Remoteness & Tense

Remoteness & Tense

Postby MAubrey » May 15th, 2011, 5:55 pm

With the discussion of about Porter's view of aspect and Campbell's view of aspect being discussed elsewhere currently, I thought it might be worthwhile to make some of my own comments. These are somewhat scattered notes from thoughts I've had on the subject over the past four years or so. I've been intending to write them down and it might be worthwhile here.

In principle, I have nothing against the possibility of tenseless languages. My own protest against the view for Greek involves a number of interrelated factors.

So the points that follow essentially function as a sort of "What one would need to explain in order to convince me." To anyone who might hold to to a tenseless view, I would encourage you to view these issues as a useful starting point for dialogue. How do you view these four points below? Are they issues that you have thought about (one or two or all)? Do you have a perspective on them? How can we meaningfully discuss the question?

Morphological Factors
1) The ἐ- prefix* that appears on the aorist and imperfect verb-forms** cannot be easily ignored for what it is: the marker for past tense. Some want to label it as the marker of remoteness, but if that's the case, then why does it not appear in the non-indicative moods? Surely the subjective and optative expressions of potentiality are equally remote as indicative forms, but only in a different way. Now I could imagine *tense* being distinguished in the realis vs. the irrealis moods, but its hard to see why such a more abstract category like remoteness would be distinguished in such a way. Why should it only be an indicative category?

2) Also if we are to prefer remoteness as the correct semantic category over against tense, then why is the future not marked with either the of the supposed "remoteness markers": either the ἐ- prefix or the "secondary" person-number endings. So if the future is not remote, then why not? If tense is merely a metaphorical extension of spatial remoteness (in principle, a perfectly acceptable idea), why is it also not remote? For some, the inflectional form labeled "future" merely marks "expectation." Why isn't expectation remote?

Diachronic Factors
1) Greek has a long history. At the time of the New Testament, we're talking already over 1,500 years (1,800 years?). PIE didn't have tense. That's generally agreed upon. But those who reject the category of tense either entirely or partially must then explain to me how it is possible that over the course of those 1,500 years the semantic category of remoteness never grammaticalized into tense. I find that idea that it has not highly dubious.

2) If there way anytime in the history of Greek that could be described as not having tense, Mycenaean Greek would be the better option. In some sense, its more believable for the Classical period when the optative was a far more viable inflectional category. The optative is the only non-indicative mood that does not take the "primary" person-number endings and essentially functioned as a "more remote" version of the subjunctive. But even then, the optative still never requires the augment. This separation of the augment from the secondary endings is quite notable. I might go as far as to say that the "secondary" person-number endings did, indeed, mark remoteness at one point in time, but the ἐ- prefix marked past tense. Eventually with the decline of the optative, the "secondary" person-number endings were reanalyzed by speakers of the language as marking past tense. Variation in the appearance of the augment is then of little relevance for demonstrating that there is no tense because the secondary ending contributed to fill the roll as well.

Notes:
* I find the term augment not particularly useful for description. Labeling it according to its function seems to me to be more useful: past tense prefix.
** The term tense forms that has recently come int vogue grates my ears. Some of those who use it do not even believe Greek has tense. It confuses the issue and will continue to lead students into thinking that Greek is a tense prominent language. We all know it isn't.
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Re: Remoteness & Tense

Postby RandallButh » May 31st, 2011, 5:52 am

χαῖρε Μιχαηλ

The post is on target.
We can even add a number.
100% on target.

>I find that idea that it [remoteness] has not [developed tense] highly dubious. Highly dubious.

Ναί, δύσπιστον.
βεβαίως.

And in support--when the imperfect is functioning in an indicative (not irrealis) context, it is about as close to 100% time oriented as can be imagined. Shame on dissemblers who would call such a correleation 'non-temporal' ! If they want to build their own mystical imaginary world, they are free. But students should be warned that such is not the road into Greek.
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Re: Remoteness & Tense

Postby RandallButh » May 31st, 2011, 8:12 am

PS:

Notes:
* I find the term augment not particularly useful for description. Labeling it according to its function seems to me to be more useful: past tense prefix.


The Greeks looked at its form and called it αὔξησις 'increase'. Since it's their language, they get to name things. But 'past-prefix' is good for English.


