Date: Fri Jun 05 1998 - 01:20:22 EDT
b-greek-digest Friday, 5 June 1998 Volume 01 : Number 179
In this issue:
Re: English perfect, Greek perfect
RE: (long) Entropy and "semantic domain"
Re: English perfect, Greek perfect
List for Ecclesiastical or Vulgate Latin
Re: English perfect, Greek perfect
Re: From whence it IS?
Re: English Perfect
From: Rod Decker <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1998 15:49:32 -0400
Subject: Re: English perfect, Greek perfect
>I am trying to get a more precise understanding of the Greek perfect by
>comparing and contrasting the Greek perfect and the English perfect. The
>Greek perfect "denotes a completed action the effects of which still
>continue in the present" (Smyth, p.484). This seems to be true of the
>difference in meaning between the English and Greek perfect? I'm trying to
>get a feeling for whether the perfects which may not be translated this way
>point to specific idioms or real differences in the function of the perfect
>tense in the two languages. I'm not asking how the perfect should be
>translated, but what the precise meaning of the perfect itself is.
>Is there a fundamental meaning of the perfect which is always there
>regardless of the use? How would you contrast the English perfect and the
>Greek perfect? Is my impression true that they are an awful lot more
>similar than they are different?
If I may dare to rasie the subject of aspect once again, I think it is
relevant to this question. There are several approaches to the perfect,
even from the perspective of verbal aspect. (The opposite position from
what I am about to summarize is that taken by Fanning, who views the
perfect as a hybrid of time/Aktionsart/aspect.) In brief, I'd suggest that
the perfect is best viewed, following McKay, as expressing *stative aspect*
with any reference to an action that produces the state as well as the time
reference coming from the context. (Please note that his is stative
*aspect* we are talking about, not stative *Aktionsart* or stative as
opposed to action verbs.)
At greater length, let me paste in some discussion from my dissertation
(sans most notes):
In comparison with the verb forms already considered, the perfect occurs
far less frequently. There are only 46 perfect indicatives in Mark. The
perfect, however, has engendered a much wider range of discussion than the
paucity of occurrences might suggest. There are three major views regarding
the meaning of the perfect. Traditionally the perfect has been defined as
completed past action with continuing results. It is said to convey a dual
time reference (both past and present) or to have dual Aktionsart (or dual
aspect, depending on the writer; this is said to be either aorist and
present, or linear and punctiliar).
More recently Fanning has proposed that the perfect should be viewed as a
semantic triad incorporating Aktionsart, relative tense, and aspect. These
three "combine to produce the basic sense: there is an Aktionsart-feature
of stative situation, an internal tense-feature of anteriority, and an
aspect-feature of summary viewpoint concerning an occurrence."
The third view may be credited to the work of McKay who has written
extensively on aspect and particularly on the aspect of the perfect form.
As he explains it,
"The perfect tense expresses the state or condition of the subject of the
verb, mostly in present-time contexts and those without specific time
reference, and in some circumstances...it has added strong reference to an
event which is already past. In fact, it applies the state principle of the
perfect aspect...to present time, timeless situations, extensions from past
to present, and the implication of future reference, in the same way as the
process principle of the imperfective is applied to them in the present
tense..., and is even found occasionally in a use which parallels the
historic present." (McKay, *Syntax of the Verb,* 4.5.1.)
Porter has developed McKay's position even more extensively. Although
there are areas of disagreement between them, the two discussions are very
similar in that both argue for stative aspect being the only semantic value
of the perfect form. Porter summarizes: "the Perfect grammaticalizes the
state or condition of the grammatical subject as conceived by the speaker.
Whether a previous event is alluded to or exists at all is a matter of
lexis in context and not part of aspectual semantics." "The stative aspect
distances itself from the process itself, referring to the state of the
(For extensive bibliog. on the perfect, particularly McKay's articles, see
the bibliography posted at: <http://faculty.bbc.edu/rdecker/rd_dbib.htm >.)
