Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Negative commands and choice of tense

When choosing the present stem [in a negative command], the speaker apparently wants the hearer to understand that he does not agree with the nature and the content of the action that latter is performing, for by this choice he makes it clear that he sees a connection between the action and the prohibition. Secondly, in many cases he gives the hearer to understand that he is to start “not-performing” this action immediately, i.e., that he has to stop performing it at once. By means of the aorist stem, he tells the hearer only that he does not permit a certain event to take place, that the latter is not allowed to perform a certain action. It does not make any difference whether at that moment the action is going on or not, as the speaker does not pay any attention to that.—The Greek Imperative, page 42

<idle musing>
About that post title: Yes, yes, I know. It isn't tense, it's aspect. But every now and then I drop back into traditional labels. What can I say? It got your attention, didn't it? : )

OK, we've got that taken care of, so what about the contents of the post itself? Bakker is in the process of making the case that the choice of stem in Classical Greek depends strictly on the perspective of the speaker. He will go on to argue that this has changed as Greek evolved, to the point that in Modern Greek, the present imperative has virtually disappeared. The present tense is used only when both sides agree on the reality of the situation. (Snide remark: then it certainly would never be used in the U.S. today! We can't agree on anything—not even on whether we agree or disagree!)

The question becomes, how far along that continuum in Koine? Ah, that's the rub—especially with translational Greek such as that found in the LXX. That, of course, is the substance of many articles and dissertations : )
</idle musing>

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