Re: Are participles temporally unmarked?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Mar 06 1999 - 08:00:24 EST

At 3:37 AM -0600 3/6/99, Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
>Dear George,
>>>From: "Moon-Ryul Jung"
>>>George wrote:
>>>> Time and Aspect are perhaps not as separable as they might seem.
>>>> So how does past time sneak in on those pesky unaugmented
>>>> I would have to guess that it does so through aspect, which is in
>>>>truth inseparable from time designation
>>>This was a response to the following observation:
>>> According to Porter, when the participle appears before the main
>>>verb, "there is a tendency for the action to be depicted as
>>>antecedent," while when after the main verb, "there is a tendency for
>>>the action to be seen as concurrent or subsequent." (Porter, Verbal
>>>Aspect, p. 381)
>>Actually, it was in response to the query that asks why an unaugmented
>>participle seems to translate so well as a past tense.
>OK. My comments seem to be more relevant to that question. Participles
>desciribe partially determined situations in that they do not specify the
>(actor) and the time of a given situation. But the reader or the speaker
>easily determine the subject and the time of the situation.
>But though I like your statement that
> "it does so through aspect, which is in truth inseparable
> from time designation",
>we can state this intuition better by separating (reference) time and
>Both are related indirectly because both are needed to describe a
>The reference time can be determined from the context.
>For example, consider Mark 1: 35, which I recently read:
>Kai pro^i ennuka lian anastas exelthen kai ape^lthen.
> inmorning night still rising he-went
>When the hearer hears the phrase
> "pro^i ennuka lian anastas", he/she would immediately
>form a situation in the mind where somebody rose IN THE EARLY MORNING,
>which is the reference time for the situation described by the aorist
>In sum, I would say that "situation is inseparable from time designation".

I think this is generally very true; it is all the more evident in
indicative forms with an augment and the aorist indicatives, although they
may occasinally refer to other than past time, nevertheless almost always
refer to past time--a fact which I think can usually be readily discerned
by examination of individual instances. Participles and infinitives are,
however, more open to variation. I could write a simple Greek sentence like


to mean "I'll read that when I get up early in the morning while it's still
quite dark."--in this instance referring to my habitual practice of getting
up at 5 a.m. to read and respond to e-mail; in this instance this
perspective is made clear by the future tense indicative ANAAGNWSOMAI, from
which it becomes evident that ANASTAS must mean "when I arise (at some
point in the future)." I think there are usually indications of some such
sort to help one sort out the time-reference of participles and
infinitives, but I'd still say that the participles and infinitives
themselves--presents, aorists, and perfects, at least--have only aspect,
not temporal reference. Future participles and infinitives, on the other
hand, do indeed have temporal reference, governed always by a reference
point indicated in the clause upon which they are dependent.

Let me add a personal note here and say that I'm delighted to find my home
domain is back up after a three-day hiatus and it's good to be responding
to some fresh messages as well as catching up with some that I haven't been
able to see sooner.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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