Re: Imperfective Imperfects in Acts 8:17

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Tue Jan 20 1998 - 14:28:00 EST

At 11:02 AM 1/20/98 +0000, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
>Stanley Porter (Idioms 2nd ed page 29 section 2.1)
>"The present and imperfect tense-forms occur in contexts where the user of
>Greek wishes to depict the action as in progress, regardless of whether this
>is an objective characterization."
>This is what I mean by the absolutization of subjectivity.

Think of the historic or futuristic present: "So yesterday this guy went
into a drug store dressed up as Robin Hood, walks up to the shelves, picks
up a case of deodorant, and walks right out the door, without paying..."

I don't know what an objective characterization of a fictitious event would
be...but suppose this were something that happened yesterday instead of the
start of a joke, then the objective characterization would be that the
action associated with each of these verbs occured yesterday. The
"subjective choice" here does not deny this fact; the sentence is quite
clear that these things happened yesterday, which is indicated by both
"yesterday" and the past tense form "went". In Mark, the historical present
is generally used *after* a clear past reference is similarly established.

The subjective choice is in the portrayal of the event, how it is played
before the eyes of the viewer - if you will, where the television camera is
held. A historical movie may portray a past event as though it is occuring
now, but it does not lie or imply that it really is happening in the present.

>I will grant that the complex older theories of Aktionsart with all their
>myriad of subcategorizes had serious problems, but I think Porter has thrown
>out the baby with the bath.
EMOI, Porter has thrown out many babies, including tense. However, I agree
with his description of the aspect of the present here.


Jonathan Robie

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