From: Mark Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue Mar 06 2001 - 12:07:05 EST
Yet, because the overwhelming majority of
>aorist indicatives are past, there is some pastness in the meaning of
>the aorist, which may be cancelable. In a neutral context (if there is
>no indication otherwise) it is considered past. Yet perfectivity is more
>central, because the temporal meaning can be canceled, but not
To paraphrase Roman Jakobson, "we must take care
not to make the statistical preference the grammatical requirement."
(quoted by Mari Olsen)
I note that Mari Olsen takes the Aorist and Present as "tenseless" for
the very reason that in some cases their temporal element can be cancelled.
In fact, she says:
In the Greek chapter I address the analyses of Porter 1989
(who claims Greek forms are all aspect and not tense) and Fanning 1990
(who analyzes all forms as both tense and aspect, except the future,
which he says is strictly tense). I suggest that the SEMANTIC meaning
of the forms has both, but not both in all forms. Specifically I
claim that the present and aorist are 'tenseless', encoding imperfective and
perfective aspect, respectively. I suggest that the imperfect is a
past imperfective, the pluperfect a past perfective, and the perfect a
present perfective. The future I analyze as tense and not aspect.
I rather like the contribution of Prototype Theory to Linguistics, what
little I have read so far. I am far from one to disagree with Dr. Olsen, but
I just can't seem to buy her idea that if in SOME instances a temporal
element can be cancelled, then the temporal element of the tense(for her,
Aorist and Present) is not part of the verb form SEMANTICALLY.
Some suggest that 85 percent of Aorist's are past referring, but it is more
than that if you include the temporal idea that the remaining 15 percent
often INCLUDE the past ALSO (omnitemporal use, for example). This was my
concern when I first questioned Decker on Olsen.
If the Aspect is more prominent in Greek, it is surprising to me that more
Aorists do not appear in non-past referring situations. To state that the
Perfective Aspect tends toward pastness seems correct, but I think that
simply because the pastness can be cancelled in some instances does not
render the temporal element of the Aorist non-existent.
How does Prototype Theory address this issue of cancelability as it relates
to the semantics of a tense form?
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