weqatal in Jdg 3:23

Bryan Rocine 596547 at ican.net
Tue Oct 6 19:45:34 EDT 1998

Hi Rolf, et al

Rolf wrote:

> All verbs used in narrative texts are perfective
> V is used in a narrative text
> _________________________________
> V is perfective


> It has never been demonstrated
> that discourse analysis can assign meaning to particular forms, it can
> discover and predict patterns. To be more specific: If we assume that all
> verbs used in a progressive narrative are perfective, we have used
> discourse analysis to outrule both the brute data and the institutional
> data of Hebrew.

Well, I would really like to avoid misunderstanding here.  The marriage of
BH verbal semantics, aspect, and discourse analysis is, to me, a match to
sing about.  <sincere face>  I mean it.  

That all verb forms in a narrative are perfective would indeed be a rather
ridiculous assumption.  And I must say that to suggest that anyone here has
indeed claimed such is an unfair caricature of the assertions made int he
name of discourse analysis on this list by myself or others.  My assertion
is that the forward movement of time in an historical narrative requires a
clause with perfective meaning.  The perfective meaning of a clause may be
dderived from context or even "world knowledge" rather than verb form. 
Makes no difference, perfective meaning *in the clause* is still required
for the forward movement of narrative time.  In a historical narrative of
any language it is the clause with the mainline verb form which 
advances narrative time, in BH, of course, the wayyiqtol clause.  Does this
mean that the mainline verb form in BH( or any other language's) historical
narrative always has intrinsic perfective meaning?  Nope.  Hang on a sec.  

Clue:  I don't say a perfective *verb* is required to move narrative time
forward;  rather, it's perfective *clause*

Why is a clause with perfective meaning required to move narrative time
forward?  Because for time to advance, the situations expressed by the
clauses must be bounded at beginning and end.  For a situation to be made
visible as an unanalyzable whole(the definition of perfective) it's end
must be in view together with its inception and/or duration.  Let me make
an imperfect analogy:  To try to make narrative time move forward without
these perfective clauses is like trying to build a pile of clouds.  They
can't pile up(don't even try to tell me they're frozen!  ;-)    ), progress
cannot be made, because they are without boundary, so to speak.  The best
we might get is a puddle.  :-) :-)   But we can pile something with
"boundaries" like blocks.  To move narrative time forward a writer must
place distinct, whole events in a series, like beads on a string.  But to
move in the other direction, from discourse requirement to verrb form
meaning is not logically sound, as you have pointed out, Rolf.  For
instance, let's say we the forward movement of narrative time in a
narrative passage.  We observe this movement of time by inference based on
world knowledge.  So we're back to the question: Can we now conclude that
the *verb forms* in the passage where narrative time moves forward are
perfective?  Ain't so simple.  The *clauses* are defintiely
perfective.  Whether the verb form itself is perfective requires that we
distinguish between implied (or derived) perfectivity and the intrisically
perfective meaning of a form.  The two are not necessarily coincidental. 
And <sigh> the distinction is beyond me for BH.  I think I could tackle the
problem if I only had native speakers for interview.  What we can do is
find decent counter-examples for just about every aspectual value one would
care to slap on most forms.  Exceptions:  I think the wayyiqtol may be
perfective, the counter-examples being explainable, and I think the verbal
participle is imperfective.  

But remember that there is other stuff, other clauses, in a narrative
besides the "beads on
the string."  Other stuff, what a lot of us call off-the-line material,
fleshes out a narrative discourse without moving forward narrative time or
at least with the slowing of narrative time:  simultaneous activity,
backgrounded(on-going) activity, comment, elaboratons or descriptions to
name a few.  Once again, to leave room for the exceptions, the "derived,"
and layering,  I'll say *typically*, off-the-line clauses are imperfective
and when available, a language with imperfective verb forms will use them
in the off-the-line material.  We can at least say that impoerfectivity is
more compatible with off-the-line material.  Are all off-the-line *verb
forms* imperfective?  That ain't so simple either.

Moral of the story:  Discourse analysis is an indispensible part of aspect

Am I making sense?  C'mon, linguists, spank me if I need it. Pro 27:6 
ne)e:maniym p.c:(ey )oheb_


B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13208


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