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In this collective volume edited by Klaas Bentein, Mark Janse, and Jorie Soltic, some of the leading experts in the field explore variation and change in one of the core areas of Ancient Greek grammar: tense, aspect, and modality. The contributors investigate key aspects such as the existence of and competition between linguistic variants, the value of modern linguistic theory for the study of linguistic variation, and the interplay between various dimensions of variation. They focus on various stages of the Greek language (Archaic, Classical, Post-classical, and Byzantine), taking both qualitative and quantitative approaches. By doing so, they offer valuable insights in the multi-faced nature of the Greek verbal system, providing an incentive towards the further study of linguistic variation and change.
Author: Amalia Moser

Abstract

This paper looks at the history of aspect in the Greek verb through a comparison of the system of Modern Greek with uses in earlier stages in the history of the language. Adopting a retrospective point of view and using a corpus of historians from the Classical, Hellenistic and Early Byzantine periods, it locates those uses of the two stems of the verb (aorist and present) which seem unacceptable or peculiar to speakers of the modern language and explains them as signs of a category shift from the expression of Aktionsart to the expression of aspect and tense. This development lends support to arguments for a necessary distinction between the categories of aspect and Aktionsart.

In: Variation and Change in Ancient Greek Tense, Aspect and Modality
Author: Martti Leiwo

Abstract

Letters show considerable variation in their use of moods. Here the discussion proceeds from typical linguistic differences to detailed analysis of individual language usage. The data consist of private letters coming mainly from Roman forts and the Fayyum. The majority of the letters can be dated between 100 and 160 CE. Several lexical forms turn out to be tricky. I focus on the imperative, the infinitive, and the participle, and analyze variation in their written form as well as in their syntax. Scribes could produce good documentary standard Greek, but other experienced writers working with small-scale businesses were subject to language contact. The infinitive is represented in the letters, which have a register suitable for its use, for example when using indirect narrative, and which are written by a competent scribe. The infinitive is also used in idiomatic clauses. The imperative is very common, and was taken up by Sahidic Coptic to be the infinitive mood for borrowed Greek verbs. Identical forms for the imperative and the infinitive in Sahidic Coptic and the borrowing of Greek verbs in the imperative mood increased Egyptian L1 speakers’ confusion about the imperative and the infinitive when they were writing Greek.

In: Variation and Change in Ancient Greek Tense, Aspect and Modality
In: Variation and Change in Ancient Greek Tense, Aspect and Modality
Author: Gerry C. Wakker

Abstract

This article studies the use of the gnomic aorist, i.e., the aorist indicative, in omnitemporal statements, covering its origin, its synchronic semantic value in Ancient and Classical Greek, and the difference between this aorist and the present indicative in omnitemporal statements. Due to the lack of a proper form to express both omnitemporality and perfectivity, the (secondary) aorist indicative was used in Greek in cases where the speaker wanted to emphasize the (perfective) aspect of the relevant state of affairs. The existence of borderline cases is understandable if we take the so-called Prototype theory into account. The research is based on Hesiod, but most conclusions seem valid for other cases of the gnomic aorist also.

In: Variation and Change in Ancient Greek Tense, Aspect and Modality

Abstract

High-register (‘Atticising’) Greek of the middle ages has often been criticised as a degraded version of Ancient Greek, with texts regularly dismissed as examples of pastiche replete with grammatical errors. In recent years, however, a more constructive approach has begun to assert itself, and this article is intended as a contribution to the process of re-evaluation. It seeks to show that the Byzantine high style is better conceived as a marked register of medieval Greek, in which underlying grammatical categories of the contemporary language are realized by grammatical forms of the ancient one. Since ancient forms are effectively reassigned to non-ancient functions, any differences from ancient usage are not so much mistakes as indirect evidence of change in progress. The thesis is supported by a detailed study of expressions of futurity and modality in one of the classics of Byzantine historiography, the Alexiad of Anna Komnini.

In: Variation and Change in Ancient Greek Tense, Aspect and Modality
Author: Rutger J. Allan

Abstract

In Ancient Greek narrative, the imperfect typically presents the state of affairs as ongoing in order to serve as a temporal framework for the occurrence of one or more other states of affairs. However, in narrative we also find a considerable number of imperfects (especially with verbs of motion and verbs of speech) which refer to completed states of affairs. In this paper, it is argued that Cognitive Grammar notions such as construal, temporal scope of view, profile and base can be helpful in describing aspectual contrasts. The imperfects at issue express the narrator’s construal of the state of affairs as unbounded, thereby emphasizing that the state of affairs is of continuing relevance in the subsequent narrative.

In: Variation and Change in Ancient Greek Tense, Aspect and Modality
In: Variation and Change in Ancient Greek Tense, Aspect and Modality
In: Variation and Change in Ancient Greek Tense, Aspect and Modality
Author: Marina Veksina

Abstract

Future and present indicatives are not usually used to express permission or obligation in ordinary Indo-European languages. The language of Ancient Greek inscriptions is no exception. The present study investigates such expressions in a corpus of inscriptions from the island of Cos; attempts to define the semantic platform of this usage; and approaches the issue of its interaction with the tense-aspect system. The article proceeds as follows. Section 9.1 defines the limits of the study and outlines the principles of the analysis. Sections 9.2 and 9.3 examine the indicative future and indicative present in accordance with the following plan: an exposition of the Coan material (9.2.1. and 9.3.1.); comparanda from outside the Coan corpus (9.2.2. and 9.3.2.); and analysis of the grammatical semantics plus the cross-linguistic perspective (9.2.3. and 9.3.3.). Section 9.4 draws conclusions.

In: Variation and Change in Ancient Greek Tense, Aspect and Modality