Re: Is TEMPUS A Part of Greek Grammar?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Sep 23 1999 - 13:37:07 EDT

At 8:56 AM -0700 9/23/99, Edgar Foster wrote:
>Dear B-Greekers,
>After reading countless discussions on B-Greek about
>aspect and aktionsart, I am still engaged in
>researching this subject. I wonder, should we dispense
>with the term "tense" (TEMPUS) in Greek grammar? Is
>time grammaticalized in Greek?
>Richard A. Young writes:
>"there is still merit in the traditional view that
>temporal distinctions are grammaticalized in the
>indicative mood, even though it results in a greater
>number of anomalies" (Young 107).
>Moises Silva has also made similar observations in his
>book on exegesis and Galatians. I wonder if Young and
>Silva have hit on something here. When I read verses
>like John 3:16, it seems to be an example of time
>grammaticalized in location. Then again, I could be
>wrong. If you think this topic has been discussed AD
>NAUSEAM, you can reply offlist.

I think the prevalent view continues to be that the augment on imperfect,
aorist, and pluperfect indicatives grammaticalizes past time; but that is
not to say that there is a universal consensus on this; several scholars
have pointed out instances of the aorist especially that need not or should
not be understood as referring to past time. I'm sure Rod Decker will have
something to say about this, and Mari Olsen also, if she's still on the
horizon; each of them would say, I think, that other factors enter into the
interpretation of the temporal specificity of verb forms in the indicative.
I haven't heard it argued that the future doesn't refer to future time, but
I have heard it argued that the present indicative may refer to past time
(historical present) and in the right circumstances to future time. Of
course, when you get outside the indicative, temporal reference tends
pretty generally to be future for subjunctive and optative; while present,
aorist, and perfect infinitives and participles are considerably trickier.
I certainly wouldn't quarrel with Young's statement.

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

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