Rodney J. Decker Baptist Bible Seminary
Asst. Prof./NT P O Box 800
firstname.lastname@example.org Clarks Summit PA 18411
http://faculty.bbc.edu/rdecker/ <new URL!
From: Rolf Furuli <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1998 23:10:37 +0200
Subject: RE: (long) Entropy and "semantic domain"
Pete Phillips wrote:
>Well yes and no. I find it hard to accept that concepts depend upon
>lexemes. It is possible to think of something without having a word for it
>- we say "I am lost for words" but we can still have something in our minds
>that we are trying to express. Concepts are cognitive processes sparked
>off by external or internal stimuli that happen whether there are lexemes
>known/present to express the concept or not. Part of the learning process
>is to assign the correct lexeme to the appropriate concept in the correct
>As for LOGOS, I don't agree that to translate it as *word* constantly is
>the correct thing to do but this isn't a discussion of LOGOS - we both know
>the threads on that are very very long and hopefully archived for a while.
>It would seem to me that the concept is a legitimate place to focus one's
>attention rather than the lexeme. Simply because a concept can be
>verbalized by more than one lexeme does not mean that all the lexemes are
>synonymous - e.g. the concept/cognitive category "bird" can be verbalized
>by "seagull", "penguin" or "parrot" - but these are not synonyms. Just so
>Johannine concept of LOGOS can be verbalized by a whole list of
>possibilities - not all of which are synonymous.
>Is this thread getting us anywhere?
I agree it is time to terminate the thread; just a few remarks. As any
lexicon tells, the word "concept" can be used in different ways. I agree we
can have notions and vague inclinations in our mind regarding things, and
these can of course be called "concepts". My point has been, however,
that, as respects lexical semantics, such rather unclear notions do not
deserve the designation "concepts". Think of a child. He or she learns
through "objects", through observation of things and acts. The child points
to a pigeon, and the mother says "bird", and when this is repeated, the
child learns to associate "bird" with this object. Later more objects are
called "bird" and gradually a concept evolves.
A small child may be hungry, and this is unpleasant, but this feeling is
hardly a concept. The child instinctively cries, and it is fed, but it=B4s
cries are not language. Later it learns that the sounds "hungry" is
associated with the unpleasant situation; every time the child says
"hungry", it is fed. As time goes by, the child learns more and more words
by this natural way: object/situation --> word --> concept, and when it
becomes mature, the concepts also have become mature. I cannot imagine that
a child at any stage in his or her development starts to invent concepts
and then searches for words and references to these concepts; it always
works the other way.
In formal semantics and mathematics, letters and signs are used to
symbolize abstract notions or relationships between parts of clauses or
between numbers, and equations are often used. These symbols are in
principle equivalent to words, and they are created AFTER the mind has
figured out the abstract relationships that they symbolize. I will however
claim that neither in these cases do we start with the concepts, because
the reason why the abstract notions are thought of, is that the persons
already have a vocabulary which make them able to do more abstract
thinking. So the abstract relationships or functions are not new concepts
in the sense of lexical semantics, but rather represent relationships
between concepts which already are in their mind, though being of a higher
We can also illustrate this by everyday situations. The Norwegian word
"dag" is equivalent to the English "day". We also have the word "dogn"
referring to a day and a night (24 hours), but such a word is lacking in
English. If we now coined a new English word signifying 24 hours, we have
started with a "concept" and choosen a word for it, but still concepts are
not independent of words, because the new word signalling this concept is
formed because of the existence of other words (24 hours and day and
night). I can simply not comprehend how thinking can occur in a systematic
way at all if we do not already have a language consisting of words. It
seems to me that just as our throut is "designed" for language in sharp
contrast to the throats of the monkeys and the apes, so is our brain
programmed from birth to master a language and a grammar (just as Chomsky
has argued). My conclusion, therefore, regarding thinking and language is
that "in the beginning was the word (or reference).
