furuli at online.no
Tue Jul 25 05:21:12 EDT 2000
During the last weeks I have been refining my QATAL data, and I would like
to give you some of my estimates as food for thought.
To avoid the the term "tense" which implies grammaticalization, I use the
relationship between the deictic point (C) and the reference time (RT) as
RT before C = past reference
RT coinciding with C = present reference
RT after C = future reference.
Applied to the English verbal system, we get:
RT before C = preterit
RT coinciding with C = present tense and perfect
RT after C = future tense
A note on perfect: When an action is finished and the resulting state holds
at C, we have the perfect tense. Therefore the RT coincides with C. A
Hebrew example is 2Kings 19:3
"They said to him, "Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, of
rebuke, and of disgrace; children *have come (QATAL)* to the birth /and is
there/, and there is no strength to bring them forth."
Of the 13922 QATALs in the Tanach I found
RT before C = past reference 7450 (53,5 %)
RT coinciding with C = present ref. 2505 (18 %), perfect ref. 2605 (18,7 %)
RT after C = future reference 965 (6,9 %)
Modal 392 (2,8 %)
In the historical books I found 2322 (31,1 %) QATALs with non-past reference.
In the poetic/prophetic books I found 4150 QATALs (63,4 %) with non-past
These statistics are problematic for the traditional of view of QATAL as a
preterit, the perfective aspect, or a combinations of both. The fact that
almost half of the QATALs have non-past reference, makes it very difficult
the claim that QATAL is a grammaticalized past tense. The fact that 2100
QATALs have present reference is extremely difficult to explain. given that
QATAL is the perfective aspect (defined in the English way). The same is
true with the 965 examples with future meaning (less than 10 % of these,
according to my estimate, represent future perfect).
University of Oslo
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