Poll: How Well Do You Understand Aspect

For some time I’ve been rather surprised by how many people struggle to understand exactly what Aspect is.

Granted it took me looking at Aspect in three different languages before it really clicked, but it seems so obvious now, after the fact. Part of me wonders if they emphasis on Aspect with relation to discourse analysis that some have proposed is part of the problem: that is, students (and profs?) are having this idea of aspect and discourse prominence thrown at them at the same time as they struggle to understand what Aspect.

Another part of the problem is the different terminology used by different Greek grammars. Mounce’s grammar in particular definitely does not help students when they come to discussions in other texts. His terminology maybe closer to traditional English school grammar teaching, but it’s not going to help when you move to other books.

And so I’m curious. How well do you feel you understand what Aspect is?

update: it appears that all polldaddy polls are down right now. hopefully this will be fixed. Please come back and vote later, I’d appreciate it — or leave a comment here!

12 thoughts on “Poll: How Well Do You Understand Aspect

  1. I believe I understood it better before I ever read what Linguists had to say about it! Then came terminological confusion arising from inability or unwillingness of Linguists to settle upon consensual descriptive designations. I think too that it is complicated in ancient Greek by the process of changing usage of the perfect tense and the overlapping usage of perfect, aorist, and present tenses in particular verbs. I really think it is more important to know (connaître) the verbs than to know (savoir) what aspectual theorists have to say.

  2. I agree with Carl Conrad.

    So far, in the cases of classical Hebrew and classical Arabic, aspect prominent analyses of the verbal systems have confused more than clarified. But I think that may change once linguists agree among themselves a bit more.

  3. I was teaching tenseforms in my Greek class today, and I enjoyed the thrill of telling my students to cross out pages 66,67 and 68 of the textbook, and write “RUBBISH” across them! Unfortunately Duff (The Elements of New Testament Greek) completely misunderstands aspect, and makes a real hash of the chapter. It’s still the most used Greek textbook in the UK though…

    1. I’m not sure most people realize that. Generally, the discussion has only convoluted things in a way that has made the issue significantly more confusing that it actually is.

      1. I haven’t read anything about this, but I suspect that the conflation of perfect and aorist in classical Latin is not only comparable but probably has some impact on similar conflation in Koine Greek in the Hellenistic era.

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