As to Silva, I read all his books with great interest, and find most of his
insights very valuable. However, I think Clay is right when he said that
the model I defend is very far from Silva`s. While Silva also uses a
triangle, with "sense" on the top, I think this is quite far from my
"concept". Something illustrating this (if I understand him correctly) is
found on p 122 of his "Biblical Words & their Meaning" where he discusses
"sense": "The point is that the particular SENSES of PNEUMA and YUCH in
view (the immaterial aspect of man)) are ALWAYS synonymous /a footnote says
that "the adjective SYNONYMOUS is used when the speaker wishes to deny the
existence of any difference" /. More precisely, it is always true that the
relationship between these SENSES or PNEUMA and YUCH is of such a nature
that the words may be used interchangeably in SOME contexts."
This illustrates that Silva=B4s model intruduces huge amounts of theology
into lexical semantics. (Is this better than what is done in theTDNT?)
While my term "concept" is connected with the minds of living people inside
the same PP, Silva`s "sense" is connected with the USE of words, as this
use is understood by the 20th century interpreter. James Barr ("Semantics
of Biblical Language", 1975 p 13 ) has pointed out that the Hebrew NEFESH
in the OT never is identical with the Greek immortal soul but always is
mortal. Whether this is true for the YUCH of the NT is open for discussion,
but it is really bad when ONE of the viewpoints is introduced into lexical
semantics as the truth, as does Silva. In addition do I object strongly to
the claim that PNEUMA and YUCH are synonymous in ANY context.
And lastly, the word "context", what is it? Is the word referential? Is it
possible to define it? Are there any laws regarding the use of "context" in
lexical semantics? How can it be explained that "the context does not
merely help us understand meaning - it virtually MAKES meaning" as Silva
says (p 139)? It seems to me that the word "context" in Silva`s model is
nothing but the the subjective interpretation of the commentator (in
disguise). It has its legitimate place in in commentaries and other
interpretative works but must be used with the greatest caution in lexical
semantics. Let me quote Peter Newmark, whose book "A Textbook of
Translation",1988, p 36, was awarded the British Association of Applied
Linguistics prize that year: "Many translators say you should never
translate words, you translate sentences or ideas or messages. I think they
are fooling themselves. The SL/source language/ texts consist of words,
that is all that is there, on the page."
Lecturer in Semitic languages
University of Oslo
From: Carlton Winbery <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1998 17:51:11 +0400
Subject: Re: English perfect, Greek perfect
>At 09:15 AM 6/4/98 -0700, email@example.com wrote:
>>The English perfect seems to be more of a simple past tense, who's
>>force is now expended and has become a part of the history of the
>>'enactor' of the action. It may or may not have relevance to the
>>present, whereas the Greek perfect very definitely has present
>>relevance, due to its lack of augmentation. [If augmentation does
>>indeed have past time implicature, as it certainly seems to have.]
>I've heard this enough times, but I'm not convinced that it is true.
>Suppose you ask me where my wife is, and I say "she has gone to the store,
>and she's downstairs now", I think that's ungrammatical. If I say "she went
>to the store, and she's downstairs now" it's perfectly grammatical (though
>the detail about her going to the store may be irrelevant). I think that
>the English perfect also implies a present state.
>>Tricky wording here in English, because 'has' is present tense, and is
>>describing 'what' he 'is having' in the present, even though the whole
>>of the verb form has 'past' [perfect] force in English. 'Is' and
>>'has' are both presents!! And the more I think about the English, the
>>more interesting English gets! [And confusing, I might add]
>We talk about past perfect ("had gone") and present perfect ("has gone") in
>English. We can also talk about past perfect (="pluperfect") and present
>perfect (="perfect") in Greek.
Jonathan, I tend to agree with you. I was taught from early on (I always
made A's in English Grammar) that it is "present perfect" and "past
perfect" in English. If anything, the present perfect is closer to present
time than to the past. It assumes a completed action, but its real
emphasis is on an existing condition that in someway relates to the
completed action. The Greek perfect is very close to that, but with
differing nuances indicated mostly by context. A good translation of
GEGRAPTAI is "it is written." That it is written is an existing result.
