Re: Is TEMPUS A Part of Greek Grammar?

From: Rodney J. Decker (
Date: Fri Sep 24 1999 - 11:44:59 EDT

Whoa! You're making a major assumption, Jim. To suggest that verbs do not
grammaticalize temporal relationships in the Greek verb ("tense") says
nothing about whether or not the language can express time or not. You're
confusing theoretical, semantic, metalinguistic tense (M-tense, a deictic
category) with language tense (L-tense, a morphological category)--those
are Levinson's terms. All that Young/Silva are questioning is whether or
not Greek grammaticalizes L-tense (Porter denies it outright, as does
McKay). There is no language or culture that does not have M-tense, but a
number of languages lack L-tense. Although a few may debate it, OT Hebrew
does just that--and it certainly isn't a bizzare idea there, nor is it in
Greek. Languages express temporal relationships in a variety of ways--tense
is only one of them. The Am. Sign Language example that someone else
mentioned is a good example, as is Burmese and Hopi.

(Carl was right, as usual: I've had to say something! As he's aware, I
wrote my diss. on that subject. As a matter of fact, I've just now
excerpted 4 pages from my diss. that deal with these definitions and posted
them on my web site in .pdf format--for the (probably very!) few who might
be interested in such arcane matters. It's linked from this page:


>>researching this subject. I wonder, should we dispense
>>with the term "tense" (TEMPUS) in Greek grammar?
>We most certainly should not.
>> Is time grammaticalized in Greek?
>It certainly is. How shall we conceive of a language which has no reference
>to temporality? Are we to visualize a timeless universalism in which every
>action is present and every truth relativized to some sort of timelessness?
>I cannot even begin to imagine what such a language would sound like- nor
>can I imagine what meaning words would have removed from time and placed in
>some sort of utopian never-never-land (with apologies to the fans of Michael
>Jackson who are fond of the never-never-land ranch).
>Sometimes I get the feeling that the more bizarre an idea is, the more
>popular it will be. And, to me, it is simply bizarre to suggest
>a-temporality when it comes to language.

Rodney J. Decker, Th.D. Baptist Bible Seminary
Assoc. Prof./NT PO Box 800, Clarks Summit, PA 18411
The *Resources for NT Study* site is accessible at:

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