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Primary tenses

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Primary tenses

Postby jeidsath » Sat Feb 27, 2016 11:19 pm

Sidgwick's Introduction to Prose Composition in §18.

He describes the various types of conditionals:

1) If you are well, I am glad. εἰ εὖ ἔχεις, γέγηθα.
2) a. (Near or practical supposition). If you come, I shall come too. ἐὰν ἔλθῃς, ἀφίξομαι κἀγώ.
2) b. (Remote or speculative supposition). If I were to do it, I should be mad. εἰ τοῦτο δρῴην, μαινοίμην ἄν.
3) (Privative). If I had gone there, I should have found him. εἰ ἐκεῖσε ἀπῆλθον, εὗρον ἂν αὐτόν.

In §18, he is discussing how these change under Oratio Obliqua using ὅτι in historical sequence:

1) εἶπεν ὅτι γεγηθὼς εἴη εἰ εὖ ἔχοι.
2) a. εἶπον ὅτι εἰ ἔλθοι ἀφιξοίμην κἀγώ.

Then he states "(2) (b) and (3) not being primary would not be changed after ὅτι."

I take this to mean that Present, Future, and Perfect become optative in sequence, but that Imperfect, Aorist, and Pluperfect do not.

This is probably too philosophical, but why is Perfect a primary tense in Greek, becoming γεγηθὼς εἴη in (1)? It uses primary endings, but that seems to be more a consequence that a reason.

More generally, why does Greek split the tenses into primary and secondary in the way that it does?
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby daivid » Sat Feb 27, 2016 11:53 pm

jeidsath wrote:This is probably too philosophical, but why is Perfect a primary tense in Greek, becoming γεγηθὼς εἴη in (1)? It uses primary endings, but that seems to be more a consequence that a reason.


In English the perfect tense is more usually described as the Present Perfect because it is all about your present state.

I have eaten lunch means your stomach is now full.
I have learnt Ancient Greek means you now know Ancient Greek.

You would not use the present perfect if you eat lunch yesterday but are now starving.
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby seneca2008 » Sun Feb 28, 2016 12:29 am

The perfect in Ancient Greek is a present state that results from a past action, so it naturally goes with the present tense in primary sequence.
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby mwh » Sun Feb 28, 2016 2:34 am

As to why the primary/secondary split, well, don’t other languages do the same?
If you’re well, I’m glad -> I said that if you were well, I was glad.
If you come, I’ll come too -> I said that if you came, I’d come too.
If the leading verb is past (impf, aor, pluperf), verbs dependent on it are liable to be affected.
It’s clearer in other modern languages (only more like Latin, which dropped optative and used subjunctive instead).
The question might go deeper, though. Is it only IE languages? It simply doesn't apply in Chinese or Japanese, the only non-IE languages I have enough acquaintance with to say.

2b is already optative, so there’s nothing to change.
If 3 became optative, it would lose its pastness and look like 2b.

Imperfects and pluperfects in the optative would look like (and function as) presents and perfects; they’re exclusively indicative tenses.
Aorist optatives lose their pastness, see above; aspectual not temporal.

Remember that dependent verbs in secondary sequence don’t have to turn optative (and in koine generally don't).
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby Hylander » Sun Feb 28, 2016 3:06 am

Doesn't happen in Russian.

Daivid and Seneca explained why the perfect behaves like a "primary" tense, which I think was Joel's question.
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby jeidsath » Sun Feb 28, 2016 6:54 am

Thank you! In an attempt to get the Textbooks Forum started up, I have posted my attempt over there at Sidgwick's Greek Prose Composition Lesson I (this is the textbook one level up from First Greek Writer).
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:33 am

Doesn't happen in Finnish. I suppose it's an Indo-European thing?
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby daivid » Sun Feb 28, 2016 3:31 pm

If you quote someone in the past you could just use the tense used:
He said "I am working"
or you can move the tense of the sentence quoted back further in time:
He said he was working
If it was in the past to start with in English you can put it into a super-past so
"I was working". becomes "He said he had been working."
I called it a super-past even though it is pluperfect officially because the English pluperfect most of the time is not behaving as true perfect at all.

I am at the moment working on both indirect discourse and conditionals. I also have not yet encountered a Greek pluperfect outside a textbook (NB I used the present perfect = I at this present moment lack experience of the pluperfect = a present tense).
Hence I might have got this all wrong.

But aren't primary tenses the ones that can drop back in time?
In that case its obvious why the aorist and the imperfect are not primary is because they can't be pushed further back in time.
This because unlike English Ancient Greek lacks a super past. The Ancient Greek pluperfect is not a super-past but a perfect in the past.

