Fanning on the Aorist

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Tue Apr 07 1998 - 08:24:43 EDT

I just finished reading Fanning's definition of the Aorist (Verb Aspect,
through p98.) I am starting to have warm feelings about Porter's treatment of
this subject. It seems that Fanning argument suffers from two significant
flaws. One is his attempt to find an invariant meaning for the Aorist. The
second is his attempt to portray the aorist/present opposition as equipollent,
where Porter sees it as a privative (aorist unmarked) opposition.

In trying to develop a case for verb aspects having "invariant" meaning
Fanning nuances the subject to death (pps 78-85). By the time he finishes
qualifying his concept of invariant meaning it has little teeth left in it. It
seems like it would be much simpler to just throw in the towel and admit that
the verb aspects do not have invariant meaning and then rework the whole verb
aspect model with that in mind.

His view that both aorist and present are marked aspects follows naturally
from his previous commitment to invariant meaning. Allowing the aorist to be
unmarked is very close to saying that the aorist has no fixed meaning. There
is, however, a clear distinction between these two issues. One could hold to
invariant meaning of the aspects and still conclude that the Aorist is
unmarked. This combination is possible.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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