Re: Is TEMPUS A Part of Greek Grammar?

From: Joe A. Friberg (
Date: Sat Sep 25 1999 - 22:17:34 EDT

It is difficult to know whether to reply to a post like this. Is more
accomplished by pointing out its intrinsic weakness, or by ignoring it?

----- Original Message -----
From: Jim West <>
Sent: Saturday, September 25, 1999 3:17 PM

> At 03:13 PM 9/25/99 -0400, you wrote:
> >It seems to me that any explanation of "why" or "how" has to involve
> >theory. Should we not ask "why" or "how"?
> We should if we can find an answer that is itself not airy speculation.

The airiest of speculations are those satements of opinion the are simply
"yup" or "nope". Where does one pull this type of answer from? The hip
pocket? Or merely out of thin air?

Theories are useful because they substitute substantive generalizations
derived from practice in place of airy, intuitive generalities.

> Tell me, please, what signs point in the direction of finding an answer to
> theories of language that lie outside the realm of practice?

Just what theories are these??? I'll admit that some linguistic theories
have more direct application to the questions of B-Greek than others, but I
have never seen any theories raised here that were not relevant to a valid
topic addressed. For instance, no one has brought up theories concerning
the distribution of phonemes cross-linguistically or even Greek phonemes in
this forum, although even that might at some point have some bearing on some
question brought up here. Until it does, I will be glad not to mention it
(further ;-) ).

Theories arise out of practice, and must be substantiated by practice.
Theories are rejected when they don't align with practice, and they fall
into disuse if they don't do anything useful! Language theories are about
the way language is used: they are about practice. Theories must answer
questions that are being asked, and they must do so accurately. That is,
they must be *descriptively adequate*. So where's the beef?

> If the pursuit of a theory results in merely other theories than what is
> usefulness? Do we not then merely set up a chain of ad infinitum theories
> which resolve into pure nothingness?

hmm.... It is true that some theories sometimes lead to more theories.
That is, they lead to more, or better, answers! When one theory is found
inadequate because it is inaccurate, it *should* be replaced by another more
accurate theory. When several theories can be replaced by a single theory,
that is probably a sign that a better answer has been obtained! When two
theories give the same answer, but one does so more directly and with
greater clarity, the first should be discarded for the second. The goal of
a theory is not only descriptive adequacy, but also *explanatory adequacy*!

The only pure nothingness is that statement of opinion which can only be
expressed by an intuitive "yup" or "nope", with no critically reasoned
defense behind it.

> Thus, theories of language mey in themselves be useful- but beyond
> themselves they are mere "theory"- a seeing what may or may not be there-
> and in that sense simple fantasy.

This statement exhibits a confusion of a particular colloquial use of the
word 'theory' and the technical use of the term 'linguistic theory'. Again,
theories are based on facts, not fantasy. If your intuition of English
fails you at this point, how can we be persuaded to trust your Greek

> Finally, here we are asked to abstain from theolgical discussions insofar
> we can, becuase such discussions are ultimately based on personal theories
> or statements of faith. In short, because such theories have nothing to
> with the actual use of Greek by writers of the New Testament. Likewise
> linguistic theories are at best statements of faith BECAUSE they have no
> basis in actual practice. Thus, what's good for the goose of theological
> speculation should also be good for the gander of linguistic speculation.


(Oh yes... my reasoned defense: linguistic theories are closely related to
interpretation of data, and like any reasoned faith (granting the
supposition that there is some such element in linguistics--but note that a
'working hypothesis' specifically distances the analyst from such a faith
commitment to the hypothesis), they should be subject to revision if and
when the data requires it. Linguistic theories are at the core of what (at
least one aspect of) B-Greek is about. There are other forums where the
discussion of theology is appropriate, and linguistic theories not. To each
its place. The only faith assertions in the way of linguistic theories that
are inapropriate in this current forum are those faith assertions that are
beyond scrutiny, in the form of "yup" or "nope"!

God Bless one and all!

Joe A. Friberg
Arlington, Texas
MA Linguistics
MA Theology candidate

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:39 EDT