Re: Greek Grammarians and Aspect

Date: Sat May 02 1998 - 10:48:41 EDT

Don Wilkins wrote:

> Let me hasten to add that I don't mean to depreciate the value of the
> ancient grammarians, as Robertson apparently does in the case of D.T. (I
> couldn't find the reference in question by using the index, and would
> appreciate the information). Indeed, if that is what Robertson says, my
> first reaction would be one of incredulity and disappointment in him. I have
> the suspicion, perhaps unfounded, that Robertson spent a great deal more
> time reading secondary than he did primary literature in researching his
> monumental Grammar, and was not really in a good position to criticize the
> ancients. Here again, I would be indebted to anyone who could speak with
> some authority about Robertson's research methodology.

Don ~

I may have overstated Robertson when I wrote, "Robertson, in his
Grammar [1914 AD], criticizes Thrax for failing to appreciate and
understand properly the Greek aorist, speculating that his Latin mind
was not adequate for this Greek verb form." I would have been more
accurate had I depersonalized the "his" with the word "the" in that

Robertson is a stickler for understanding Greek grammar in terms of
the Greek writings, and within the context of its development as a
language from the earliest fragments, inscriptions, paparii, and
dialects, through koine Greek and on down into modern Greek. He seems
to regard koine as much more akin to modern than to ancient classical
forms, and sees Latin as a fundamentally different language,
reflecting a differing way of thought that simply does not grasp the
aorist as the Greek does. He states [[p.822] "Most of the older Greek
grammars were made by men who knew Latin better than Greek. Even
today the study of the Greek tenses is hampered by the standpoint of
Latin idioms which developed under very different conditions. ...
whereas Latin has had no influence on the Greek tenses themselves by
the time of the koine... The Latin tenses must be left to one side.
The time element is more prominent in the Latin." Plus on page 303
"...while in the syntax of the verb no two Indo-Germanic languages are
further apart than Greek and Latin." And on 824 "Dionysius Thrax
erred in explaining the Greek tenses from the notion of time, and he
has been followed by a host of imitators."

So Robertson's thrust is to pare away any approach, and especially the
Latin approach, to the understanding of the Greek verb, that is NOT
Greek, and to approach the Greek in terms of its own history in
development, beginning with its relationship at the beginning to
Sanskrit, and ending with this morning's newspaper in Athens. :-). I
am not a little intimidated... I am totally intimidated, by the
ambition of this approach, which sees 3500 years of 'data' as the
'datum'!! And THAT prior to computers! [I shouldda had a talk with
that boy before he started... The dad burned fool... mumble mumble...
:-) :-)]

It's an awesome project ~ A Greek Grammar.

I still haven't refound the passage that inspired my original comment
on R's criticism of Thrax, but the above should be somewhat helpful.
It was not a personal criticism of Thrax' 'Latin mentality' certainly,
but a pointing out of the error of approaching Greek through anything
OTHER than Greek.

And I would STILL like to see some of Thrax' writings...

George Blaisdell

[My apologies to Ed Hobbes for leaving out my last name ~ I'll not
repeat it in the future... Unless I forget... Happens more and more
these latter days, you know... Where IS that coffee cup?...]

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