Even in a "consummative" perfect like Mark 10:52, "Your faith has made you
well (SESWKEN), the emphasis in on the fact that faith is the cause of your
existing wellness. There are times when the perfect is used like the
aorist, but I think this is just due to the looseness of the use of the
language in the Helenistic period. (John 12:29, LELALHKEN An angel spoke
Interestingly enough, in the perfect passive, it is easy to see by the
endings that the perfect is a "primary" tense. In the active, the 3rd
plural is the only form that is unmistakeably primary (ASI[N]). The one
thing that I would say is always present in the perfect is completed action
that even in some weakened uses assumes a continuing result. I don't see
this as mixing past and present so much as describing present reality. I
think that it would be good when we talk about possible uses, that we cite
specific references in some Helenist work.
Carlton L. Winbery
Fogleman Professor of Religion
Pineville, LA 71359
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1998 17:20:21 -0400
Subject: List for Ecclesiastical or Vulgate Latin
I've been asked to post an inquiry as to whether there is such a thing as
B-Latin--a list focusing on the Vulgate or Old Latin versions of the Bible.
It wouldn't surprise me if there's one hosted at the Vatican, but I just
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
From: "Paul R. Zellmer" <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, 05 Jun 1998 07:31:00 +0800
Subject: Re: English perfect, Greek perfect
Jonathan Robie wrote:
> At 09:15 AM 6/4/98 -0700, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
> >The English perfect seems to be more of a simple past tense, who's
> >force is now expended and has become a part of the history of the
> >'enactor' of the action. It may or may not have relevance to the
> >present, whereas the Greek perfect very definitely has present
> >relevance, due to its lack of augmentation. [If augmentation does
> >indeed have past time implicature, as it certainly seems to have.]
> I've heard this enough times, but I'm not convinced that it is true.
> Suppose you ask me where my wife is, and I say "she has gone to the store,
> and she's downstairs now", I think that's ungrammatical. If I say "she went
> to the store, and she's downstairs now" it's perfectly grammatical (though
> the detail about her going to the store may be irrelevant). I think that
> the English perfect also implies a present state.
I think your implication of present state is strengthened by changing
your context a bit. If, instead of asking where your wife is (although
I assume she's in Durham with the kids), one were to ask, "Has your wife
gone to the store?", your "ungrammatical" response become grammatically
correct. It is because you are confirming that the going to the store
is in a state of completion at present, even though she is no longer
I concur with your analysis given in other postings that the same force
seems to be carried by the Koine perfect. Of course, my concurrence
doesn't carry much weight!
Paul and Dee Zellmer, Jimmy Guingab, Geoffrey Beltran
Ibanag Translation Project
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1998 20:16:06 EDT
Subject: Re: From whence it IS?
In a message dated 98-06-04 11:38:48 EDT, you write:
<< "And he was not knowing where it is from." >>
That sounds good to me.
You asked if I was glad if I asked the question. I certianly am. And I
appreciate the help you all give to one who styles himself "The Barbarian." I
know of no other forum where such scholars are so willing to provide so much
help to someone who is so obvisouly a novice. I do not understand wht the
discussion sometimes gets so hot, but I take it that I am missing the
implications of some of the issues. Usually you are all very civil, and that
is to your credit.
I have dropped "The Bararian" from my name. Perhaps prematurely. But I have
made some progress, and I can now pick a passage at random from my New
Testament Text and usually I am able to get some idea of what it is saying
before I go to helps. This is quite exciting to me. It was a struggle to get
to this point. The breakthrough came when I took Mr. Carl's suggestion and
started working through large sections of text until I could read them
throughly. I am now learing to read Greek like my children learned to read
1st. Sound out the words.
