Prototype Theory and Hebrew Tense/Aspect

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Tue Dec 14 23:42:51 EST 1999

> <re: randall buth's statement>
> > > as for aspect and tense, they are both semantic categories, and to be
> > > distinguished from the lexically bound semantics of 'kind of action'.
> > > semantics, of course, must be integrated to syntax and surface
> structures
> > >  in order to have any linguistic relevancy for a particular language.
> <washburn commented:>
> > "Of course"?  Once again we seem to be assuming what we're
> > setting out to prove,  otherwise known as circular reasoning.
> > Semantics do indeed need to be integrated into syntax and surface
> > structures, but the key phrase there is "surface structures."
> > Seeking to determine the force of a particular syntactic feature
> > necessarily takes us well below surface structure, so the
> > statement is correct but irrelevant.
> I do not follow: in what way are syntactic features not surface structures?
> I know the Generative terms of deep structure/vs. surface structure, but
> even then, there is a surface structure to syntax.

A surface structure is realized, but it's not generated there.  Initial 
generation and subsequent movement take place below that, and 
this is where I'm talking about.

> I would consider the real distinction between surface structure and
> semantics to be between the forms that are found in the text, and the
> meaning/function that they have in conveying the message.
> In this regards, surface structure is found at many levels:
> morphemes/lexemes
> morphology
> syntax
> discourse structures above the sentence

Please define what you mean by "surface structure."  I get the 
feeling we're using this term two different ways.

> I interpret buth's statement as saying that 'kind of action' is lexically
> bound to particular morphemes, but that aspect and tense are bound at higher
> levels to higher structures.
> I might also ask, is not there meaning associated with the structure of
> syntax?

Depends on what you mean by "meaning."  I associate "meaning" 
with semantics: the ideas conveyed by words, phrases and 
clauses (on this see especially Jackendoff, "Semantics in 
Generative Grammar").  Syntax, by contrast, deals with force and 
connection: "force" being a category or form's essential purpose, 
especially as regards things like mode, and connection being the 
ways that clauses do or do not relate to one another in 
coordination, subordination, dependence, etc.  

Dave Washburn
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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