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Tenses

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Tenses

Postby mreeds » Thu Mar 02, 2006 5:49 pm

Could some one give me a straight answer to whether these references are correct representations of tenses?


[PERFECT TENSE]

[SYNTAX OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK, James A. Brooks, Carlton L. Winbery, University Press of America, Lanham, Md., 1988, pp. 104-5]:

"The perfect tense expresses perfective action. Perfective action involves a present state which has resulted from a past action. The present state is a continuing state; the past action is a completed action.

Intensive Perfect

Remember that the perfect conveys the idea of a present state resulting from a past action. This use of the perfect emphasizes the present state of being, the continuing result, the finished product, the fact that a thing is..."

[The Language of the New Testament, Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, Chas. Scribner's Sons, N.Y., 1965, p. 293]:

"The Greek perfect differs from the Greek aorist in that it emphasizes the continuing result of the action which was completed in past time...



[AORIST TENSE]

[SYNTAX OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK, James A. Brooks, Carlton L. Winbery, University Press of America, Lanham, Md., 1988, pp. 98, 118-120, 111-112]:

[p. 98]

"The aorist tense expresses punctiliar action. Indeed the word aoristos [aorist] means without limit, unqualified, undefined - which of course is the significance of punticiliar action. Only in the indicative mood [as in both verbs in Jn 3:16 main clause] does the aorist also indicate past time."

It often corresponds to the English perfect (I have loosed).

So the aorist is said to be "simple occurrence" or "summary occurrence", without regard for the amount of time taken to accomplish the action. This tense is also often referred to as the 'punctiliar' tense. 'Punctiliar' in this sense means 'viewed as a single, collective whole,' a "one-point-in-time" action in which from an external point of view the action is completed - no longer requiring further time to elapse, although it may actually have taken place over a period of time. In the indicative mood the aorist tense denotes action that occurred in the past time, often translated like the English simple past tense.



[PRESENT TENSE]

Greek grammar books often stipulate that present tense expresses progressive or linear action but then they add the proviso that such action is more specifically defined by context and modifiers such as adverbs, phrases and conjunctions - often to the extent that it is neither progressive nor linear.

[Compare A. T. Robertson, "A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 864, 879]:

"It is not wise therefore to define the present indicative as denoting 'action in progress' like the imperfect as Burton does, for he has to take it back on p. 9 in the discussion of the 'Aoristic Present,' which he calls a 'distinct departure from the prevailing use of the present tense to denote action in progress.' In sooth, it is no 'departure' at all. The idiom is as old as the tense itself...

It has already been seen that the durative sense does not monopolize the 'present' tense, though it more frequently denotes linear action. The verb and the context must decide."

So the key common denominator relative to present tense verb usage is that the action is to be viewed as internal as opposed to external wherein the former has in view action from within as it occurs, and the latter has in view action which is completed or action which has not yet occurred.

An examination of the various present tenses used in the New Testament Books will corroborate and clarify this:


[From: "Syntax of New Testament Greek" in {} brackets, Brooks & Winbery, 1979, University Press, Lanham, Md, pp. 82-90]:

A) {DESCRIPTIVE PRESENT

This category is sometimes referred to as the progressive present of description. This use of the present describes what is now actually taking place. It might even be called the pictorial present. It depicts an action in progress.}


B) {DURATIVE PRESENT

Some grammarians call this the progressive present. An action or a state of being which began in the past is described as continuing until the present. The past and the present are gathered up in a single affirmation. An adverb of time is often used with this kind of present, but a verb alone is sometimes sufficient as in the final example given below. This use of the Greek present is usually translated by the English present perfect. Although impractical to bring out in English translation, the full meaning is that something has been and still is.}


C) {ITERATIVE PRESENT

The iterative present depicts an action which is repeated at various intervals. It might be illustrated by a series of dots (....) rather than a straight line (_______). Sometimes the repetition takes the form of a local, as opposed to universal, custom or practice. It is necessary to distinguish this use from those statements of universal truth called 'gnomic'...}