** The term tense forms that has recently come int vogue grates my ears. Some of those who use it (e.g. Porter) do not even believe Greek has tense. It confuses the issue and will continue to lead students into thinking that Greek is a tense prominent language. We all know it isn't.
MAubrey


Yes, aspect is everywhere in Greek. Anyone who encodes Greek is conscious of choosing aorist and παρατατική forms in every sentence. But let aspect-only folk stew in their own metalanguage.
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Re: Remoteness & Tense

Postby MAubrey » May 31st, 2011, 9:56 am

RandallButh wrote:The Greeks looked at its form and called it αὔξησις 'increase'. Since it's their language, they get to name things. But 'past-prefix' is good for English.


The problem is that its not particularly meaningful and also far, far from transparent. I do indeed call it αὔξησις in Greek, and were I involved in teaching Greek I'd want to do it immersion and then I'd definitely call it αὔξησις, but it's not particularly useful in a linguistics setting where I eat, sleep and breathe, so I'm going to let the broader discipline determine the metalanguage. ;)

More broadly speaking though, in original post, I'm trying to ask some open questions with the hope of dialogue with "the other side."
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Re: Remoteness & Tense

Postby RandallButh » May 31st, 2011, 11:30 am

The 'otherside' needs to answer why they have a problem with 'e' marking 100% of imperfects as past, why the historical present could break its aspectual character without upsetting them (see other thread), why the future isn't used in the past, why the aorist isn't used in the future (or very very very rarely if so), why a clause never says καὶ ἦλθεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος αὔριον, and why the Greeks called the system χρόνος.
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Re: Remoteness & Tense

Postby MAubrey » May 31st, 2011, 2:32 pm

RandallButh wrote:The 'otherside' needs to answer why they have a problem with 'e' marking 100% of imperfects as past,


Most concede that the imperfect is the closest verbform there is to a past tense. I, like you, would really enjoy to hear

RandallButh wrote:why the historical present could break its aspectual character without upsetting them (see other thread),


Con has stated his agreement with this as the case. I doubt that it upsets him though...and whether Porter still holds that it does not 22 years on is unknown (<--believe it or not, that's a relatively chunk of time and sometimes people's minds change). Considering that Steve Runge's HP paper was only recently presented, I'd like to wait and hear what other tense-only people would say about it, too. Until they explicitly reject it, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

RandallButh wrote:why the future isn't used in the past, why the aorist isn't used in the future (or very very very rarely if so),


Well, in Porter's system you can't express expectation for something that's already happened. So that's that. in Con's system, the future is exactly that future tense and thus it's a non-factor.

RandallButh wrote:why a clause never says καὶ ἦλθεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος αὔριον, and why the Greeks called the system χρόνος.


This is a good question that I'd like to see answered as well.
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Re: Remoteness & Tense

Postby RandallButh » May 31st, 2011, 5:20 pm

Con has stated his agreement with this as the case. I doubt that it upsets him though...


It should. And students should be aware that the historical present is one of the main 'hooks' to catch unsuspecting Greek students for 'aspect only'. They claim to 'falsify' tense and then bamboozle the unsuspecting as if there were no similar problem with aspect.

and whether Porter still holds that it does not 22 years on is unknown (<--believe it or not, that's a relatively chunk of time and sometimes people's minds change). Considering that Steve Runge's HP paper was only recently presented,


The perfectiveness of the historical present is not a new idea. It had to have been ignored and suppressed by those doing 'aspect only'. Pretending that it wasn't true and hoping that people might not be able to define aspect accurately enough so as not to see through the smoke.

I'd like to wait and hear what other tense-only people would say about it, too. Until they explicitly reject it, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.


Who are 'tense-only'? Is this ironic inverse-speak?
See the other thread where McKay specifically proposes imperfectivity for the natural context of the historical present!
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Re: Remoteness & Tense

Postby MAubrey » May 31st, 2011, 10:39 pm

RandallButh wrote:It should, since the historical present is one of the main 'hooks' to catch unsuspecting Greek students for 'aspect only'. They claim to 'falsify' tense and then bamboozle the unsuspecting as if there were no similar problem with aspect.


