fax: 919.598.6728
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