Is the perfect like deponency?

(Like all headlines that begin with a question, you can assume this one should be answered with a negative)

Randall Buth noted that across the history of the Greek language the idea that the perfect is imperfective is totally novel and for that reason it should be suspect.

Con Campbell concluded the discussion about the perfect this afternoon with the response:

Well for the past 500 years deponency has been accepted as a valid category.

Surely he knows that Robertson 100 years ago didn’t like the category.

More over, most pre-1900 grammars have no consensus on how to define deponency. As far as I have found, the concept of ‘active in meaning; middle/passive in form’ didn’t appear until James H. Moulton’s introductory grammar of 1906. So the claim really doesn’t hold.

5 thoughts on “Is the perfect like deponency?

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  1. Actually, in 2010 Bernard Taylor demonstrated that deponency began in the Renaissance period. Of course Robertson didn’t like the idea but it remained a legitimate category in standard grammars until recently. So, I think my point stands.

    1. Yes. I was there for Bernard’s paper. It was superb. We e-mailed back and forth afterward.

      We can agree to disagree on the rest. The term ‘deponency’ was in flux for the entire 19th century (i.e. since the beginning of scientific grammar) with a wide variety of definitions. That fact, in conjunction with Robertson, is evidence that unlike the perfect, it isn’t a category that has sat well with grammarians for a long, long time. And Post-Robertson, we really haven’t had any sort of serious (Koine) grammatical work up until the 1980’s.

  2. And how old do you think the standard definition of the perfect is? Also, Randall’s comment was a little careless, since he himself argued for imperfectivity in the perfect (+imperfective +perfective).

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