Where Do You Stand on Greek Verb Tense-Forms – Take the Poll (Gupta)

In a couple of weeks I am gearing up to teach NT Greek. I have generally just defaulted to the Mounce approach to keep things simple when it comes to the meaning and significance of tense, but the whole Porter-Fanning Debate has attracted my interest in the last few years. I am curious how all of you approach and think about the tense-form issues. Take the poll and let’s see where folks stand.

Which of the following best represents the significance of (indicative) tense-forms in Greek? (the poll below is modified from a table by Andrew Naselli, “A Brief Introduction to Verbal Aspect in NT Greek,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 12 [2007] 17-28, at 20)


10 thoughts on “Where Do You Stand on Greek Verb Tense-Forms – Take the Poll (Gupta)

  1. In which mood? 🙂 I tend to think that aspect is primary outside of the indicative, but within the indicative usually (or perhaps often, certainly not always) has a combination of time and aspect in the tense meaning. I didn’t see that option on the poll. 🙂

    1. Hi Mike, not sure if you are being serious or sarcastic, but I am trying to be conventional in a very complex discussion and I wanted the poll to be relatively clear to a wider audience even if there are infelicities in the terminology I chose. And, again, I was following what I thought was Naselli’s helpful and clear chart. I think most of the people who took the poll got the point even if my technical knowledge and terminology are not up to snuff.

      1. Nijay, I’m quite serious. This is too important a topic for sarcasm. We just need to move forward toward a more transparent set of terminology in conjunction with the morphological structure of the verb.

      2. The problem is on this poll is that the terminology is not conventional at all. “Tense” means location in time according to most, but here it’s being used to mean in a minority sense something like the various verb forms in the indicative. Even the notion of “location in time” has to be nuanced because almost all languages with “tense” commandeer the tenses in certain specific contexts for purposes not directly related to location in time (though arguably in a cognitively plausible extension of it).

        Another problem is that definitions of Aktionsart and aspect as objective vs. subjective reflect Porter’s view of the terms, which, as far as I am aware, not really accepted outside of Porter and those he influences. And it’s not either-or, but rather both Aktionsart and aspect interact in the Greek verb to provide its meaning.

        To get a better understanding of how the terms are used more generally, read Fanning. In the Porter-Fanning debate, it is Fanning who is the conventional thinker in line with the field both within and without Koine Greek, while Porter is the innovator in many respects. When I read the works of classicists and linguists who cite someone for the behavior of the Koine verb, they tend to cite Fanning. So, unfortunately, the use of Porter’s idiosyncratic definitions is at odds with your desire to be conventional. If being conventional is your goal, it would have been better to follow Fanning or the more traditional Wallace.

        As for the meaning of the indicative verbal forms in Greek, well, they do not behave the same way that the question assumes. I would say that the present and imperfect are non-past and past tenses respectively of the imperfective aspect. The aorist is a past perfective. But the future is close to a pure tense. Then you have the perfect and the pluperfect, which are so complex that they need a separate blog post to handle. In all these form, the verb’s Aktionsart (which can change based on its arguments) plays an important role in their meaning. That’s why I put “other”.

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