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Thursday, September 02, 2004

JB15562-Rob #6: The PPA and Adverbial Phrases 

(15562) Jason BeDuhn [Thu Sep 2, 2004 4:48 pm] (Re: John 8:58 - Rob #6: The PPA and Adverbial Phrases) [Jason #7]


Rob,

Once again I commend you for the great diligence of your research in preparing your posts 6 & 7. Your sample of grammars is more than sufficient for the purposes of our discussion, and you have thoughtfully provided me, and our readers, with the specifics so that each statement and example may be assessed. (Our readers may be puzzled why you left Moule out of your survey, even though you cite his examples among the biblical passages. So let me inform them that Moule provides no definition, but simply lists examples under the heading "Present of Past Action still in progress," with a reference to Burton, whose comments you do quote.) From this thorough research, however, you draw several dubious conclusions, as I shall point out.

The topic of your post #6 is what we, following several grammarians, have been calling the PPA (Present of Past Action still in progress), which is also called the Progressive Present (Robertson, Dana & Mantey), Present of Past and Present Combined (Smyth), Durative Present (Brooks & Winbery, Young), Extension from Past (McKay), Extending-from-Past Present (Wallace), or simply an aspect of the Greek present not given a specific designation (Winer, Goodwin, Jannaris, BDF, Turner, Greenlee). You draw four conclusions:

1. The action or state that the verb expresses continues in or to the present (all but three grammars). I agree that this aspect is what we mean when we speak of a "PPA."


It should be noted, however, that translating this Greek idiomatic use into English is not always most felicitiously achieved by using the "progressive perfect" (have been). Sometimes the simple past is used (I will return to this in the future).

2. "Most of these grammars state that an adverbial expression modifies the present-tense verb" -- you count all but three grammars in support of this conclusion. But this is a miscount, since Brooks & Winbery expressly say "a verb alone is sometimes sufficient" and Fanning adds "or other time-indication." You apparently interpret the latter as equivalent to "adverbial expression," as you do in the cases of Goodwin ("expressions of past time"), Smyth ("expression of past time"), BDF ("temporal expression"), Greenlee ("a specific phrase"), McKay ("expression of past time"), and Wallace ("some sort of temporal indicator").


I would contend that you have artificially narrowed the meaning of what these grammarians say, which would include in most cases a number of possible direct or indirect modifiers of the sense of the main verb. One could argue that any word, phrase, or clause that is construed as modifying the force of a verb is for that reason "adverbial" in the broad sense, but as we shall see, you wish to lead us into a much narrower sense.

3. There are varying assessments among these grammars of the necessity of an adverbial to identify the PPA.

You say 8 of 15 "regard the use of such an adverbial as part of the definition of a PPA." So roughly half of the grammars have this view, while others are aware of exceptions, which you examine later. I certainly agree that some sort of adverbial expression is frequently what indicates to the reader that a PPA is being employed. I am not sure of the value of investigating PPAs without adverbial expressions since the case we are trying to settle, John 8:58, has such an adverbial expression.

4. "By an `adverbial expression' of past time most of these grammars evidently mean an adverb or adverbial phrase."


This is a wholly unwarranted conclusion. You find only 3 of 15 that mention an "adverb" (Robertson, Dana & Mantey, Brooks & Winbery), and forget to include in these references the accompanying "usually," "generally," and "often," they respectively say, as mentioned in your previous point. You also say that 2 of 15 say "adverbial phrase" (Fanning, Wallace), without noting that Fanning adds "or other time indication," and Wallace's statement is actually "some sort of temporal indicator, such as an adverbial phrase." This way of reporting the support for your conclusion is misleading, and even in this way you produce 5 of 15 grammars that happen to mention adverbs or adverbial phrases as the example that comes first to mind of the range of possible modifiers of the verb (scarcely "most"). The other grammars, as I pointed out above, use broader expressions for the modifying element, which include "adverbial expression" (Jannaris, Burton), "expression of past time" (Goodwin, Smyth, McKay), "temporal expression" (BDF), "time indication" (Fanning), "time element" (Young), "temporal indicator" (Wallace), and "a specific phrase" (Greenlee). Your conclusion, therefore, has no basis in the statements of these grammarians.

