[b-greek] Re: (somewhat long), Re: Mk 10:21

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (c.s.bartholomew@worldnet.att.net)
Date: Fri Sep 01 2000 - 13:42:06 EDT

Rolf, I read your clarification several times. There are some very
fundamental questions that are still unresolved and will most likely remain
unresolved since they are so fundamental that the issues will seem invisible
to many people.

on 08/30/00 8:11 AM, Rolf Furuli wrote:

> Because both aspects are viewpoints, and their role is to make things
> visible, they have some similarities. This means that both can be used in
> particular situations without any difference in meaning. Look at the
> following examples
> (6) Mark 12:41 hO OCLOS BALLEI CALKON "The crowd was dropping (PRESENT)
> (7) Mark 12:41 POLLOI PLOUSIOI EBALLON POLLA "Many rich people were
> dropping
> (IMPERFECT) large sums."
> (8) Mark 12:43 TWN BALLONTWN "Those throwing (present participle)"
> (9) Mark 12:44 PANTES (..) EBALON "All dropped (AORIST).
> How are we to account for the present, imperfect, participle, and aorist
> describing the same action? The present of (6) and the participle of (7)
> can be viewed as background information and the imperfect of (7) and the
> aorist of (8) as foreground information.

Yes, background and foreground. I have heard this before and it makes a
certain amount of sense but it still leaves a nagging question about the
research methodology. The only hard data you have to work with is
morphology. So may I pose a nasty little question? How do you know what is
background or foreground? Do you not find out what is background or
foreground by looking at "meaning" or better yet semantic structure? Meaning
at any level (word, phrase, clause, paragraph, discourse) is never hard
data. Meaning is subjective.

What is the point? The point is that we need to unmask the "empirical bluff"
which permeates this aspect research. If you set up your tests to measure
distributions of verb aspect morphological marking against meaning based
categories like background and foreground, you are measuring hard data
against a subjective framework and you will end up with subjective results.

Subjective results are not necessarily bad, they can be very useful, but the
uncritical reader needs to be made aware that all the statistics and so
forth found in the aspect research does not make this research "empirical."

> Mari's work, on the other hand, is "imperfective", it reveals the meaning
> of the fundamental linguistic units. While I disagree with her regarding
> the *meaning* of Greek aspect (I fully accept her views on English aspect),
> I will say that her *methodology* is unsurpassed. She uses a method which
> can isolate units whose meaning will be the same under every circumstances
> (it cannot be canceled). This is what she calls "semantic meaning" (No
> tautology, given the context).

At this point the theoretical gap between us is wide, very wide. The very
notion of uncancelable meaning is "foreign" to me. It flies directly in the
face of everything I have read on semantics. A school of linguistics which
assigns a fixed meaning to any formal language feature is going to have
difficulty discussing semantics with the schools of linguistics which deny
the very possibility.

There is no point in arguing about it, so let's not do that. A lot of this
material has been hashed over on b-hebrew in long threads so I am perfectly
willing to call a temporary "cease fire" with Cindy and Rolf, so we don't
make everyone mad at us by going on and on and on.

Rolf, thanks for taking the time to clarify your position.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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