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Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus (SPiL Plus)

versión On-line ISSN 2224-3380
versión impresa ISSN 1726-541X


DU TOIT, Herman. Foreground and background in the narrative discourse of Luke's Gospel: Some remarks on the function of the Greek imperfect and pluperfect indicative tense-forms. SPiL plus (Online) [online]. 2020, vol.59, pp.61-79. ISSN 2224-3380.

The distinction between foreground and background in narrative discourse is a pervasive phenomenon in the literatures of the world, and languages have a variety of devices to indicate this distinction. The use of the tense-forms of the verb for this purpose has been studied in a variety of languages, including the Greek of the New Testament. The aim of this study is to explore, describe, and classify the functions of the imperfect and pluperfect indicative in the Gospel of Luke's narrative discourse. The study is restricted to narrative proper (which includes embedded narratives, such as the parables of Jesus), but excludes direct and indirect discourse, and comments by the author of the Gospel. The findings are that the main function of the imperfect in the Gospel of Luke's narrative discourse is to provide background information. This is related to the imperfect's "imperfective" aspect and its characteristic linking to another verbal utterance, which also promotes cohesion in the text. The imperfect's main specific use is to provide background information in the form of setting the scene for events that follow in the main storyline. It is also used in the introduction of participants in a scene, to provide supplementary details, in epilogues, and in explanatory clauses. In a few instances, the imperfect expresses foreground information. The pluperfect is always used for background information. This is related to its characteristic of describing a continuing state in the past which is the result of an event in the past. The pluperfect's specific uses are to set the scene for mainline events that follow, together with the imperfect; to provide supplementary details about persons, events, etc. in the main storyline; and to explain the reason for events in the main storyline.

Palabras clave : narrative discourse; imperfect indicative; pluperfect indicative; Greek; New Testament.

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