One might give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that your interpretation of these broader expressions was narrowed by the examples the grammarians go on to cite. You in fact say, "Most of the examples that the grammars cite . . . have such adjuncts [which you define as `a phrase or group of words that are not strictly necessary for the sentence or clause to be complete'] or adverbial phrases. The only grammars that evidently include whole clauses are BDF and McKay (and only because they count John 8:58 as a PPA)." First of all, "most of the examples" is not "all of the examples," and even one example of a different sort invalidates your arbitrary interpretation of the deliberately chosen broad expressions of these grammarians. Second, you say only BDF and McKay cite the clausal example of John 8:58, when in fact Winer and Turner also do. Third, you say that BDF and McKay include whole clauses "only because they count John 8:58," suggesting there are no other examples of this form, when in fact your other grammars cite Acts 27:33 (Fanning, Wallace) and 2 Peter 3:4 (Winer, Robertson, Turner, Fanning), both of which involve adverbial clauses. So these five other grammarians also cite sentences involving adverbial clauses, like BDF and McKay, and examples other than John 8:58. Fourth, it is true of Greek, as it is of English, that simple adverbs and adverbial phrases are used much more commonly that more complex adverbial clauses. So in any sample, the number of examples of the latter will be statistically small. So the fact that any examples happen to be mentioned in a sample of a half-dozen is statistically significant. For these four reasons, I cannot accept that your review of the examples provided by the grammars gave sufficient cause for you to arbitrarily narrow the meaning of their description of the modifying element in PPAs, a narrowing that strives to eliminate adverbial clauses from inclusion. Since the express purpose of your line of argument is to remove John 8:58 from the PPA category, this is a very suspicious and, may I say, unfortunate turn in your presentation, which has all the appearance of reasonable summation when in fact it significantly misrepresents the material before you. Your fourth conclusion, therefore, will not stand, and should be withdrawn.

This will be further demonstrated by looking at your examples. As Wallace states,

"Depending on how tightly one defines this category, it is either relatively rare or fairly common."

The range of defining the PPA to which he refers is what is involved in the "contested" examples in your list.

You say you omit John 2:9, to which I referred in a previous post as a PPA, because Winer expressly excludes it as a case of "using the present tense in place of a past tense where this is the result of mixing direct and indirect discourse," and that Robertson elsewhere refers to the clause in question as an "indirect question retaining present indicative." The fact that Winer takes the trouble to expressly exclude it indicates that someone had proposed to include it (although I stumbled upon it by chance). I do not agree with Winer and Robertson that indirect discourse is involved here at all. Nothing is said here of the subject saying anything, but rather knowing something. May I also point out that several of the examples you include involve either direct or indirect discourse, and so might be as arguably excluded as John 2:9. So you are inconsistent in applying this as a basis to exclude my earlier example. My research leads me to believe that the idiomatic use we are calling the PPA includes static, depictive expressions of identity that involve references to origin such as this. Nevertheless, since none of the grammars referenced includes John 2:9 as an example (although obviously none of them intends to provide an exhaustive set of examples), I have no problem leaving it aside here.

You divide all the examples into "contested" and "uncontested," which is a dubious move since what is involved in "contesting" classification of specific examples as PPAs is how many different subdivisions a grammarian trots out to categorize present tense verbs. In other words, it is not so much a matter of contesting as it is of how finely the grammarian is splitting hairs. Many of these subdivisions are questionable as distinct grammatical functions, and are multiplied somewhat arbitrarily. So the fact that some grammarians prefer to put forward categories such as "descriptive present" or "static present" only raises the question whether they have subdivided the PPA in a way that other grammarians don't see as valuable (and you yourself dismiss the "static present" as a separate category when it serves your purposes). I do agree that customary, procedural, or iterative statements are not PPAs, since they lack any contextual modification that would indicate past time. So I agree that 2 Cor. 12:9 should be set aside.

In any case, going along with you for the sake of argument, you identify 11 of 17 examples cited in the grammars as "uncontested," and point out that "in each of these 11 uncontested examples of the PPA, the present-tense main verb is modified by a temporal adverb or adverbial phrase." Actually, it's 10 of 17, since Dana & Mantey contest themselves on the proper categorization of John 15:27. But your conclusion is also in error since one of the "uncontested" examples, Acts 27:33, actually involves an adverbial clause. You cite only the phrase "a fourteenth day today," leaving out its full clause: "observing a fourteenth day today without food" which includes a present participle. This whole clause is the depictive complement to the main verb "You have kept/continued/completed." They have not "kept/continued/completed a fourteenth day," but they have "kept/continued/completed OBSERVING a fourteenth day."