Randall, I'm somewhat perplexed. Do you actually want to convince people who hold to an aspect-only view??? Because the kind of polemic statements like: "'hooks' to catch unsuspecting Greek students..." aren't particularly helpful on that front. They really just make it so that only only do the aspect-only people won't like with you, but they may also stop liking you. My experience has been that its typically difficult to convince someone of your view when that person doesn't like you. It's, frankly, counterproductive.

We can't arrive at a consensus if everyone hates each other.

RandallButh wrote:The perfectiveness of the historical present is not a new idea. It had to have been ignored and suppressed by those doing 'aspect only'. Pretending that it wasn't true and hoping that people might not be able to define aspect accurately enough so as not to see through the smoke.


Quite. It isn't a new idea. But Steve's paper is a new argument. As for the rest of your comments here, well, again: we can't arrive at a consensus if everyone hates each other.

RandallButh wrote:Who are 'tense-only'? Is this ironic inverse-speak?


Nope. Just a typo.
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Re: Remoteness & Tense

Postby RandallButh » June 1st, 2011, 2:05 am

Also good points, though it is not 'hate' to say that 'aspect-only' is wrong, period. Aspect-only is also misleading, and distracting for students.
The conclusions are not for convincing 'aspect-only' people but more for students who are confused about what aspect is.
Yes, it would also be nice to hear aspect-only folk answer the questions above.

For discussion I'll stand by:
The 'otherside' needs to answer why they have a problem with 'e' marking 100% of imperfects as past, why the historical present could break its aspectual character without upsetting them (see other thread), why the future isn't used in the past, why the aorist isn't used in the future (or very very very rarely if so), why a clause never says καὶ ἦλθεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος αὔριον, and why the Greeks called the system χρόνος.


On the other hand, students need to hear that other scholars have understood the topic very well and that most, like myself, consider the 'aspect-only' view non-tenable. That is academese for "Wrong". The biggest problem in the NT field was simply that the metalanguage of Greek studies from last century needed to translate itself into the metalanguage of linguistics that was developing a couple of generations ago. The terminologies in Robertson and BDF were out of date. Fanning was sufficient for updating that without misaligning the language. Comrie 1976 had already indexed and organized discussion in the linguistics field.

So my answers for students have become short:
learn what aspect is, (according to general linguists)
study the Greek historical present, (where it is against the time AND against the aspect of its 'plain' use)
see if Porterite views have been presenting the semantic evidence fairly.
If this was said plainly twenty years ago there might not be a problem in NT Greek studies. Students could get on with learning what linguists say about aspect and see how that intersects with Greek.

It was a breath of fresh air to hear Con Campbell agree that the historical presents were in contexts that called for perfectives. I would expect that to percolate for some time and I would not be surprised to hear him break from the 'remoteness' Greek verb position in the 'near' future. He may want to re-write a second edition of his book.

On 'new arguments', I don't know how to search the archives very well but you can see the 'historical present against the aspect' argument mentioned in the following older posts.
from over a decade ago (Aug 2000) I found:
http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/test-arch ... /1716.html
It focuses on 'imperfect against the grain' but includes the historical present in the argument.

more recently (2007, 2008):
http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-gr ... 42909.html
http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-gr ... 48125.html

And see the other thread where Kenneth McKay explicitly gets the ironic-aspect of the historical present exactly backwards, that is, wrong.

Students should be directed to follow up work like Fanning's and Runge's.
People can do real aspect studies, real discourse studies, real stylistic studies, real aktionsart studies.
And maybe most importantly, if they learn to speak Greek they will read ten times the Greek that they do now.
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Re: Remoteness & Tense

Postby MAubrey » June 24th, 2011, 2:53 pm

RandallButh wrote:Also good points, though it is not 'hate' to say that 'aspect-only' is wrong, period. Aspect-only is also misleading, and distracting for students.
The conclusions are not for convincing 'aspect-only' people but more for students who are confused about what aspect is.
Yes, it would also be nice to hear aspect-only folk answer the questions above.


I understand where you're coming from. We're on the same side, but our priorities are different, I think. You are first and foremost focused on students and pedagogy. And that makes perfect sense considering your position and your main career focus. For me, beyond a bit of sporatic tutoring of seminary students perplexed by their introductory textbooks, I have never been involved in teaching Greek to students, so I generally don't make these sorts of pedagogical issues a high priority. I'm sure that at some point that will change in the future, but for the time being, I'm primarily interested in dialoging with the other side.
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