Re: Voice and Morphology (was hHKW/hHKASIN)

From: Don Wilkins (
Date: Sat Oct 25 1997 - 18:07:55 EDT

My apologies to everyone for repeating the original messages, but I suppose
it may be necessary in this case.

At 12:55 AM 10/26/97 +1000, Ward Powers wrote:
>At 12:27 97/10/24 -0700, Don Wilkins wrote:
>>At 03:10 PM 10/23/97 +1000, Ward Powers wrote:
>>>The first thing we need to note is that every Greek verb has four
>>>subsystems, one related to time (the future, without inherent aspect), and
>>>the other three to aspect. I hope it is safe to say this without
>>>reawakening the long-running aspect debate.....
>>As usual, I apologize for jumping onto the raft halfway through the trip,
>>but I feel compelled to respond. Ward, I respect your opinion and would
>>fight for your right to disseminate it, but I doubt that you perceive the
>>troublesome implications of the statement above.
>>You basically state or
>>restate a controversial theory, build a system around it, and then let slip
>>a subtle hint that those of us who disagree with the theory ought not to
>>protest your approach for fear of rekindling a debate that was put to bed
>>some time ago without resolution (other than the fact that most of us who
>>were interested agreed to disagree).
>>Now I did have a look at the results of
>>the b-greek survey and have no more desire than you to reopen the debate,
>>but please be a little more careful about what is factual and what is merely
>>theoretical. For that matter, my experience has been that there are several
>>different ways that the Greek verb can be analyzed and categorized even
>>within a given syndrome of presuppositions. So please do tell us how you
>>believe the verb should be handled, but please acknowledge differences of
>>opinion up front (a simple "I am taking the liberty of presupposing
>>such-and-such an approach to tense and aspect" would do), or else don't
>>attempt to make villains out of those of us who might be forced--*very*
>>reluctantly--to resurrect parts of the previous debate merely in response to
>>your comments.
>>I don't think you really mean to put us in that position, so
>>a little more foresight on your part would be appreciated.
>>Don Wilkins
>OUCH! Okay, okay, I surrender quietly. My hands are in the air. Don't
>shoot! Just tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it.

Fair enough.

>But I'm not quite sure what the fight is all about. Please just let me
>check up on this.
>Aspect as such is not the issue in the things that I wrote - at least, I
>did not think it was until I got your post. What I meant by the above-cited
>quote was, "Will list members please allow me to use the term 'aspect'
>without us having to revisit the discussion of its meaning?" The answer is,
>evidentially not.
>Can you walk me through what I said, and tell me which of the propositions
>it contains or presupposes are the controversial ones. Then I can see how
>my wording can be improved so that my point can be made without reopening
>the aspect debate. (Which, I believe, should be possible. We'll see.)

I take it that you want me to respond to the statements below, but my
original concern was with the statement that I repeated above ("...every
Greek verb...aspect debate"). As it stood, one could infer that you are
saying that only the future indicate has time (but no aspect), and that the
other "tenses" (itself a controversial term) have aspect *but not time*,
i.e. without exception. I for one maintain the position that the indicative
mood has time and aspect.

>1. The four subsystems which are to be found in every Greek verb are:
>present/imperfect; future; aorist; perfect/pluperfect. Every form of every
>verb will be part of one or another of these four subsystems. I would have
>looked on this proposition as a factual statement which was not
>controversial. Is it in fact controversial? Or was it that I said the
>future did not have inherent aspect?

I don't consider it controversial to say that every verb will have a "tense"
and can thus be sorted out under the "subsystems" that you define above.
However, as I indicated in my previous message, this is only one of several
approaches that can be taken to the verb. One could just as well order the
very by mood (which I personally find more useful), or even by voice, etc.
As to the future, one could make the case that the future has aspect similar
to the aorist, so this would be in my view a minor point of controversy.

>2. The very next sentence of my post after the point where you cease to
>quote it is, "My terms for these aspects I simply take over unaltered from
>the major standard grammars of this century: durative (present and
>imperfect tenses); punctiliar (the aorist); and perfective (the perfect and
>pluperfect tenses)." You say that I should have said something like, "I am
>taking the liberty of presupposing such-and-such an approach to tense and
>aspect". Doesn't my comment, which I have just quoted above, amount to
>pretty much what you have said I should have said? Or am I missing
>something here? Or is my choice of continuing to use terms which are found
>in many standard grammars still in wide use the issue which is contoversial?

I have no quarrel with your using such terms as labels for the different
aspects (though again the term "punctiliar" is somewhat debatable). But see

>3. You say, "I doubt you perceive the troublesome implications of the
>statement above" (i.e., my statement, which is cited at the head of this
>post). Never a truer word was spoke!! I have read your entire post several
>times and I still cannot get a hold on the troublesome implications which I
>do not perceive. I will be grateful if you would just spell them out for me.

Obviously I guessed correctly. Again, see below.