D) {TENDENTIAL PRESENT

The present tense is sometimes used to indicate an action being contemplated, or proposed, or attempted but which has not actually taken place. The name is derived from the intention to produce the desired result. Other grammarians call this the conative present or the inchoative present. An auxiliary verb such as 'attempt,' 'try,' 'go,' or 'begin' may be used in the translation.}



E) {GNOMIC PRESENT

The gnomic present is used to express a universal truth, a maxim, a commonly accepted fact, a state or condition which perpetually exists, and a very widespread practice or custom. The time element is remote even in the indicative mood because the action or state or truth is true for all time - the past and future as well as the present. Such words as 'always,' 'ever,' and 'never' are often used in the translation.

In attempting to determine whether a present which depicts a custom or practice is iterative or gnomic, the following should be taken into consideration. If the custom or practice is local in nature and/or is confined to a comparatively brief period, the present is iterative. If the custom or practice is widespread and/or extends over a comparatively long period of time the present is gnomic. It should also be remembered that the iterative present expresses linear action, the gnomic punctiliar action.}


F) {HISTORICAL PRESENT

For the sake of vividness or dramatic effect a writer sometimes imagines that he and/or his readers are present and are witnessing a past event. He narrates the past event as though it were actually taking place. The present tense is used for this purpose. The historical present is frequently found in Mark and John. It is ordinarily translated into English by the simple past tense}



G) {FUTURISTIC PRESENT

The present tense is sometimes used for confident assertions about what is going to take place in the future. The event, although it has not yet occurred, is looked upon as so certain that it is thought of as already occurring. The futuristic present is often used in prophecies. A test for this use is the ability to translate the Greek present with an English future, though the future, will not always be used in the translation.}



H) {AORISTIC PRESENT

What is here called the aoristic present and what some grammarians call the specific or effective present involves a simple expression of undefined action in the present time without any of the more developed implications of the gnomic, historical, or futuristic presents. The aoristic present presents the action as a simple event or as a present fact without any reference to its progress. By the nature of the case the verb "eimi" is often an aoristic present.}
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Postby Chris Weimer » Thu Mar 02, 2006 11:26 pm

I disagree - the English perfect seems to fit the Greek perfect perfectly. Think of the subtle difference between the perfect and the perfect progressive of to walk: I have walked : I have been walking.
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Postby mreeds » Fri Mar 03, 2006 4:17 am

Chris, I appreciate your response so why then do these individuals make such statements? I am trying to understand the differences in these tenses
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Postby mreeds » Fri Mar 03, 2006 4:20 am

Chris, are you disagreeing with this conclusion?


It (the aorist tense) often corresponds to the English perfect (I have loosed).
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Postby annis » Fri Mar 03, 2006 1:39 pm

Last edited by annis on Fri Mar 03, 2006 2:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby JulianJ » Fri Mar 03, 2006 2:25 pm

A small disagreement form a non-expert here. I believe that the aorist is undefined, i.e. it doesn't matter when the action happened. With the indicative, however, it should be translated as a past tense but remain as undefined as possible. In the example above, I believe that "after his slave escaped" would be the correct translation as "after his slave had escaped" is clearly a perfect (completed) action and not true to the intent of the aorist. This opinion pertains to koine. Since Greek makes the distinction between aorist and perfect it is important that we preserve that as much as possible in translation.

Julian
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Postby annis » Fri Mar 03, 2006 2:41 pm

JulianJ wrote:Since Greek makes the distinction between aorist and perfect it is important that we preserve that as much as possible in translation.


As much as possible, certainly, but not more. There's a strong impedance between Greek and English here. English can use the past perfect as a past anterior, that is, it can represent past action in relation to an already past tense verb. In Greek that role goes naturally to the aorist. Sometimes, to capture the past anterior, we are forced to sacrifice some aspectual detail.

I know there are better Greek examples showing this. I'll hunt some down and post them later.

