Re: (longish) The Mysterious Disappearance of Verb Aspect

Date: Sun Apr 12 1998 - 14:10:10 EDT

Rolf Furuli wrote: [snipped]

> Dear George,
> I do not think we should pursue the aspect/Aktionsart/tense discussion much
> longer... You tell that you have worked with this stuff for just a few months,
> and therefore I have a few suggestions:

Thanks, Rolf ~

Actually, I only encountered the 'timeless' understanding of the
aorist a couple of months back. I studied Attic Greek some 25 years
ago to read the Attic philosophers, [SDSU under Ted Warren] and then
put it to bed until about a year ago to read John, out of frustration
with English 'versions'. So I am indeed a Johnny-come-lately
Rip-van-Winkle student of Greek.

> (1) Regarding Greek tense and aspect, do not trust your common sense -
> because it is born English.

Well, that is the problem, eh? And that is why I go to first-hand
direct experience to understand time as it lives in the Greek
language. Anybody sitting at their terminal, or in any other setting,
can understand the ongoingness of the present... It is VERY
fundamental... ALWAYS... And any language or culture understands it,
even if they live their lives out of dream states [as Australian
Aborigines are reported to do] or out of their past heritage of being
God's Chosen [The Israelites], or out of whatever calling they might
culturally find themselves in. It doesn't matter ~ They all
understand the ongoingness of the present. And it IS common-sense.
Without it as one's 'platform', time becomes undiscussable, because in
order to even HAVE a concept of past and future, one must 'have' it in
the ongoing present. [At least as long as we are alive on this
earth!] It is embedded in the very having of a discussion, you
see... And losing track of that embeddedness leads to all manner of
confusion, to the point where we, in all good faith, and in all kind
intention, and in all truthfulness, will then advise someone not to
trust their own common sense when it comes to understanding time in
another language. I can see how people might divide time differently
from us, or understand significances of events in time differently
from us, and I can even understand how they might conceive of time
differently, as circular, linear, oscillating, etc. BUT ~ They will
all DO SO from their ongoing present, from which we must all start.
Yes, it IS metaphysical, I suppose... To me, it is just common sense.
> (2) Look at the Archives, find all the earlier postings on aspect and study
> them.

I wish I had 'time'... :-)

> (3) Get your hand on the book: B.M. Fanning, 1990, "Verbal Aspect in New
> Testament Greek" and study it thoroughly. His treatment of aspect and
> Aktionsart (pp 1-85) is the clearest I have ever seen, and the rest of the
> book is also valuable.

> (4) Study the difference between "complete" and "completed" as they are
> used in grammatical discussions. Two fine books to achieve this are both
> written by Bernard Comrie, "Aspect An Introduction to Verbal Aspect and
> Related Problems", 1976, and "Tense", 1985. Comrie is not reliable as far
> as Greek aspect is concerned, but the books can help you to learn more
> about several fundamental linguistic terms.

Is there a direct and simple differentiation you might provide between
'complete' and 'completed'?
> I do not mean to discourage you from posting to the list, to the contrary,
> but my intuition tells me that we should concentrate on the Greek text much
> more than on theoretical questions.

You are probably right... Yet the time issues seem so stumbling...


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