Home » Greek » Reading Aubrey’s Thesis (5)

Reading Aubrey’s Thesis (5)

Apologies that these come out slowly, I am mostly busy trying to get a paper written by month’s end. Here are links to the earlier posts: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Today we’re picking up at 4.2.3, which deals with “Gram-specific tests part II: Predicate classes”. Probably you’ve had a mental blank and have no idea what Aubrey is talking about. Basically what Aubrey does in this section is take the idea of “anteriors” (indicating a thing that happened prior to another thing, “resultatives” (indicating that an action with a goal (a telic predicate) has created a new state (result), and “completives” (indicating that an action has, you guessed it, come to its inherent end point).

In this section Aubrey goes through Greek perfects and looks at how they match up with these gram types: First he looks at State Predicates (verbs that indicate a state of being); he finds that generally they do not appear in the perfect. The main contrast he does find is Type IV grammatical contrasts (i.e. the difference in forms means that the event is conceptualised differently). In which the perfect indicates entrance into the state. he also finds some involve an “intensive usage” indicating that the participant “experience[es] the state to the highest degree” (p99). Verbs with a meaning of strong emotion are also found in the perfect with such an intensive sense. Generally speaking, these findings correlated with resultative and completive ideas.

The other set of atelic predicates (semelfactives and activity), are easier to talk about. Semelfactives basically do not appear in the perfect. Activity predicates generally only appear in the perfect as active achievements with an endpoint. I.e. you don’t get “marched” in the perfect, but you do get “marched to the city”. This is followed by some stuff about negative clauses which we will skip today.

The next section ( deals with telic predicates. i.e. verbs which involve or end with a change of state. Following the RRG typology, Aubrey looks through achievements, active achievements, and accomplishments. If you forgot what those are, you can revise them in my first post in this series.

Active achievements involve an activity that has a duration, and then a change fo state (the achievement) that is instantaneous. You find Greek perfects with this idea. You do not find Greek perfects (usually) with Activity predicates (the activity with a duration, but no change of state at the end of it).

I walked or I was walking are activities.

I walked to the park is an active achievement.

Aubrey finds that only when an activity is given a specific (object) or end point is it likely to appear in the perfect rather than the perfective. He also finds the perfect used for “exhaustive” completion of an activity, and in conjunction with voice that the perfect middle is used “to refer to the achieved state of an active achievement”, a role the imperfective middle will not do.

Overall this section also supports the idea that resultatives and completives are dominant in comparison to anteriors.

Aubrey then goes on to look at achievements and accomplishments. This too supports the above conclusion. Finally this chapter looks at causatives along the same lines.

I have skimmed over a lot of examples and argumentation in this chapter to basically give an overview of what is discussed and what is found. In the conclusion of this chapter, Aubrey affirms that the Greek perfect is not anterior but is split between resultatives and completives. His tests have some relevance for adjusting the tests themselves, and how this typology may fit with RRG as well.

What does this mean for how you understand the perfect in Greek?

“In sum, the Greek perfect is a synthetic verbal morpheme that patterns with other aspect morphemes and thus functions in the nuclear layer of the operator projection. Semantically, the morpheme conveys both resultative and completive meaning, depending on both the predicate being used and also the context of the predication. On many occasions, particularly with perfects derived from accomplishments and achievements, it is almost impossible to choose between resultative and completive readings.” (p131).


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