furuli at online.no
Fri Sep 23 11:57:51 EDT 2005
I have already stated that I find this thread of little value because some
of the terminology used lacks precision and because of lack of a systematic
approach. But since you commented on my work in your last post, I find it
to make a few comments.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Vadim Cherny" <VadimCherny at mail.ru>
To: "Read, James C" <K0434995 at kingston.ac.uk>
Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2005 11:35 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] tenses
> RE: [b-hebrew] tenses> Having reread your posts vadim it seems that you
> are saying the exact same thing as
> Rolf but from a different perspective.
> Well, not. Our positions with Rolf coincide where we both reject the idea
> of imperfective, since it obviously doesn't meet the majority of entries.
I suppose that you by "the idea of imperfective" mean "the idea of
imperfectivity". Your words here represent an example of the lack of
precision I refer to. Your claim is wrong because 1) I define imperfectivity
differently from you, and therefore our positions in this respect cannot be
compared, and 2) Imperfectivity plays an important role in my model, since I
view the opposition between Hebrew finite verbs as one of perfetivity versus
> Rolf, as I understand him, argues for ad hoc translation based on very
> subjective views of the context.
> I, on the contrary, argue that yiqtol is a future tense by default, and
> deviations from that meaning are idiomatic (etymologically related to
> future tense) or stemming from deictic shifts; in any case, non-future
> yiqtols are unambiguous from the immediate context.
Any approach to a dead language will include some kind of subjectivity.
However, my approach to the Hebrew verbal system is not based on Russian or
English aspectual thinking, not even on Norwegian, which lacks aspects. I
have described on this list that my definition of Hebrew verbs is based on
the fundamental linguistic concepts, "reference time," "event time," and
"deictic center," and these concepts are language-non-specific, because they
stand on their own feet. This is the most "objective" method of which I am
aware. My definition of imperfectivity, therefore, is based on the study of
where, how, and in which manner reference time intersects event time in
different verb forms in Hebrew.
Thus, I translate the
> last phrase of Isaiah 53:12 as future, while Rolf *interprets* it as the
> past tense.
Your words above are wrong. In a previous post I suggested the following
tranlation of Isaiah 53:12:
"For that reason I will give him a portion (YIQTOL) among the many, and
with the mighty ones he will divide (YIQTOL) the spoil. Because he will
let his soul be poured out (QATAL) to death, and will let himself be
counted (QATAL) among transgressors. He himself will carry (QATAL) the sins
of many people, and he will make intercession (YIQTOL) for the
My method, right or wrong, is reasonably objective; Rolf's -
> very subjective, thus not a method at all.
I will not comment on your method, but as I show above, I base my analysis
on a few fundamental concepts which does not require a Russian, or English,
or Norwegian mentality.
>> You are saying that the major use is a future tense. Rolf says the same
>> You are saying that there are cases where the same form is used with a
> past reference (this you attribute to a 'deictic shift'). Rolf agrees that
> the same
> form is used in past reference.
> The point is that yiqtol under deictic shift is still future tense - from
> narrator's time reference point. Consider my earlier example of sports
> commentator reviewing playback of a match, "Now he will push forward!"
> This relates to past events, but is future tense. This is how deictic
> shift works.
>> You are saying that the form does not have inherent aspect in the
>> traditional sense.
> Rolf is saying the exact same thing.
> This makes two of us. In fact, I have an impression that had Rolf been
> born into Russian as the mother tongue, and see the Tanakh through Russian
> grammatical assumptions regarding the use of future tense, we would have
> no problem coming to a common ground.
As mentione two times above, I reject the premise that we need to interpret
Hebrew in the light of another language. In my view, such a thing is a pure
>> In fact, in conclusion, you are saying that neither tense nor aspect is
> in the form yet it is evident which tense is the major usage. Rolf is
> saying the exact
> same thing.
I say that tense is not grammaclized in Classical Hebrew, but aspect is
grammaticalized. (I think the words above come from James.)
> I don't recall saying that the tense is not grammaticalized. Rather,
> yiqtol was originally the future tense, and later, as in any language,
> acquired some idiomatic usage which does not invalidate yiqtol's major use
> as future tense.
To argue what a verb form in a dead language *originally* was, is perhaps
the most subjective approach to a dead language of which I am aware. How in
the world can we know a supposed "original" meaning of a form? In my
dissertation I discuss both the historical and diachronic approaches of
scholars, from H. Bauer and G. R. Driver to modern scholars, and I also
discuss the value of the cognate languages. My conclusion is that neither
cognate languages nor translations of the Hebrew text (e.g. LXX and
Peshitta) have any value in a study of the meaning of the verbs in classical
Hebrew. I also have concluded that there is no evidence for a change in the
semantic meaning of verb forms (YIQTOL, WAYYIQTOL etc.) from the earliest to
the lates parts of the Tanakh. So, my appraoch is empirical rather than
theoretical: Classical Hebrew has about 80,000 verbs, and I have studied
these verbs in the light of the parameters mentioned above. On this basis I
have made my definition of perfectivity and imperfectivity in Hebrew (not in
other langauges), and on this basis I have concluded which verbs are
perfective and which are imperfective.
> Vadim Cherny
University of Oslo
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