Prototype Theory and Hebrew Tense/Aspect

peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Tue Dec 14 12:23:15 EST 1999


Dear Dave,

Thanks for your quick response. I don't think Kimmo Huovila or I are 
making the strict distinctions you are making between syntax, 
semantics and discourse structure. Maybe we should. He gives no 
further justifications e.g. for any extension into new fields, maybe 
his references do (I haven't read them). Anyway, if aspect is a 
semantic feature, are extensions being made? My justification would 
be, if it works, it's justified, but then I'm not a theoretical 
linguist!

Yes, your set of features looks good, and you're probably right that 
sequence does not really fit here.

Peter Kirk


______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: Prototype Theory and Hebrew Tense/Aspect
Author:  <dwashbur at nyx.net> at Internet
Date:    13/12/1999 14:51

<snip>

I haven't read the thesis yet, but does he give any justification for 
extending prototype theory from semantics into syntax?

<snip>

I resemble that remark :-)  Again, I'd like to see some justification 
for concluding that this theory is applicable to grammatical 
categories (syntax).  It may have possibilities, but I wonder how we 
go about defining prototypes in syntax: see below.

> So perhaps we can have another go at understanding the Hebrew verb 
> system on the basis of this prototype theory. We can, for example,
> easily define a prototypical WAYYIQTOL in terms of narrative sequence, 
> past time and perfectivity. Yet we have seen that no one of these
> three characteristics applies to all WAYYIQTOLs. With the prototype
> theory we would not expect them to. Similarly we can define the other 
> verb forms - some of which, expecially weqatal, might well end up with 
> multiple foci. Anyone interested in pursuing this path with me? For
> that matter, has anyone pursued it already? I would be interested in 
> any responses.

I'm interested in pursuing it; I would begin by suggesting that 
narrative sequence doesn't really qualify as a prototypical category 
because it is a discourse-level phenomenon, not a syntactic 
(clause-level) one.  I could go with past tense and perhaps 
perfectivity (though I am inclined to believe that aspect is a 
semantic feature, not a syntactic one) and would throw in realis 
mode, producing a prototype that looks something like
[+past +perfective +realis -dependence -subordination]

Let the games begin!


Dave Washburn
http://www.nyx.net/~dwashbur
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; 
give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.
                                   Psalm 86:11

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