Date: Mon May 05 1997 - 08:49:55 EDT
Liberating the Aorist Tense from Time and Aspect, so that it can be an Aorist
Before you watch bearded bill pop off about aorists, or even verbs, one highly
relevant, general observation seems much in order, namely: Thinking of verbs as
action words is for the birds. Even in grammar school (now elementary school)
we said that they also expressed condition or state of being. Since one may
choose from these three and even other functions to state what verbs indicate,
how on earth can one say what they do? It seems to cover most verbs to say that
they make an assertion, and that may well be the sense of phma = rhema > verbum
in the history of grammar. (Nobody, absolutely nobody, ought to pop off about
grammar as a field of study without knowing at least as much about the history
of it as you can learn from article Grammatik in the Pauly-Wissowa, with
supplements. This is not meant to restrict anyone from saying what one knows
about a specific usage.)
The term aopictoc = ahoristus 'without bounds' or 'not being specified' or
'without definition' seems to have meant that the person using said form to
make an assertion would not be committing himself regarding xpovoc = chronus >
tempus. Moreover, since Greek grammarians described forms that we call perfect
tense with words that did not strictly refer to time as we mean it, this raises
the question whether their concept of xpovoc = chronus > tempus as timing might
not include something of what some modern grammarians mean by aspect,
Aktionsart, bounding, &c.
We tend to translate most aorist indicatives as either preterites or perfects,
e.g. emeiva cthv ellada nollouc mhvac = emina sten Hellada pollus menas >
either "I lived in Greece many months." or "I have lived in Greece for many
Never forget that any term chosen to describe the tense had to be applicable in
all modes, or moods, and voices. Merely because of the form's being aorist
nothing whatever either temporal or aspectual can be ascribed to the action.
All the temporal and aspectual (potential intent of the speaker or writer) must
be inferred from the words that surround the form -- its syntax or larger
setting. Therefore aorist forms may be equivalent to imperfects, perfects,
pluperfects (often in OGr and Johannine texts) and even futures.
(If Homer has any real relevance to what you want to find out, why don't you
just cite some aorist indicatives in Homeric greek that assert something timed
in the future and be done with it?)
Some of you might be better off to ditch all your other poop on the aorist and
take pains to understand what I'm telling you. Let's go at it one more time:
The ancient view, I say, would be so fraught with non-commitalness that,
technically speaking, emeiva = emina would be more like an action noun or
gerund with a subject possessive, e.g. "My staying in Greece [was] for many
months." Any of you tiros (tirones) or professionals out there who can
understand this paragraph will begin to appreciate how I think aorist. Now that
I've thought to say this, I think it may be the major point of this entire
If punctiliar had any general truth in it, it would be equivalent to
'snapshot'. Therefore 'snapshot' would be a better term. (Teachers who leave
the impression or students who get the impression that an aorist form implies
that what the verb asserts either happened momentarily or was viewed as
happening momentarily are way, way off base. Benighted. Duped.) Nothing about
aorist forms should ever be seen as oppositional to or contradictory of
asserting events or circumstances that may per se be stative, progressive or
imperfective. Witness both the quasi & the fully futuristic implications of
augmented aorist indicatives in conditions contrary to fact. Such phenomena
have to be included in any valid generalization, you know.
>From an aorist form per se one can only conclude that the writer or speaker
probably leaves it to the other words in the statement to clarify that intent
which an aorist leaves wide open. Therefore aorist forms are utilized in an
amazing variety of syntactical structures and ideational contexts. An aorist
form can be equivalent to any tense or aspect.
I don't want to enter an abstruse discussion of how aspect and Aktionsart ought
to be understood. If necessary, maybe we can state what we mean by it, and
maybe some others will understand us.
I don't have to formulate elaborate lists of exceptions to the punctiliarity of
the aorist, e.g. constantive & alia ad infinitum, because the mistake of
assuming a punctiliar conceptualization might be implied by the forms became
apparent early in my career. (Thank the Lord for the gpammatikh = grammatice of
ta3ic nevte = taxis pente 'fifth grade = form' over in Greece, which may induce
one to contemplate the history of the terminology.)
Now some may force me to write more than would otherwise be needed because of
misinterpretations of my statements, but that's another matter. We'll see.
The foregoing emerged from my consciousness because of the following statement:
<<Aspect is a viewpoint, namely the way a reporter chooses to portray a real
event, and this does not necessarily coincide with its objective contents. The
important question is whether the event is portrayed as bounded (the end is
included) or unbounded (a part of it not including the end is viewed).>>
As for sentence no. 1, obviously the report and the objective contents may
differ, but look at sentence no.2: The question declared important seems to
rest upon the unexamined assumption that some bounding or unbounding must
inevitably be 'portrayed' by said reporter. Wow.
bearded bill of asheville <email@example.com>
unca not having approved either whom or thereof.
p.s. need to soften statement about p-w article. one at least needs to get from
somewhere the equivalent of reading it.
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