Re: Augment revisited (was: NUN+Verb.Aorist)

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Wed Apr 30 1997 - 15:33:37 EDT

At 01:27 PM 4/30/97 -0400, Paul Zellmer wrote:
>Jonathan, your requests, questions and challenges are *always* friendly
>(something many of us, including yours truly, can learn.)

Thanks! I really appreciate your saying that.

>> 1. Do you mean to say that the augment itself signals past time? Are you
>> saying that the augment itself signals past time, or that the use of the
>> augment in a particular tense form signals past time, or that those tenses
>> which can use the augment are necessarily past-time tenses? For instance, is
>> there any difference in time between aorist verbs with the augment and
>> aorist verbs without the augment?
>The historic position in linguistic terms is that the augment is a
>phoneme (the smallest particle of speech which carries meaning). In
>generative terms (which tries to reduce meanings to a binary-type
>coding), it indicates [+past.time]. It is found in the indicative only,
>and is attached to the aorist, imperfect, and pluperfect. I suppose the
>analysis which resulted in the assignment of this meaning to the
>augment, these are the three tenses which are in past time if unmodified
>in the indicative, the augment is found on them and only them, and it is
>not found in the non-indicative (where time is not defined). I guess if
>you could find one of these tenses in the without the augment, that case
>would not have the [+past.time] characteristic. {Do a search on the
>pluperfect; it may have the exception that would be a test case. I just
>haven't found an exception to answer your last question yet.}

But there *are* aorists which do not have the augment, and some forms which
are used with and without the augment. So far, I haven't heard anybody argue
that aorist forms without the augment do not have past time referent, but
aorist forms with the augment do. Do you know if anyone would argue this
position? Would you? (Please? Pretty please? It would be kind of fun! ;->)
>> 5. What are your criteria for determining whether the augment indicates past
>> time? What would someone have to show in order to prove your assertion
>> false? (This is the good old scientific doctrine of falsifiability - if I
>> don't know how to prove your statement false, you really haven't said much.)
>I have already stated that the augment is found only on those tenses
>which are past time in the indicative. This should give you a starting
>point for falsifiability. Find it on a form which is *not* past-time in
>the unmodified case, or find it unmodified in a case that is obviously
>not past-time. But, please note, even in the discussion of the gnomic
>aorist, the citations stated that the aorist described what happened in
>the past with the implication that it is a general truth.

Hmmmm...this still leaves you a lot less vulnerable than it leaves me!

Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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