Greek Aspect/Aktionsart MA Thesis

No, it’s not mine  mind, but that’s coming at some point.

Thanks to Brian LePort over at Near Emmaus, I was able to find a very recently completely MA thesis on Aktionsart differences between ἔρχομαι and εἰσέρχομαι.

“The Preverb Eis- and Koine Greek Aktionsart” by Rachel M. Shain. (Download Link)


This study analyzes one Koine Greek verb erchomai ‘go/come’ and one preverb eis- and how the preverb affects the verb’s lexical aspect. To determine the lexical aspect of erchomai and eis-erchomai, I annotate all instances of both verbs in the Greek New Testament and develop methodology for researching aktionsart in texts. Several tests for lexical aspect which might be applied to texts are proposed. Applying some of these tests to erchomai and eiserchomai, I determine that erchomai is an activity and eiserchomai is telic. A discussion of the Koine tense/aspect forms and their temporal and aspectual reference is included. I adopt Dowty’s 1979 aspect calculus to explain how eis- affects the lexical aspect of erchomai, using his CAUSE and BECOME operators to account for the meaning of eis-, which denotes an endpoint to motion such that the subject must be at a given location at the end of an interval over which eiserchomai is true.

Since this is a linguistics thesis, expect interlinearized examples — Sorry, Carl, that’s just how they do it. It appears that the author did a 5 year BA/MA program at Ohio State that gave her a double major BA in Classical Greek & Linguistics and an MA in Linguistics. I’m kind of jealous!

It looks like I have something to peruse for a bit.


Brian pointed me to:

Through which I found:

The page for the thesis didn’t have a PDF download, so I googled the title and ended here: (Permanent Link)

PS – Happy LXX Day! I have a post on the LXX half done. Hopefully, I’ll get it up tonight!

5 thoughts on “Greek Aspect/Aktionsart MA Thesis

Add yours

  1. I think you mean “not mine” in the first sentence.

    This is interesting because of the parallel with Russian. In that language (as you may know) adding ANY prefix to any imperfective verb “affects the verb’s lexical aspect” to the extent of making it perfective. Perhaps there was a similar system, but less developed, in Greek.

    1. There are a few discussion in more advanced grammars about this sort of thing, but nothing comprehensive.

      I think the system was similar, but also more complicated in a sense because Greek aspect was already expressed through inflectional morphology, which Russians doesn’t have. While ἕρχομαι as an imperfective can express continuous, habitual, or iterative processes, an imperfective εἰσέρχομαι is limited to habitual or iterative interpretations. It cannot be used for plain vanilla continuous action.

      My guess is that it’s more that we have two different systems from a single pre-verb system in Proto-Indo European which then branched into the Russian system where aspect is marked entirely by derivational morphology and Greek, where aspect is primarily marked by inflectional morphology.

      Imperfective = No endpoint
      Imperfective+Pre-verb = One endpoint
      Perfective = Two endpoints.

      Pre-verb affixes in Greek appear to function as a sort of half way house for aspect. I know the basics of the Russian system, but I don’t know enough to say if it is similar.


  2. Actually things are even more complicated in Russian with verbs of motion like this. For each of these there are two basic verbs each of which can be perfective or imperfective, one for movement in one direction and the other for movement backwards and forwards. Thus we have, rather simplistically:

    idti: to go in one direction, imperfective – most commonly continuous e.g. “He is going to the park”
    poiti: ditto, perfective e.g. “He went to the park (and is still there)”
    khodit’: to go backwards and forwards, imperfective – most often habitual e.g. “He goes to the park every day”
    poxodit’ to go for a short time, walk around, perfective e.g. “He went for a walk”

    But things are a bit simpler with prefixed forms: those of the first set of verbs are perfective and those of the second set are imperfective:

    voiti: to go in, perfective
    vkhodit’: to go in, imperfective

    I’m not sure if the Greek corresponds to this.

    Meanwhile my own suspicion is that Greek aorist was originally derivational rather than inflectional, more like the Russian, but became regularised for most but by no means all verbs.

    1. Meanwhile my own suspicion is that Greek aorist was originally derivational rather than inflectional, more like the Russian, but became regularised for most but by no means all verbs.

      It was. The 2nd Aorists (perfective) are the older verb forms, which then have a completely different verbal stem for the imperfective aspect.

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