Edit: I should also add that the English perfect forms are highly polysemous, that is, the thingie we call the "perfect" has several significances, not all of them aspectual.
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Postby swiftnicholas » Fri Mar 03, 2006 6:33 pm

annis wrote:When talking about Greek grammar, and especially when talking about the perfect, it is very important to be very clear about what period of Greek you mean. Homer's use of the perfect is quite different from Attic, enough that I consider the use of perfect forms the most radical difference of substance between Homeric and later Greek (well, that and the article).


That's very interesting; I don't have much knowledge of post-Homeric Greek. Can you clarify that, or is it very complicated? Is it a matter of become more or less complex/flexible? or just different? Could I explain it to myself by reading Smyth on the perfect?
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Postby Paul » Sat Mar 04, 2006 3:33 am

annis wrote:English can use the past perfect as a past anterior, that is, it can represent past action in relation to an already past tense verb. In Greek that role goes naturally to the aorist. Sometimes, to capture the past anterior, we are forced to sacrifice some aspectual detail.


Will,

Many grammars treat "past perfect" (pluperfect) and "anterior past" as identical. Before giving some examples, can you clarify what you mean by these terms?

Cordially,

Paul
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Postby annis » Sat Mar 04, 2006 4:09 am

Paul wrote:Many grammars treat "past perfect" (pluperfect) and "anterior past" as identical. Before giving some examples, can you clarify what you mean by these terms?


They do? Grammars for which language? It makes sense for English since I imagine that's how the past perfect is most often used. For Greek I think of a past perfect as simply a past stative (though starting to bleed into tense-y senses in later Greek).

I may be misusing the terminology, but what I mean is that in English in a subordinate clause we may use the past perfect to indicate the action occurred before the past-tense action of the main verb.

So, in "I was singing because he left" the time distance between the leaving and the singing could be quite brief. But "I was singing because he had left" makes a stronger implication that the leaving was some time before the singing.

In any case, see Smyth 1940 and 1943 for further examples of where when Greek uses the aorist a perfect may be the best translation choice in English.
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Postby annis » Sat Mar 04, 2006 4:10 am

swiftnicholas wrote:That's very interesting; I don't have much knowledge of post-Homeric Greek. Can you clarify that, or is it very complicated? Is it a matter of become more or less complex/flexible? or just different? Could I explain it to myself by reading Smyth on the perfect?


Not Smyth, I think.

Ah. How is your French? Chantraine wrote an entire book on the subject, from Homeric to Hellenistic. Palmer touches on it in The Greek Language
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Postby swiftnicholas » Sat Mar 04, 2006 2:49 pm

annis wrote:Ah. How is your French? Chantraine wrote an entire book on the subject, from Homeric to Hellenistic. Palmer touches on it in The Greek Language


I'll look for Palmer. My French is mediocre (to be nice :)), but if he writes as clearly as in the Grammaire Homerique, then I'd love to check it out, both because the topic seems very interesting, and because the only way I practice French these days is when it is about Greek :) or maybe an article in Le Monde. I might be able to find it in the library; is it Morphologie historique du grec?

And on the topic of Chantraine, does anybody know about the legalities of translating a work still under copyright? Do you need permission? I've often thought that some chapters from Grammaire Homerique would be very helpful, esp those on the Moods and the Participle. I'm not sure I'd be the person for the task, but it was something I've been curious about.
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Postby annis » Sat Mar 04, 2006 3:09 pm

swiftnicholas wrote: is it Morphologie historique du grec?


Nope, Histoire du parfait grec.
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Postby swiftnicholas » Sat Mar 04, 2006 3:20 pm

annis wrote:Nope, Histoire du parfait grec.


Ah, I didn't see that listed in the library catalog, but I'll ask a librarian anyway, because I don't always navigate the search engines well.
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Postby Chris Weimer » Sat Mar 04, 2006 4:30 pm

annis wrote:They do? Grammars for which language? It makes sense for English since I imagine that's how the past perfect is most often used. For Greek I think of a past perfect as simply a past stative (though starting to bleed into tense-y senses in later Greek).

That's how Latin primarily uses it also. Then again, I feel Latin's tenses are far closer to English than Greek...
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