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The Perfect Storm

Critical Discussion of the Semantics of the Greek Perfect Tense Under Aspect Theory


Constantine R. Campbell, Buist M. Fanning and Stanley E. Porter

Nowhere are the chaotic debates surrounding contemporary aspect theory more heated than in discussions of the theory’s application to Hellenistic Greek, and especially its understanding of the semantics of the Greek perfect tense. This book is a distilled academic debate among three of the best-known scholars on the subject, each defending his own unique interpretation while engaging the other two. The Perfect Storm will prove an indispensable resource for any scholar seeking to write convincingly on the Greek perfect in the future.

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3. Response to Campbell’s Imperfective View of the Greek Perfect: BUIST M. FANNING


3. Response to Campbell’s Imperfective View of the Greek Perfect


Campbell must be commended for taking a view of the ancient Greek perfect that is out of the mainstream and defending it energetically and widely. His academic books and essays on the topic—and perhaps more importantly his popular book introducing verbal aspect—have placed his view of the perfect unmistakably in the spotlight.1 His reading of the perfect as encoding imperfective aspect has a certain degree of plausibility on the face of it, even if it has not been championed more widely. This general plausibility does not hold up, however, when examined more carefully, as I will try to show in the first part of my response. Campbell’s other line of argument for his view consists of tracing the problems that other approaches face in giving a unified description of the perfect’s semantic value. These problems involve methodological debates as well as disagreement over the sense of the perfect in actual texts and the range of meanings it is said to express. I will address these issues later in my response.

1. The Greek Perfect as Imperfective: A Plausible Approach?

At various places Campbell defends the view of the perfect as imperfective aspect by showing its general plausibility despite this not being a widely accepted approach. For example, it must be plausible because other reputable scholars have espoused this approach—it is not his view alone....

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