Jody A. Barnard, «Is Verbal Aspect a Prominence Indicator? An Evaluation of Stanley Porter’s Proposal with Special Reference to the Gospel of Luke.», Vol. 19 (2006) 3-29
The purpose of this article is to evaluate Stanley Porter’s theory of
aspectual prominence. According to Porter the three verbal aspects of the
Greek language (perfective, imperfective and stative) operate at a discourse
level to indicate prominence (background, foreground and frontground). This
theory will be tested against the points of emphasis and climactic junctures
evident in a selection of Luke’s miracle and pronouncement stories.
26 Jody A. Barnard
panied by emphatic linguistic features (Ï€Î»á½µÎ½, á¼°Î´Î¿á½»). Thus, Porterâ€™s theory
could explain the use of verbal aspect in vv. 28b-29a. But when the tense
changes to future (á¼ÏÎ¿á¿¦ÏƒÎ¹Î½) and aorist (á¼Î³á½³Î½Î½Î·ÏƒÎ±Î½, á¼”Î¸ÏÎµÏˆÎ±Î½) his theory
is more difficult to maintain since it is the fact that childless mothers will
be considered blessed that makes the coming days significant. It is also
possible that the phrase á¼°Î´Î¿á½º á¼”ÏÏ‡Î¿Î½Ï„Î±Î¹ á¼¡Î¼á½³ÏÎ±Î¹ is an attempt to indicate
prominence by echoing the Prophets (cf. Jer 7,32; 16,14; 38,31) rather
than by selecting the present tense.
Although the pronouncement stories offer a few more instances of
tense usage that could be explained on the basis of Porterâ€™s proposal (e.g.
7,22.47; 12,15) the evidence is not overwhelming. There are also many
examples that are not explainable on the basis of Porterâ€™s proposal (e.g.
7,9; 13,15-16; 17,17-18; 19,9). Furthermore, on those occasions where
tense usage coheres with Porterâ€™s theory, there is often an alternative,
and sometimes more convincing, explanation for its appearance.
In addition to this it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain
that Luke was invariably free to choose the aspect of his verb. Porter is
undoubtedly correct to draw attention to the subjectivity involved in the
appropriation of verbal aspect but he appears to have exaggerated this
point out of proportion. Occasional reference has been made to some of
the factors that might have influenced the appropriation of verbal aspect
so we will now consider these in a little more detail.
4.2 Pattern of Usages and Lexis
MoisÃ©s Silva has suggested that â€œsignificant patterns of usage may
be far more determinative [of verbal aspect] than the desire to convey a
semantic pointâ€96. It has already been suggested that this might account
for the perfect in the phrase á¼€Ï†á½³Ï‰Î½Ï„Î±á½· ÏƒÎ¿Ï… Î±á¼± á¼Î¼Î±ÏÏ„á½·Î±Î¹ (5,20.23; 7,47-
48) and á¼¡ Ï€á½·ÏƒÏ„Î¹Ï‚ ÏƒÎ¿Ï… Ïƒá½³ÏƒÏ‰Îºá½³Î½ ÏƒÎµ (7,50; 8,48; 17,19; 18,42) or the present
in the temporal idiom Ï„á¿‡ á¼Ï‡Î¿Î¼á½³Î½á¿ƒ (á¼¡Î¼á½³Ïá¾³) (Lk 13,33; Ac 20,15; 21,26)
but the point deserves more attention than a passing reference.
It is beyond doubt that certain verbs typically occur in one aspect
rather than another. Î˜á½±Ï€Ï„Ï‰ (9,59-60; 16,22), for example, always occurs
M. Silva, â€œA Response to Fanning and Porter on Verbal Aspectâ€, in Porter and Carson
(eds.), Greek Language and Linguistics, 80-81.