David I. Yoon, «Prominence and Markedness in New Testament Discourse.», Vol. 26 (2013) 3-26
Paul's testimony of his post-conversion experience in Galatians—the only place in the New Testament this is found—is the starting point for the rest of his polemic against his opponents who avert the gospel he first taught his readers. What is interesting is that he highlights or emphasizes certain portions of his testimony, using the linguistic method of prominence. As others have written already, prominence in Hellenistic Greek is conveyed in many ways, but one major way is by the writer's choice of verbal aspect. By first identifying a theory of prominence in the Greek of the New Testament, the paper then applies that theory to Gal 1:11–2:10 to discover that Paul emphasizes preaching and gospel related items in his testimony.
Prominence and Markedness in New Testament Discourse 9
of speaking (thus, ‘absolute time’)”20. Traditional understandings of the
aorist as punctiliar action (as a kind of action) is even rejected by most
modern grammarians who are stuck on Aktionsart. In the perfective
aspect, then, “the action is conceived of by the language user as a complete
and undifferentiated process”21. Even Fanning’s definition suffices: “the
aorist represents an occurrence in summary, viewed as a whole from the
outside, without regard for the internal make-up of the occurrence”22.
b) Imperfective aspect. This is conveyed by the present and imperfect
tense-forms, which are related by their shared verbal stem. The imperfect
tense-form differs from the present primarily in the presence of the
ε-augment, which may indicate some sort of formal relation to the aorist
tense-form23. The imperfective aspect conveys the writer’s communication
of action as occurring or in process: “the action is conceived of by the
language user as being in progress”24. It is not that the verbal process is
objectively occurring in the present time, but that the writer is subjectively
choosing to convey a verb through imperfective aspect to “zoom in” on
It seems that in discussions regarding the imperfective aspect, the
present tense-form is usually given more attention than the imperfect
tense-form. It seems generally agreed that the imperfect tense-form
appears for the most part in narrative contexts, in opposition to the
perfective aspect (aorist tense-form)25. According to Campbell, “[t]he
sharing of remoteness with the aorist means that the imperfect is also
found in narrative proper rather than discourse. While aorists provide
the skeletal structure of narrative proper, imperfects tend to provide
supplemental information”26. This will be important in the second part of
Wallace, Greek Grammar, 555.
Porter, Idioms, 21.
Fanning, Verbal Aspect, 97. It must be understood that the language differs slightly
because of Fanning’s paradigm of external/internal viewpoint (i.e., dual aspectual model),
but the main point is still similar.
This needs to be developed more fully in my mind, but I suspect, along the lines of
Porter, that the imperfect tense-form is related to the aorist tense-form due to its shared
augment; it remains as an imperfective aspect but more remote than the present tense-form
due to its augment. In other words, I am willing to keep the imperfect tense-form with the
present tense-form aspectually, in that they both convey the imperfective aspect, but the
augment may signify more remoteness than the present tense-form and hence less marked.
Cf. Porter, Verbal Aspect, 207.
Porter, Idioms, 21.
E.g., Porter, Verbal Aspect, 207, 209.
Campbell, Basics of Verbal Aspect, 44. However, Campbell disagrees with Porter in
that the former considers the imperfect less prominent than the aorist tense-form, while the
latter, being more marked than the aorist, considers it more prominent. I essentially agree
with Porter on this view, which will be actualized in the application portion of this paper.