You go on to say that "two of the contested examples also have such an adverbial phrase." Again, you have failed to note that one of these examples, 2 Peter 3:4, actually involves an adverbial clause. "From the beginning of creation" is not the direct temporal modifier of the main verb, but a complement of hOUTWS, "the same since the beginning of creation." The verbal modifier is the clause "since the ancestors fell asleep," using an aorist indicative (this is supported by the immediate context of the sentence, as well as by the necessary relations of syntax, I think). Of course because you see these two contested examples as employing adverbial phrases, you think we "probably should" include them with the uncontested examples, while you do not extend the same tolerance to Luke 2:48 and Acts 26:31, evidently because they do not involve the adverbial phrases you want (we can leave aside 2 Cor. 12:9, which we agree is a "gnomic" present).

On Luke 2:48, you indicate that Robertson calls this a "descriptive present," which he defines as entailing "durative action" in "present time." Since several grammars define the PPA the same way, and two even call the PPA the "durative present," it should be obvious that Robertson has subdivided the broader PPA category recognized by other grammarians. You add interpretive remarks about the broader narrative context, in which you see the action as concluded, and therefore not a PPA. You might see it that way, but the Greek writer evidently did not. This is often what we mean by "idiomatic": we do not expect a concluded action to be described as ongoing. But as you suggest, the writer has augmented the vividness of the speaker's emotion by speaking as if the action is ongoing (one should note however that some of your grammars speak of action continuing "to" the time the statement is made, and not necessarily through it). The textual variant you also bring up in connection with this verse can be best explained as a scribal correction of the idiomatic expression with which some copyist evidently had the same interpretive issue you have with this statement. The more recent editions have in this instance abandoned the generally applied rule of "more difficult reading," and opted for a tidier verbal form, in my opinion illegitimately.

On Acts 26:31, you quote several grammarians as remarking on the ongoing nature of the verbal action in this verse as part of their discussion of the PPA, without expressly contesting its inclusion as a PPA. Since these grammarians include present ongoing action in their definition of the PPA, without a more explicit quote expressing an argument against inclusion, I must wonder whether they actually mean to contest it.

Based on my remarks above, it is not only erroneous (because of the misidentification of the adverbial element in some cases), but also irrelevant to point out that 11 (or 13) examples out of 17 involve adverbs or adverbial phrases, for the reason that the simple adverb or adverbial phrase is so much more common in usage than adverbial clauses. And it is circular to treat as significant the fact that the 3 examples YOU have left over after extracting all cases where an adverb or adverbial phrase is involved do not involve an adverb or adverbial phrase (!). Therefore there is nothing here to establish a burden of proof on the adverbial clause; it is only a matter of statistically smaller occurrence. And since the grammars that you yourself have chosen to cite do not limit the characteristics of the PPA, by description or example, in the arbitrary manner you employ, your argument comes only to the rather obvious point, with which I agree, that the simple adverb or adverbial phrase is used more commonly in Greek (as in English) than the adverbial clause. It remains true that any occurrence of an adverbial clause as the temporal element modifying a present tense verb, however statistically small in a sample as narrow as the Greek Bible is within the whole body of Greek literature, invalidates your claim (contrary to the majority of grammarians you have yourself cited) that a PPA is involved only when a simple adverb or adverbial phrase is involved. The claim has the appearance of being arbitrary, since adverbial clauses are as much adverbial expressions as simple adverbs and adverbial phrases are, and the burden of proof would fall to those who contend that something about adverbial clauses exclude them from serving as adverbial complements as well as adverbial adjuncts (in fact, in several of your accepted, uncontested examples, the adverb or adverbial phrase is formally a secondary modifier, and hence an adjunct rather than a complement of the verb, and nonetheless exercises sufficient influence on the verb to make it a PPA; so if adjuncts can do this, complements such as is the case in John 8:58 can do so all the more). As we have seen and will see, when there is both an adverbial clause and a simple adverb or adverbial phrase within the same sentence, one needs to determine which is the complement and which is the adjunct (and I fully expect some debate from you on specific examples). An adverbial clause can be bumped to secondary, adjunct status by the presence of another adverbial expression, be it a clause, phrase, or word. But when an adverbial clause appears alone in the sentence with the main verb, as is the case with John 8:58, there is no reason to assume that the clause is an adjunct rather than a complement to the verb, and as a complement it finishes or completes the sense in which the main verb is to be taken.

I have company this weekend, so will reply to your post #7 next week.

Best wishes,

Jason B.



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