2nd. Begin to read with understanding. Then after much reading.
3rd. Learn the technical grammer.
This is quite rewarding, (and it is starting to get habit forming.)
By the way, I was reading Tennyson the other night and came across some lines
that some of you could relate to. Merlin was reading a book that was
"...Writ in a language that has long gone by...
... but the long sleepless nights of my long life have made it easy to me."
William Boyd (A little bitty GREEK!)
Royal Palm Beach, Fl.
From: "David R. Mills" <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 3 Jun 1998 19:54:25 -0500
Subject: Re: English Perfect
Jonathan Robie wrote:
> I am trying to get a more precise understanding of the Greek perfect by
> comparing and contrasting the Greek perfect and the English perfect. The
> Greek perfect "denotes a completed action the effects of which still
> continue in the present" (Smyth, p.484). This seems to be true of the
> English perfect as well, and it seems that many Greek perfects can be
> translated with English perfects.
Yes, it is true of the English present perfect. Peter Master in _Systems in
English Grammar_ writes: "The present perfect tense shows actions or states
that occurred at some time in the past but that have relevance in the
present." In _The Grammar Book_, Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman say the
present perfect is used in five situations:
a. A situation that began in the past and that continues into the present:
I have been a teacher since 1972.
b. A past experience with current relevance:
I have already seen that movie.
c. A very recently completed action:
Mort has just finished his homework.
d. An action that went on over time in the past and that is completed with
the moment of speaking:
The value of the Johnsons' house has doubled in the last 4 years.
e. With verbs in subordinate clauses of time or condition:
She won't be satisfied until she has finished another chapter.
The example in "e." just happens to be future time!
> But what is wrong with "has risen from the dead"? If I understand Wallace
> correctly, he seems to be implying that "has risen from the dead" would
> focus on the belief that John the Baptist "had been resurrected", not on
> the belief that he is alive.
If that is what Wallace is implying, I would say he is wrong.
> Wallace suggests that the English present is often the best translation
> a Greek perfect if the resulting state is emphasized, and that the English
> perfect is the wrong translation for these Greek perfects, because he
> that the English perfect does not emphasize the results, but only the past
> action. Here are some of his examples:
> Mark 6:14 IWANNHS hO BAPTIZWN *EGHGERTAI* EK NEKRON
> Mark 6:14 John the baptist *is* *risen* from the dead
An English present perfect here would refer to a past action that has
relevance in the present. The translation above has used the present "be"
verb (not an auxiliary verb) plus the participle "risen," used as a
predicate adjective. This "be" verb is a stative verb which shows very
little concern with the past action and emphasizes the present state. This
is similar to what Jonathan said Wallace implied, but it is not quite the
> But wouldn't the English "he has risen" also mean "he arose and is still
> arisen"? Suppose John had arisen, choked on a piece of meat, and died. At
> that point, to say "he has arisen" is no longer appropriate; "he had
> arisen" would still be an appropriate description of reality, as would "he
Exactly right. We can say, "John has rebuked Herod to his face many times"
only as long as John is alive. If he is dead, we must say in English, "John
had rebuked Herod to his face many times." However, I don't know whether
Greek would allow a present perfect here if for some reason the rebuking had
present relevance despite John's death. I seem to remember in a linguistics
class that English is a little unusual in the way a person's death affects
> ** 7. He has arisen and is dead.
> ?? 8. He has arisen but is dead.
> ** 9. Your sins have been forgiven and you are a slave to sin.
> ?? 10. Your sins have been forgiven but you are a slave to sin.
I would mark 7, 8, and 9 as ungrammatical. The last one would be
grammatical if you do not consider the state of slavery to sin and the state
of forgiveness as mutually exclusive states. Being risen and being dead are
mutually exclusive regardless of one's theology.
From: Edgar Foster <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1998 20:57:48 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Phil. 14
How should we translate XWRIS DE THS SHS GNWMHS in Phil. 14?
DO YOU YAHOO!?
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