Re: Aorist Aspect

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Wed Jan 07 1998 - 16:33:12 EST

At 11:52 PM 1/7/98, Mark O'Brien wrote:

>If the parallel passages have the same verb, carrying the narrative in the
>same way, but using the aorist tense instead of the historical present, it
>seemed quite plausible that its aspect was not what one would normally

An alternative theory, of course, is that different writers portrayed the
action differently, as my analogy with the joke illustrates.

>Added to this, we found very few examples of HPs that clearly
>portrayed the kinds of "progressive/continuous/internal/etc." action one
>would expect a present tense verb to display. This did not seem to be
>emphasized at all. I don't have the research at hand, but I don't think we
>found even a handful of clear examples.

Fanning's Verbal Aspect notes that the historical present is often used to
draw attention to crucial events or to highlight new scenes or actors in
the narrative. He has an analysis of Mark, where the historical present is
used 150 times. 72 of these are LEGEI/LEOUSIN, which seem to be used as a
stereotyped idiom, with no vividness or discourse function. The rest do
have clear discourse functions:

1. To begin a paragraph (usually indicating a new scene and new
participants as well as a new unit of narrative)
2. To introduce new participants in an existing paragraph or setting
3. To show participants moving to new locations within paragraphs
4. to begin a specific unit after a sentence introducing the general
section in which it falls

I have omitted the references to individual verses in order to avoid lots
of typing.

Fanning goes on to say:

"There are only two types of exceptions in Mark to these
discourse-functions: verbs with meanings like LEGEI which occur in a
sterotyped use...and verbs which seem to occur with vivid narrative force
(2:4, 4:38, 6:48, 11:4, 14:13, 14:51, 15:16-27, 16:4)."

Incidentally, Fanning argues that the historical present gains its force
from a temporal shift, not from the aspectual force of "viewing action as
it is going on". However, he then continues to say that "it is presentation
of a clearly past occurence as though it were simultaneous with the
writer/reader which produces the vivid or immediate effect". I find this
statement confusing, since I see aspect as the viewpoint from which a
narration is presented, yet Fanning clearly sees this as distinct from aspect.

Texcel Research

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:46 EDT