So makes this issue confusing for those of us who are English native speakers is that the the perfect in English gets used for other things than as a true perfect. And while the present perfect in English often does act as a true perfect even that tense gets drafted into other uses.
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby seneca2008 » Sun Feb 28, 2016 4:23 pm

I advise against making this thread too complicated. The pluperfect is rarely used in Ancient Greek. In subordinate time clauses where you might use it in English in Greek it is natural to use the aorist.
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby daivid » Sun Feb 28, 2016 5:09 pm

seneca2008 wrote:I advise against making this thread too complicated. The pluperfect is rarely used in Ancient Greek. In subordinate time clauses where you might use it in English in Greek it is natural to use the aorist.

The point is that English has a super-past which Greek lacks. As you say the aorist will normally be used when one event proceeds another but simple sequence is not something comes under a strict definition of a perfect.

In as sense it is immaterial why Greek lacks a tense that defines one past action as taking place before another also in the past.
My suspicion is that it is because the pluperfect will only be used when the effect of a past action is still active at some later point in time - ie a true perfect.
It could be that the Greek pluperfect was occasionally used like an English pluperfect but given that it was so little used in practice Ancient Greek lacks that option.

So, surely, it is not that Ancient Greeks decided to treat the aorist and imperfect differently it is that lacking a tense like the English pluperfect (or if the Greek pluperfect could be used thus - their not bothering to do so) they simply had no other option?
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Mon Feb 29, 2016 8:15 pm

Seems that this question is about the classification scheme for conditional expressions, but all the discussion is about the terms primary and secondary. The latter question has been answered.

Don't get bogged down trying to make the metalanguage logical or consistent. In the long run the metalanguage will be forgotten and ignored. It is a heuristic tool. Some will find the classification scheme for conditional expressions more trouble than it is worth. The gray areas between the categories are evidence that the categories don't adequately represent how the language functions. Just this morning I ran into 19th Century NT scholars squabbling over which category some conditional expression falls into.
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby Hylander » Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:15 pm

"Primary" and "secondary" aren't just limited to conditional sentences--these terms relate to how subordinate clauses in indirect speech are handled, as well as main clauses in indirect speech introduced by οτι. These are useful classifications, and readers of Greek ignore them at the risk of failing to understand subtle differences of meaning.
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby daivid » Tue Mar 01, 2016 1:48 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:Seems that this question is about the classification scheme for conditional expressions, but all the discussion is about the terms primary and secondary. The latter question has been answered.

Don't get bogged down trying to make the metalanguage logical or consistent. In the long run the metalanguage will be forgotten and ignored. It is a heuristic tool. Some will find the classification scheme for conditional expressions more trouble than it is worth. The gray areas between the categories are evidence that the categories don't adequately represent how the language functions. Just this morning I ran into 19th Century NT scholars squabbling over which category some conditional expression falls into.

Well yes, real language is messy and it is well to keep in mind that the real language that we will encounter - that is to say texts written by ancient Greek native speakers will not fit perfectly any classification scheme we devise. But what is the alternative?

I don't think there is any aspect about any language that is truly difficult - every bit of it in fact is easy taken in isolation - it is when the learner has all of those aspects thrown at them altogether that they are overwhelmed.

Classification allows the language to be split up into digestible chunks so that the learner can given an amount they can handle without being overwhelmed. It is also helpful for the learner to have these chunks distinct so when they encounter something they can say to themselves "Ah that's one of those - I know how to deal with that." This allows them to keep from being overwhelmed by the whole complexity of the language.

And yes it is possible to teach without metalanguage. However, that only works if the teacher or the writer of a textbook has a very clear classification scheme in mind. That way the learner can be fed subsets of the language so gradually building up what the learner can handle. Such intuitive methods do nor really escape the need for classification they just keep it all hidden behind the scenes.

And yes, if we had a time machine and were to ask Xenophon as to why he treats primary and secondary tenses differently he would probably find the question rather silly. It has also come up several times how Xenophon writes things that Smyth would not approve of.

But metalanguage isn't for native speakers who learnt the language as a child and have the native speakers right to break the rules of their own language. It's for us.

And if you are going to throw out something as broad brush as primary and secondary what are you going to leave?
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Re: Primary tenses

Postby mwh » Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:02 am

On conditionals, Sidgwick may not give the clearest presentation. Might be worth looking at North&Hillard, or Smyth. — Or even me, in separate thread: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=64823

There are no “gray areas.” Greek usage (as distinct from the metalanguage applied to it) is consistent and clear-cut.
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