Re: Present Tense Copulative Verbs

From: G. Ross (
Date: Sat Sep 05 1998 - 05:52:15 EDT

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<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>Kyle said --</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT><BR>Subject: Re: Present tense copulative
verbs<BR>From: &quot;Kyle Dillon&quot; &lt;<A
Tue, 1 Sep 1998 23:20:22 -0700<BR>X-Message-Number: 5<BR><BR>I am not quoting
Mantey as an authority on the subject. Neither do I claim<BR>that EGW EIMI, in
certain contexts, cannot be translated as &quot;I have been.&quot; I<BR>only
claim that EGW EIMI in John 8:58 does not mean &quot;I have
<DIV><BR>In English, there are two types of present perfect verbal
expressions:<BR>simple and progressive. The simple present perfect is what we
would use to<BR>translate the Greek perfect tense. For example, GEGRAFA would be
translated<BR>as &quot;I have written.&quot; Then there is the progressive
present perfect, which<BR>would only be used to translate the Greek present
tense. For example, GRAFW<BR>could be translated with the progressive present
perfect &quot;I have been<BR>writing,&quot; but GEGRAFA could not (cf. John
19:22). The difference between a<BR>simple perfect and progressive perfect is
that, in the simple perfect, only<BR>the results of an action continue into the
present, while in the progressive<BR>perfect, the action itself still continues
into the present.<BR><BR></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT><FONT color=#008000 size=4>My reply
(Gordon Ross) --</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>Actually, the meanings of the two grammatical
forms in modern English traditionally called the &quot;simple present perfect
tense&quot; and the &quot;progressive present perfect tense&quot; are more
complex than you have stated.&nbsp;&nbsp; Although offhand (without further
reflection) I would agree that the progressive present perfect form does
indicate a past-to-present (and possibly-into-the-future) durative or habitual
aspect, the simple present perfect form has several meanings and aspects,
primarily punctiliar but also durative or habitual.&nbsp; Here are several
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>1.&nbsp; &quot;How long have you been living
here?&quot;&nbsp; &quot;I've been living here for three
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &quot;How long
have you lived here?&quot;&nbsp; &quot;I've lived here for three
years.&quot;&nbsp; </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>The meaning of these two sentences is
essentially the same.&nbsp; The difference is so slight that few native speakers
of English, if any, would be aware of a difference in meaning in a normal
conversation.&nbsp; A grammarian might notice, and if pressed, would probably
say that the progressive present perfect (PPP) form in this case emphasizes
duration, whereas the simple present perfect (SPP) form does not.&nbsp;
Nevertheless, this example does show that some verbs (I don't know offhand how
many and which ones) may be used interchangeably in either form (PPP or SPP)
with little, if any, difference in meaning in normal conversation.&nbsp;
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>I say &quot;normal conversation,&quot; and that
brings up another issue: rhetoric.&nbsp;&nbsp; Is the discourse spoken or
written?&nbsp; Is it prose or poetry?&nbsp; Who is the audience?&nbsp; What is
the circumstance?&nbsp; The choice of grammatical form and the understanding of
the meaning of that form sometimes depend on rhetorical issues, a point that I
think is important in understanding the meaning of John 8:58 and of determining
an appropriate translation.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>2.&nbsp; &quot;He has just left.&quot;&nbsp; The
meaning here of the SPP is &quot;action in the recent past,&quot; not
&quot;result (of an action) continuing into the present,&quot; don't you
think?&nbsp; &quot;He has just been leaving&quot; doesn't make sense to
me.&nbsp; I don't think that native English speakers (Americans, anyway) use the
PPP with &quot;just&quot; (in the sense of &quot;recently&quot;), at least not
usually.&nbsp; Of course, Americans more and more say &quot;he just left,&quot;
using the simple past.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>3.&nbsp; &quot;Where have they gone?&quot;&nbsp;
Another example of an action that occurred in the recent past.&nbsp; &quot;Where
did they go?&quot;&nbsp; could mean either the recent or a more distant
past.&nbsp; &quot;Where have they been going?&quot; implies habitual action
beginning in the past and continuing in the present.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>4.&nbsp; &quot;Have you done your homework
yet?&quot;&nbsp; &quot;Done&quot; here is ambiguous; it means either &quot;begun
doing&quot; or &quot;finished doing.&quot;&nbsp; Possible replies are &quot;No,
I haven't.&nbsp; I was just about to get started.&quot; or &quot;No, I
haven't.&nbsp; I'm still doing it.&quot; or &quot;Yes, I have.&quot;&nbsp;&nbsp;
Here we see additional examples indicating that the SPP does not
&quot;only&quot; mean that &quot;the results of the action continue into the
present&quot; and also that it is the verb and the context (both internal or
syntactic -- here with &quot;yet&quot; -- and external) which often determine
the meaning and use of the SPP.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>I could offer additional examples, but these are
sufficient, I think, to illustrate my point about the semantic complexity
associated with these two grammatical forms and about the similarity in meaning
(see Example #1) between the SPP and PPP.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>In a PPA idiom, as some claim John 8:58 is, the main verb is a
progressive<BR>perfect, which means the action is still continuing into the
present, rather<BR>than simply the results of the action. This is why we find
Greek present<BR>tense verbs where a perfect verb should have been used instead.
The emphasis<BR>of the present tense shows that the action itself, rather than
just its<BR>results, continues from the past into the present. So this is how we
would<BR>translate the following verses:<BR><BR>Luke 13:7 - &quot;...three
