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The Perfect Storm

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

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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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6. Response to Fanning: CONSTANTINE R. CAMPBELL

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6. Response to Fanning

CONSTANTINE R. CAMPBELL

1. Introduction

Buist Fanning is to be appreciated for his careful scholarship and irenic tone. As to be expected, there is much food for thought in his essay, especially in regard to the interactions between aspect and lexical types. I will structure my response in three sections: points I can affirm, questions I would put to him, and points I must challenge.

2. Points I Can Affirm

Sometimes response essays begin by mentioning a few cursory happy thoughts before moving in for the kill. I include this section, however, because I share several points of genuine agreement with Fanning, and these ought to be articulated.

2.1 First, it is good to see Fanning critique the definitions of the Greek perfect found in many standard grammars. He says these are “unfortunately quite inferior even if their further explanations of usage are not too bad.” In particular, he takes issue with BDF’s description of the perfect as a combination of the present and aorist.

Though Fanning’s essay is a defense of the “traditional” understanding of the perfect—notwithstanding certain important differences from his description—he is right to bemoan the grammars’ weakness in their treatment of the perfect. Whatever the result of the debate within this volume, we all agree that we need to do better than our predecessors in this regard. While we owe a great debt to...

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