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

From: CWestf5155@aol.com
Date: Mon Aug 28 2000 - 01:55:03 EDT

In a message dated 08/27/2000 2:02:14 PM Mountain Daylight Time,
emory2002@hotmail.com writes:

 I realize, to some extent, the agreement with Wallace and Porter regarding
 Aktionsart. My interest is with Tense only. Regarding the Aorist Tense,
 Wallace says:
 "In the indicative, the aorist usually indicates past time with reference to
 time of speaking... There are exceptions to this general rule, of course,
 but they are due to intrusions from other linguistic features vying for
 control." (GGBB pg.555)
 I take this to mean that the Aorist Tense is a Past Tense, according to
 Wallace, and that the past tense meaning of the Aorist can be suppressed,
 but only by outside influences. Porter, as best I can tell, does not hold to
 a "past tense" meaning to the Aorist Indicative.
 Earlier Wallace says:
 "There are occasions when time is not involved in the indicative. This is
 due to other phenomena... But in their unaffected meaning, the tenses in the
 indicative mood include a temporal marker."
 I believe Porter's Verbal Aspect takes exception to this statement. Again, I
 am not referring to Aktionsart, only inherent TEMPORAL meaning.
 Wallace has a section called: An Assessment of Time in the Verb Tenses.
 In this section, it seems obvious to me that Wallace and Porter hold to
 mutually exclusive positions. To the extent that Wallace states:
 "The nontemporal view (of Porter ??) does not easily handle the issue of
 redundancy of tenses, nor the fact that two tenses disappear outside the
 Far be it from me to question Wayne, but I can not believe I have completely
 missed Wallace's disagreement with Porter regarding Tense.
 Please straighten me out. As you can see, I sometimes get a little impatient
   *<[:O )---


I believe that you are on track in your analysis. I know for a fact that
Wallace and Porter are well aware of their differences.

Maybe it will help to tell you a little background. Porter's position is
related to an application of studies on aspect and in the field of
linguistics and particularly systemic linguistics (and, by the way, aspect is
also an issue in the study of English).

Wallace is more heavily influenced by B.M. Fanning, who was his professor at
Dallas Seminary (Wallace dedicated Beyond the Basics to Fanning and H.A.
Sturz, who was his Greek professor at Biola). At about the same time (almost
to the day) that Porter published "Verbal Aspect", Fanning published
"Approaches to Verbal Aspect in NT Greek" (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990),
where he combined linguistic theories on aspect with Greek theories on
Aktionsart. He and Porter had a kind of show-down at an SBL conference (I
think) called the Porter/Fanning Debate and their papers are published in
"Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current
Research", JSNT 80, ed. by Porter & Carson, Sheffield: Sheffield, 1993.

Simply put, in Porter's view, since the aorist is for past, present and
future action, it is a non-sequitor to say that 'past' is its minimal
semantic value. Rather, other indicators in the context supply the semantic
meaning of tense, and the so-called tenses are really aspects--that the use
of a tense-form conveys the writer's chosen perspective on a given action,
such as whether he/she intends the action to be background information,
story-line (foreground), or prominent/emphatic (frontground). Similary, the
very same action can be conveyed in the aorist, imperfect and perfect, so the
kind of action would not be a minimal semantic value of the tense-form, but
rather conveyed in lexis and context.

Fanning & Wallace with their combination of Aktionsart and Aspect have
multiple categories for each tense, such as Instantaneous Present
(Aoristic/Punctilliar Present (!)), Progressive Present, Extending-from Past
Present, Iterative Present, Costumary Present, Gnomic Present, Historical
Present, Perfective Present, Conative Present, Futuristic Present and Present
Retained in Indirect Discourse.

The multiple categories are familiar, because this is more or less insights
on the aspect discussions in linguistic studies that are incorporated into
(or transposed on) traditional discussions on tense.

Some issues that I have with Wallace/Fanning can be illustrated with just one
example: the Gnomic. Wallace lists the Gnomic as a category for the Present,
Imperfect, Aorist, Future and Perfect. The question is: why did a natural
language user select or prefer any one of these tenses for the Gnomic in a
given situation, or indeed, why would the language convey the Gnomic in all
tenses. All they have done is describe the fact that all of these tenses
appear in gnomic semantic contexts.

Well, anyway, you're right that there are differences and they are on record!

Cindy Westfall
PhD Student, Roehampton

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