years, since which I have been coming...&quot; (not &quot;I
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>Not necessarily.&nbsp; &quot;For three years I
have come looking for fruit&quot; (New American Standard) sounds fine to these
ears.&nbsp; &quot;For three years I have been coming looking for fruit&quot;
sounds awkward, because of the &quot;coming looking&quot; repetition, although
it's grammatically correct.&nbsp; The syntax of the English translation
emphasizes the time, &quot;for three years,&quot; since the phrase has been
placed before the subject of the clause, i.e., out of its normal order.&nbsp;
The use of &quot;I have come&quot; here sounds more formal to my ears than
&quot;I have been coming.&quot;&nbsp; However, I think that &quot;I have been
coming looking&quot; would be used in modern American conversation if the phrase
&quot;FOR THREE YEARS&quot; were pronounced emphatically in order to emphasize
the length of time.&nbsp;&nbsp; From all this I conclude that the choice whether
to translate ERCOMAI as &quot;I have come&quot; or &quot;I have been
coming&quot; is stylistic (rhetorical) and perhaps dialectal (I can speak only
for standard American English), not&nbsp; grammatical, in this
<DIV><BR>Luke 15:29 - &quot; many years I have been serving...&quot; (not
&quot;I have served&quot;)</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>The same comment as for Luke 13:7.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT><BR>John 5:6 - &quot;...he has already
been having much time...&quot;<BR></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>The translation of this phrase depends a great
deal on how one translates the rest of the sentence, since the main verb is in
the present tense and the present seems to be emphasized.&nbsp; It also depends
on how literally one wants to render POLUN HDH CRONON ECEI.&nbsp;&nbsp; There
are so many possibilities that I won't take the time to comment further
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>John 14:9 - &quot;...have I been existing so long a time...&quot;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>&quot;Have I been with you for so long a
time&quot; sounds far more idiomatic to my ear.&nbsp; I don't think that BE
means EXIST in this context.&nbsp; I infer it as meaning something like &quot;BE
PRESENT.&quot;&nbsp; I have a hunch that Kyle translated EIMI as &quot;have been
existing&quot; in order to avoid &quot;have been being,&quot; which no native
speaker of English in his or her right mind would use in normal
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT><BR>John 15:27 - &quot;...since the
beginning you have been existing...&quot;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>Same comment as for John 14:9 above.&nbsp;
&quot;You have been with me&quot; is idiomatic English; &quot;you have been
being with me&quot; is not.&nbsp; Neither is &quot;you have been existing with
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT><BR>Acts 15:21 - &quot;...since ancient
generations Moses has been holding...&quot;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>I certainly would not translate EXEI as
&quot;hold&quot; in this context.&nbsp; It doesn't make sense.&nbsp;&nbsp; A
translation like &quot;Moses, for generations now, has had his preachers (those
who proclaim him) in every town&quot; is possible.&nbsp; &quot;Has been
having&quot; is far less idiomatic. </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><BR>2 Cor. 12:19 - &quot;...have you been thinking all along...&quot;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>I definitely agree with the use of the PPP in
this context.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT><BR>2 Peter 3:4 - &quot;...since our
fathers fell asleep, all things have been<BR>continuing...&quot;<BR></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>&quot;Have continued&quot; is perfectly
acceptable here.&nbsp; See Example #1 above.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT><BR>John 8:58 is a different case,
because we cannot make sense out of the<BR>translation &quot;I have been
existing before Abraham was born.&quot;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>I agree that this translation does not make
sense.&nbsp; It is also not grammatical English.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;This is because<BR>of the temporal subordinate conjunction PRIN. As
in English, a progressive<BR>verb cannot be used with an adverbial that
describes finished time periods.</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>Well, to be accurate, a verb in the progressive
PERFECT &quot;tense&quot; cannot be so used.&nbsp; A past progressive can, e.g.,
&quot;Adam and Eve were fooling around long before Abraham was
<DIV><BR>This would cause me classify John 8:58 (and LXX Psalm 90:2) as examples
not<BR>of Present of Past Action idioms, but of something like &quot;Present
of<BR>paratemporality&quot; idioms. The main verbs of these verses would
therefore be<BR>translated as present tense verbs in English, but with a
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>I agree with you in principle, although I
question whether it's really necessary to establish and label a class of idioms
of this kind.&nbsp; John 8:58 is an unusual use of EIMI.&nbsp; The translation
of it as &quot;I am&quot; or even &quot;I AM&quot; seems to fit in with the
Christology, rhetoric, and poetic style of the author(s)/editor(s) of this
gospel.&nbsp; Whoever wrote John, many decades after the fact, is making some
pretty far-out claims about this Galilean rebel.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>My position is just an opinion, and may be swayed if further evidence
is<BR>given to support the other side. But the evidence seems to currently
point<BR>toward my position.<BR></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>Has the evidence I've given swayed you any, that
is, changed your understanding of the uses and meanings of the SPP and PPP
&quot;tenses&quot;? in English?</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>All the best --</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4>Gordon Ross</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#008000 size=4><A


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