kimmo.huovila at helsinki.fi
Mon Jul 10 09:17:17 EDT 2000
I am back to the list after being off-line for a few days.
I guess that if we want to go deeper in our discussion on the Hebrew
verbal system and linguistic presuppositions behind our views, we cannot
avoid aspect theory. I guess I need to explain how I see punctuality,
and then you can pinpoint the differences. I am almost sure that you see
it differently, because otherwise some of your comments do not make
sense to me. This also relates to the discussion on punctuality a while
back. I give some background that may be very familiar to you, but
perhaps not so familiar to other list members.
I see punctuality as an aspect that expresses an event with no
linguistic time. Vendler's 'achievements' are punctual, and we may use
the same tests that Vendler used to see if a verb is punctual.
Achievements cannot be predicated for a period of time (e.g. 'to reach
the top). While one can say 'It took him three hours to reach the
summit', this does not mean that the 'reaching' of the summit went on
during those three hours. (Vendler 1967:103-104.)
While accomplishments can take an adverbial of minimum duration ('I was
building the house for two days.'), achievements (punctuals) cannot (?I
was reaching the top for two days.'). If someone finds my last
example acceptable, still the reaching did not take place for two days
(like the 'building' did), but rather an attempt. And 'reach' would have
a different sense (polysemy). I do not note this because I would feel
the above example is natural, but because this sort of phenomenon (even
if it does not work with this sentence) does exist. This is
Fanning's basis of dividing achievements into punctuals and climaxes
(though I rather analyze it as aspectual polysemy).
Also, I note that you rely heavily on Mari Broman Olsen's theory and
seem to use a lot of her terminology. I have not read the book (though I
have read about the book). So, if you use terms that she has defined, I
may not get the same idea.
Rolf Furuli wrote:
> The point of Broman Olsen is that verbs which are marked for durativity,
> such as "sing" and "run" can only have a durative interpretation. In a
> context with such verbs we therefore know that durativity is not pragmatic,
> i.e. it does not come from the context. To show that durativity is a
> semantic (uncancelable) property, it is enough to show that the durativity
> of *some* verbs is uncancelable. and similarly with dynamicity (=change),
> and telicity. To speak of Hebrew, any verb which normally is viewed as
> static can also have a non-static interpretation, and every verb that is
> viewed as puncual can also have a non-punctual interpretation.
How does she define durativity and punctuality? In particular, what
tests does she apply to see if a verb is durative? I assume that here
she does not use the familiar Vendlerian classification, since it is
hard to see what would it mean to cancel durativity in that case.
Vendler's test defines punctuality basically negatively: a verb cannot
be put in a certain frame. I assume that cancelable durativity would not
mean (as the view seems nonsensical to me) that a verb cannot be put in
a certain frame (to make it punctual) and yet be put in the same frame
(for it to be a durative verb to start with).
Perhaps one might try to put the verb in an imperfective form to see if
the interpretation is iterative. According to Fanning's theory, it would
prove a punctual use (though he does not really argue for it, and one
does not need to make this assumption).
I think it would help me a great deal if you summarized the main points
of her theory and terminology.
> >Also, I am not sure what kind of methodology you would use to falsify
> >(in principle) the proposition that punctuality is not semantic
> >(=uncancelable?), but durativity etc. are semantic.
> If you find a Hebrew verb which usually viewed as punctual, which cannot
> have a non-punctual interpretation, you have falsified my proposition. And
> if you can find a non-durative interpretation of those verbs I say are
> marked for durativity, you have falsified my proposition.
I think that a punctual verb can be put in an imperfective frame, and
the result is somehow iterative. If this is equivalent to what you are
saying, I accept it, though I hold that the verb still has a punctual
interpretation, which is just layered (and iterated) inside an
imperfective. But if punctuality is tested by checking the verb's
inability to receive an adverbial of minimum duration, then it follows
that a punctual cannot have a non-punctual interpretation. ('The cables
were snapping for a minute.' would not count as a counter example,
because here the punctual event is iterated (as implied by the plurality
of the subject), and the adverbial qualifies the iterated whole
(aspectually imperfective), not the punctual verb 'snap'.)
I assume that Olsen's use of non-durative interpretation is somewhat
different from the Vendlerian distinction between achievements and
accomplishments. Or if it is the same, I just miss the whole sense. This
is why I asked you to give an example. I wonder if punctuality is the
unmarked category for her, and durativity the marked one (the opposite
from the terminology I have used here).
> I do not understand what you mean by "grammaticalized to a degree",
> particularly if we agree in the principle that a difference in morphology
> signals a difference in meaning. Grammaticalized tense is in my view
> uncancelable, and the same form cannot in one context have past reference
> and in another context have non-past reference (except in special clearly
> defined circumstances). Consider the English words "went" and "bought".
