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THEORY: What is an aorist? (was Re: THEORY: Temporal Auxiliaries, Aspectual Auxiliaries, Modal Auxiliaries)

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Sunday, July 10, 2005, 15:15

Ray Brown wrote:

> [Greek verb tenses and aspects] > > So 'aorist' was and is used in describing Greek grammar to denote _both_ > an aspect as in the "aorist subjunctive", "aorist optative", "aorist > imperative" etc (*no* reference to tense) _and_ to 'tense with aspect', as > you rightly say, when they talk about the 'aorist tense'. > > Thus the ancient Greek aorist tense was a past perfective, like the simple > English past "I went". > > (In the modern language this has become drastically simplified; the old > future & perfect stems have gone. The 'present' and 'aorist' stems only > remain, and the verbal system has developed the dual imperfective ~ > perfective aspects familiar in the Slav languages.) > > But, to confuse things, the term 'aorist' has been used in describing > other languages in an _inconsistent_ manner. If you look up 'aorist' in > Trask you will find: > "1. A verb form marked for past tense but unmarked for aspect. > 2. A verb form marked for both past tense and perfective aspect. > 3. A verb form marked for perfective aspect. > 4. A conventional label used in a highly variable manner among specialists > in particular languages to dnote some verb form or set of verb forms...." > > He concludes with these words: > "NOTE: in view of this great terminological confusion, Comrie (1976) > recommends the avoidance of the term 'aorist' in linguistic theory." > > I agree with Comrie. If there is terminological confusion amongst > linguists themselves, then it is hardly surprising if you have found the > term confusing :)
Well, linguistics is riddled with confusion ;-) ObConlang: In Old Albic, there is a form I call the `aorist', which is a verb form marked for perfective aspect and unmarked for tense; it is, among other uses, the commonly used narrative form and also used for gnomic statements. Greetings, Jörg.


Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>