IS VERBAL ASPECT A PROMINENCE INDICATOR?

That’s the title of an article in Filología Neotestamentaria 19 (2006).

The full title is:

IS VERBAL ASPECT A PROMINENCE INDICATOR? AN EVALUATION OF STANLEY PORTER’S PROPOSAL WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

The article is an incredibly important critique of Stanley Porter’s approach to Aspect & its relationship to Discourse Analysis. Its not something I’ve written on here before, but it should perhaps go without saying (since I’m linking to the article) that I find the author Jody Barnard’s analysis and criticism to be highly enlightening and important and he’s quite critical of Porter.

If you’ve been following the Aspect debate (please stop calling it “Aspect Theory” – its not a theory its a semantic feature expressed morphosyntactically), you’ll want to read this article.

It doesn’t get deeply into the question of how many Aspects there are or into Aktionsart, the main focus is the flaws with Porter’s proposals regarding Aspect and Discourse Analysis (specifically, foreground/background/frontground).

The PDF itself is HERE.

10 thoughts on “IS VERBAL ASPECT A PROMINENCE INDICATOR?

    1. Kind of.

      The problem is that when people use the term “Aspect theory” they’re actually talking about the debate regarding whether Greek has Tense or not. It should be called “Tense Theory” for one side and “Tenseless Theory” for the other.

  1. Mike,

    If I can push back a bit, I thought it was “aspect theory” because the question is whether Koine verbs morphologically convey aspect or tense. “Aspect theory” is a proposed explanation of the Greek verb that sees aspect as the primary component. So in short it’s not a theory about whether there is such a category as aspect, but whether that category is prominent in the Greek verbal system. Am I missing something here? What’s wrong with saying, “It’s a theory about a semantic feature, expressed morphosyntactically that we call aspect.”

    Regardless, thanks a ton for drawing attention to this article.

    1. Grammarians/Linguists have been saying Greek expresses Aspect since at least the 1880s (cf. for example, Buist Fannings literature survey in his monograph. More accessible is Con Campbell’s books, all of which agree with that point).

      Both Robertson 1919 (3rd edition) and Moulton (1908 2nd edition) stated that the Greek verbal system had Aspect. They simply didn’t have the term aspect. They said Aktionsart, which was used for both modern Aktionsart as well as Aspect. And they knew they were talking about different things.

      I’ve written a brief historical sketch showing that Aspect has been around much longer than Porter appears to believe:

      https://evepheso.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/on-porter%E2%80%99s-view-of-the-greek-verb-part-iii/

      The problem is that the majority of us (I speak collectively about all Greek/NT scholars of the past two decades) have taken our own definitions of Aspect and Aktionsart and read them back into the dead grammarians. They only had one word: Aktionsart, but they used it in two different ways. It was one word referring to two concepts. Now its a good thing for clarity that we now use two separate terms for these concepts. It makes things more clear. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding about Aspect being this brand new concept is pervasive because most NT scholars, even if they teach Greek, don’t know the linguistic issues involved.

        1. Simply that what people call “aspect theory” isn’t really about aspect, its about tense and that those who think its about aspect have been confused by the term – i.e. people think aspect theory is about this new semantic concept called aspect when its not new.

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