> They allways represent past tense, and to say that they are grammaticalized
> past tense "to a degree", is nonsensical to me.
> Could you direct me to a work which discusses "grammaticalization to a
> degree"? In my view it is a contradiction of terms. How can we know that
> YIQTOL is aspectual neutral in future contexts? I will take YIQTOL as
> having the same aspectual value in any context. There are scores of
> examples of YIQTOLs with past reference which are not imperfective as this
> term is defined by Comrie, and as it is in the English verbal system (=end
> not included). One example is Job 3:3 "Let the day perish wherein I was
> born (YIQTOL of YLD)."
No, I cannot direct you to such a work off the top of my head. Perhaps I
just made a new use for the word grammaticalize (though I doubt it).
However, the concept I tried to refer to is quite simple and, I assume,
(By L-tense I mean language specific (often morphological) tense; by
M-tense I mean the actual relationship between the event and the deictic
center (metalinguistic tense).)
If a morphological form grammaticalizes some semantic property, then I
agree it has that semantic property (though e.g. L-tense and M-tense do
match; same goes with aspect). However, if I say that a semantic
property is grammaticalized, I mean something different. I mean that the
particular semantic property has grammatical reflexes in the language.
In other words, the semantic property shows up in the grammar somehow.
It can show up more or less. Tense is grammaticalized (only) to a degree
when there are no morphological forms that grammaticalize tense per se,
but tense (as a location of time with reference to a deictic center) has
grammatical reflexes. For example, if Hebrew verb is seen as purely
temporal, we end up with a theory where there is distance between
L-tense and M-tense. We may also analyze the verb as purely aspectual,
but again (at least by your theory, in my opinion) there is a distance
between L-aspect and M-aspect. If the correct view of the Hebrew verb is
a mixture of tense and aspect, we could say that both semantic features
are grammaticalized to a degree.
My intent is not here to form new, rigorous terminology, but rather give
some idea of what I meant. In other words, do not take the definitions
above as final, but as illustrative.
>> (RF) Nobody denies
>> that verbs with past tense can be used in situations with non-past
>> reference in many languages.
> (KH) But people like Porter seem to me to be saying that if there are
>exceptions to temporal reference of tenses, then they are not tenses. My
>point was that this is inadequate. Now, if you disagree with (my
>understanding of) Porter here, my comments missed the target.
> (RF) I do not follow Porter in his rejection of future as a tense, but I think
> he has good arguments regarding aorist. A good example is Jude 1:14 where
> the RT of the aorist HLQEN clearly comes after C. It stands in a main
> clause, and there is nothing special with the context. I do not remember
> the details about how far Porter is willing to go, but as I earlier have
> written, I am ready to accept all exceptions that can be explained to be
> special cases.
With the aorist I think he is correct in that there is no uncancelable
temporal relationship. However, I think that his view of the aorist is
inadequate. Pastness is part of the semantics of the aorist, but not an
uncancelable part. I do not consider Jude 1:14 a very good example, for
reasons stated in my MA thesis. There are, however, better examples, and
the point can be established. But I will not elaborate on this, as this
is quite far from biblical Hebrew, which is the topic for
this list, and as those who are interested can find my view on this by
reading my thesis.
However, there are contexts where the temporal relationship (M-tense)
does not match the tense used (L-tense) in English as well as in Greek
(even with the imperfect and the pluperfect). But I assume that you
would not say that the temporal meaning was canceled. I am getting the
feeling that you reserve the word 'cancel' to mean cancel pragmatically
or contextually, not by a specific use of grammar. Am I correct?
> Broman Olsen's claim is that the relationship between C and RT in the
> English tenses is uncancelable: past tense RT>C, present tense RT=C, and
> future tense C<RT.
How would her theory deal with sentences like 'If the train left
tomorrow at ten, you would make it in time, but it leaves at eleven.'?
Would this kind of a future referring imperfect count as a
counter-example? Or is she saying that the imperfect form does not
signal tense here, and so there is nothing to cancel in the first place?
Or am I on the wrong track?
> >> (RF) Something which is a half tense is in my view nonsensical; either a verb
> >> form is a tense ("grammaticalization of location in time") or it is not a
> >> tense
> > (KH) Does this apply to my hypothesis of the Hebrew verb above? If I
> >understand you correctly, you would rule it out also as nonsensical.
> >Perhaps I misunderstood you.
> (RF) You have understood me correctly.
I wonder why you rule out this kind of interpretation of data
pre-theoretically. Is this a linguistic universal that has some
empirical foundation (I doubt it)? How do you justify your view here?
You said that you disagree with Porter about rejecting the Greek future
as a tense. The Greek future has modal uses. It can be used to command,
for example. Yet you see it as a tense. Does it follow that you deny
modal uses of the future on a theoretic basis, or how do you apply your
I hope I have at least clarified why I am not quite following you.
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