From: Randall Buth (ButhFam@compuserve.com)
Date: Tue Feb 05 2002 - 10:46:07 EST
>I have been studying NT Greek for about 1 year, and so have limited
>experience, but the latter explanation has seemed the most satisfactory to
> my understanding. The verb tenses seem best explained as rendering
>aspect rather than time.
Your questions make you a very astute one year student.
>Any comments would be appreciated, but my question is not primarily
> concerned with a discussion over aspect vs tense in verb form.
>My question is concerning the grammarians who interpret verb form as
>rendering aspect and not time. For these it seems that temporal
>are entirely contextual.
>How do these grammarians understand the
>significance of the tense augment for the aorist and imperfect? Most
>explanations indicate that the augment indicates past tense, which of
>is not consistent with an understanding of verbal form as rendering aspect
>Another question, of course, might be the significance of the imperfect if
>renders aspect but not past tense.
Your two questions, that I marked with (*) above, are the two main points
of scholars who are unhappy with the "aspect ONLY" approach.
*1: The main approach against the 'past-augment' is to "de-absolutize" it,
that is show those cases where it is less than helpful as a time marker or
where past contexts either don't use it or are orthographically ambiguous.
Main stream scholars, in turn, regard those cases as marginal, where the
system is made to bend to other concerns. *2: The imperfect, true, is
imperfective like the so-called present, so for "aspect-ONLY" one must
give it some kind of vague extra feature, e.g., a 'distancing' or
'backgrounding' of the description.
Greek truly lives and breathes 'aspect' in every clause. (Greek clearly
marks what some people think Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic are trying
to somehow mark.) However, the structural points that you raised show
the majority that Greek had just as clearly 'grammaticized' tense in its
'indicative', that is, the indicative was aspect+tense.
>And of course at bottom, my concern is to give appropriate balance to
>both form and context in my reading of the GNT.
The problem can be blamed on 'grammar' books.
The grammar books used the present indicative forms for teaching and then
took indicative names for related stems and moods.
Eventually, by teaching through doing, we might get students to orient
aorist infinitives as the 'core' verb idea.
PARADEIGMATOS CARIN (=e.g.)
"How do you say 'take' in Greek?"
ANQRWPOS A: "PWS LEGETAI 'take' EN TH ELLHNIKH ?"
ETAIROS B: " 'LABEIN'. ECQES ELABON AUTO, EGWGE.
QELEIS LABEIN AUTO, SU?
WDE, LABE AUTO! ... AUTO LAMBANEIS?"
My concern is to get students to orient to Greek directly and within Greek
itself. That is the only way that I have been successful with any language.
Greek classes would be nice if they were like grown-up kindergartens.
(You might want to peek at my Hebrew 'ulpans' on the website below.)
>All help is appreciated. And if this question is not appropriate for the
>discussion, I would be grateful for anyone who send their insights
Hopefully, you will get several answers.
Randall Buth, PhD
Director, Biblical Language Center
and Lecturer, Biblical Hebrew
Rothberg International School
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