>4. You say, "You basically state or restate a controversial theory, build a
>system around it, and then let slip a subtle hint that those of us who
>disagree with the theory ought not to protest your approach for fear of
>rekindling a debate that was put to bed some time ago without resolution
>(other than the fact that most of us who were interested agreed to
>disagree)." What I THOUGHT I was doing was drawing attention to the fact
>that every verb form was going to be either durative, future, punctiliar,
>or perfective (to use, as I said, the terms I have taken over from standard
>grammars). I then went on to draw attention to (and discuss the
>implications of) the fact that two of these subsystems (future and
>punctiliar) have specific passive forms, and the other two do not; the
>latter take forms which are morphologically middle and use them with
>passive meaning, when this is the meaning to be conveyed. I do not
>recognize what is the controversial theory which I am stating or restating:
>please clarify this for me. Also: which part of my approach is it that you
>and others would like to protest, because you disagree with me?

If you did *not* mean to say that the future has time but no aspect, while
the other "subsystems" ("tenses") have aspect but no inherent time, then I
have misunderstood you. You did mention the aspect debate in your original
post, so I think it was reasonable to assume that you might be thinking in
these terms. The property of voice probably has nothing to do with the

>5. You exhort me to "please be a little more careful about what is factual
>and what is merely theoretical". Okay, happy to do so. Where and in what
>way have I mixed up what is factual and what is merely theoretical?

It depends on what you meant to communicate. If you are presupposing that
the indicative mood (which of course includes all the subsystems you
identify) does not inherently have time--possible exceptions aside--then you
are mixing what is accepted as fact with the theoretical (and in my view,
not very plausible theory at that). In that case, there has already been a
good deal of blood shed in this debate that you are ignoring.

>6. You add, "For that matter, my experience has been that there are several
>different ways that the Greek verb can be analyzed and categorized even
>within a given syndrome of presuppositions." In my post I went on to
>compare forms of the different voices from the four subsystems of durative,
>future, punctiliar, and perfective. I am not quite sure what alternative
>ways of analyzing and categorizing the Greek verb there are to achieve
>this, or what is my given syndrome of presuppositions upon which my
>comparisons of forms of the different voices is based. I welcome your
>explaining this to me.

I have to confess that I did not carefully read your analysis of the voices
because it was not relevant to the issue I raised. Perhaps the only way you
can accomplish that analysis is to assume the categories of subsystems that
you identified. Moreover, there is not much more I can say about your
presuppostions unless and until you clarify your views on time and aspect,
and perhaps that is better done off-list (gentle moderator, please advise).
Even so, some of your statements leave me scratching my head, e.g. "...every
Greek verb has four subsystems...," and "The four subsystems which are to
be found in every Greek verb are: present/imperfect; future; aorist;
perfect/pluperfect." You are no doubt aware that relatively few Greek verbs
actually have all the principal parts, so such statements do not appear to
be factually correct. It is of course correct to say, "One can say Every
form of every verb will be part of one or another of these four subsystems,"
so I think I know what you *mean*, but in detailed discussions like these
clarity and formal correctness are necessary. Also, I would be happier and
more inclined to read your posts if you rephrased such statements along the
lines of "The Greek verb can in general be viewed as having..." and so on.
Now and then a little IMO or IMHO is nice to see too, though I think we all
assume that one is normally speaking only for oneself.

>7. You tell me, "don't attempt to make villains out of those of us who
>might be forced--*very* reluctantly--to resurrect parts of the previous
>debate merely in response to your comments". I solemnly assure you, I had
>no intention of making any such attempt. Actually, I can't see how I have.
>How did I?

By this point I may already have explained my concern adequately, but if
not, here is a possible scenario: (1) you maintain that every verb can be
treated thus-and-so *since* we all know that only the future "subsystem" has
the property of time, while the other subsystems have aspect but not time;
(2) I (or others of the same persuasion) protest that all of the tenses in
the indicative have time, while (at least as a rule) the tenses in the other
moods involve only aspect; (3) you or others, though well-meaning, call me
to account for attempting, as it appears, to reopen the aspect debate. I
think my proper response, if I were in a courtroom, would be to say, "But
your Honor, my opponent raised the issue in the first place, and I should be
allowed to protest the basis of his argument." The problem is that in this
case, none of us wants to reopen the debate.

>8. You conclude, "I don't think you really mean to put us in that position, so
>a little more foresight on your part would be appreciated." The first part
>of your comment is true, and if I missed out on courtesy through a
>shortfall of foresight (for which I apologize), perhaps I can in some
>measure make up for it in hindsight.

I appreciate your offer and welcome any clarification on your part. If you
agree with me that the indicative tenses inherently have time (allowing, as
already noted, for possible exceptions), then perhaps you would say so. If
you disagree and maintain what I inferred you were maintaining (time only in
the future, no possibility of aspect for the future), then at least tell us
that you are presupposing this theory as fact for the purpose of discussing
other properties of the verb. I would recommend, however, that you avoid
such a presupposition if at all possible (as you could with respect to
voice), so that it need not get in the way of an otherwise fruitful discussion.

>I am sure in your reply you can state the issues without entering into
>arguing a case. I will appreciate hearing from you.

I hope that I have succeeded. BTW, one unrelated request: your posts--the
ones that I have seen--tend to be exceedingly long. If I'm not mistaken, the
policy of the list is to avoid writing long posts; and even if it is not
policy, I would much appreciate shorter posts. Reading is not a chore per
se, but it is tedious to respond to long posts.

Best to you,
Don Wilkins

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:34 EDT