Home » Greek » Reading Aubrey’s Thesis (6)

Reading Aubrey’s Thesis (6)

Chapter 5 of Aubrey’s thesis returns to the stratosphere, as he takes the analysis done on the perfect in Koine Greek and then considers what this has to say/contribute to how RRG works as an approach for linguistics. Particularly, he wants to consider how the Bybee-Dahl approach of look at grams without prejudging meta-categories of aspect/tense/mood, can mesh with Bhat’s typology of looking at languages in terms of A/T/M prominence. An initial diagrammatic relaisation of that is given on p138. This realisation itself has problems, in that it is an idealisation. A more concrete, though still rather abstract, diagram of Koine Greek comes on p140.

p141 offers a diagram that goes back to typology of verbal operators in RRG. Can the approach to categories presented in Aubrey’s synthesis of Bybee-Dahl-Bhat be realised within this typology? Aubrey says perhaps not, and perhaps it’s not necessary anyway.

If you’re after some key pay-off for understanding Greek, p143 has some good material. Aubrey says that the perfect, like the future, is a peripheral category, and that as such they “are not inherently tense or aspect”. As far as this analysis goes, the perfect functions within the aspect system, because Greek is aspect prominent. The future appears ambiguous, because it almost doesn’t know whether it’s aspectual or temporal.

Chapter 6 is the Conclusion chapter, and if you’ve been lost, here is a chance to catch up. I’d like to emphasise the first sentence here, “The goal of this thesis was not so much to solve a problem, but to fill in a gap.” (p145) Aubrey’s thesis doesn’t ‘solve’ the Greek perfect, it seeks to expand the usefulness of RRG for certain areas of language description. But obviously this thesis has important implications for understanding Koine Greek. Indeed, note the sentence on p150 under “Possibilities for future research”, where he says, “If we evaluate the grammars of the past century in terms of Chomsky’s types of linguistic adequacy, they fail to even meet the standard of descriptive adequacy, much less explanatory adequacy.” ouch.

I won’t offer a read-through of the two appendices. Appendix A lists of all the verbs examined and their predicate classes. It is worth reading, because of the way it helps you understand that typology of predicate classes and how it relates to actual verbs and the actual research Aubrey has done.

Appendix B is probably of more interest to my general (minute) readership. It is an overview of the Greek verbal system. Why do you need to read this? Because probably all you have read is those inadequate grammars we mentioned above! The overview here is “independent of the traditional grammatical tradition in terms of categories and terminology” (p187) and so well worth your reading.


And that’s a wrap. Take home message: Greek perfects are resultative/completive grams operating in the aspect system. Or, to uncover Aubrey’s view of aspect from Appendix B (p199):

The Koine Greek verbal system has three aspects: perfective, imperfective, and perfect. The perfective aspect makes no reference to internal temporal structure and is contextually bounded in its interpretation. The imperfective refers to temporal internal structure that is incomplete. It is contextually unbounded. If it appears in a clause with a goal periphery, there is nothing to suggest the goal was achieved. Lastly the perfect aspect refers to internal temporal structure that is either completed (completive) or exists as achieved state (resultative). It is inherently telic and will either assign an endpoint to a situation or event or denote the resultant state of that situation or event. As such, the perfect is both telic and bounded.

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