[b-greek] Re: These two positions don't even seem close

From: yochanan bitan-buth (ButhFam@compuserve.com)
Date: Mon Aug 28 2000 - 01:54:46 EDT

for Mark
some encouragment.

wayne leman egrapsen
>Greek doesn't work this way. Its time markers indicate, instead, aspect of
>the actions or states encoded by its verbs.
>It would have been better if the label "tense" had never been used to
>describe anything about Greek,

"anything" was too wide.
Before this unravels further, maybe a note about how 90-99+(?)% of Greek
teachers see verbs. They distinguish the indicative verbs from the

The indicative forms definitely include tense. You may call them tensed
aspects if you like, but they are still tenses.
Thus, the aorist indicative is basically a 'simple' past. (Or a PAST
'simple aspect', if you will.)
The imperfect is an 'in-process' past. (Or a PAST 'in process aspect', if
you will.)

Yet Wayne is quite right on the rest: infinitives, subjunctives,
imperatives and participles would have been much clearer for most Greek
students if they were always named by NON-time labels, e.g. "in-process"
versus "simple". The aorist is the "simple" set (linguists call this
'perfective') and the "in-process" (named 'imperfective' by linguists) is
the so-called "present" set.
So yes, it is true that the infinitves, subjectives, imperatives and to a
large extent participles are truly marking PURE ASPECT and not time.
But the indicative verbs are marking time.
Again, that is the common consensus and there is no need for a student to
be bothered by a very small minority who might tie themselves in knots
trying to deny what Greek readers see plainly.

In every field there have always been theorists who extrapolate principles
beyond the boundaries where they are appropriate and produce something
theoretically 'consistent', but wrong. (For every claimed 'paradigm shift'
there are hundreds of well-meaning deadends.) A classic example of this
are some logical theories and linguistic semantic theories that produce
statements that go 'against the grain', against the intuitive, common sense
of the speakers. If semantic theorists can do that to English, a living
language, qal veHomer someone might try it with the old Greek verb systems.
Well, that's what Porter did, in the view of the extreme majority.

Randall Buth

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