<wayyiqtol> again

peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Wed Dec 29 20:28:09 EST 1999


Dear Rolf,

Thank you for clarifying and qualifying your earlier statement, even 
before you received my protest. I should explain that I was simply 
trying to use the definitions, following Reichenbach, which Galia so 
clearly made in her posting of 27 December. I thought I had made this 
clear. She wrote (partly cut):

     The notion of R(eference time) was introduced by Reichenbach 
     (1947) in his wonderful book ELEMENTS OF SYMBOLIC LOGIC.  The 
     theory prevailing at the time was that of Tense-Logic (TL), which 
     analyzed the tenses in terms of two points: the event-time 
     (henceforth: E-time) and the speech-time (henceforth: S-time). 
     According to this approach, the sentence in (1) below is analyzed 
     as follows: the E-time precedes the S-time; while the sentence in 
     (2) is analyzed as saying: E-time follows S-time.
     1. Mary ate a banana.
     2. Mary will eat a banana.
     3. Mary has eatn a banana.
     Reichenbach shows that, at least for English, TL analysis is not 
     accurate. E.g., the sentence in (3) above is also understood to 
     state that the E-time preceds the S-time. So what is the 
     difference between (1) and (3)? Reichenbach claims that speakers 
     take into account a third point of time, he labels Reference-Time 
     (henceforth: R-time, or just R). So, every sentence (in English) 
     is to be analyzed according to THREE times (in Reichenbach - 
     points of time; Partee and other linguists believe the relevant 
     unit is intervals): S, E and R. According to him, the difference 
     between (1) and (3) is in the relationship of the three times. In 
     (1) E and R associate, both precede S, while in (3) S and R 
     associate, both follow E. The sentence in (4) clearly shows that 
     there are three times:
     4. (when John arrived) Mary had already left.
     As Reichenbach determines for the past-perfect sentence in (4), 
     the E-time of Mary's leaving precedes the S-time, but also the 
     R-time determined by the adverbial I put in brackets...
     
     The simple-past in (1) builds an R-time, while the past-perfect 
     in (4) does not. I conclude that the past-perfect is NOT an 
     R-building form (as well as the present and the future perect, 
     but for the currant discussion this is not important). That is 
     why without the bracketed sentence, (4) would be ungrammatical. A 
     sentence like "Mary had eaten" cannot be interpreted without 
     providing an R-time. This can be done within the sentence itself 
     as in "By five PM Mary had eaten" or in "When John got home for 
     dinner Mary had already eaten". This can also be recovered from 
     the context. E.g., via a dialogue where the context or the 
     interlocuter provide the relevant R-time. The same is to be said 
     about the progressive in English. The sentence "John was eating" 
     is ungrammatical untill an R-time is provided (at five PM, when 
     the phone suddenly rung). Note that the simple past in English 
     MAY also be dependent on the context to be provided with an 
     R-time. In (1) above the simple past sentence builds its own 
     R-time, but in (5) below the stative sentence uses the R-time of 
     the previous sentece:
     5. John came in. There were three men in the room.
     
So I think that you, Rolf, are correct in writing:

     (1) After Harry has arrived, John will leave.
     
     In (1) ST (speech time) is the time of the utterance. ST has 
     little importance in this example, as you claimed is the case 
     generally. If I understand you correctly, you will say that 
     Harry's arrival is R or RT (reference time) and E (event time) is 
     John's leaving. If this is what you say, you are right if you 
     claim that what counts is the relationship between RT and E, and 
     that S is irrelevant.

- except that I might ask Galia to confirm that you and I have 
correctly understood her definitions in this case. This sentence 
differs from Galia's (4) in that the subordinate clause with "after", 
unlike the one with "when", identifies not a specific point in time 
but an open period with no end point. But it does seem that what you 
are calling the deictic point is what Comrie and Galia are both 
calling the reference time or reference point. You then use the term 
"reference time" in another sense, which is confusing to everyone.

I'm afraid I don't understand your sentence:

     (2) After Harry has arrived, John will have left.

I don't think this is good English, at least with no further context. 
This is because, as Galia wrote above, "A sentence like "Mary had 
eaten" cannot be interpreted without providing an R-time." Although 
Harry's arrival is a potential R-time, the "after" clause replaces 
that R-time with an open period, whereas the English perfect forms 
require a closed R-time. The sentence would be correct if it started 
"When Harry arrives", which gives a definite R-time (again in Galia's 
terms).

As for Ruth 4:3, I actually prefer a quite different interpretation of 
this passage, which is that Naomi had at an earlier time sold this 
land to a third party and the kinsman's duty was now to buy it back 
from the third party, in accordance with Leviticus 25:25. That would 
make the QATAL form here a genuine past, a normal background X-QATAL 
clause. Of course presumably the actual seller was Elimelech, but now 
Naomi is in the position of the one who sold it and is the one for 
whom it should be bought back. Chapters 2-3 hardly make sense if Naomi 
had a plot of land of her own. Also the English "is selling" is 
correct because this includes offering for sale: "I am selling my car" 
means not that the paperwork is in progress but that I am advertising 
and looking for a buyer. (This is not just "I am selling" meaning "I 
am about to sell"; I could also write "This time last year I was 
selling my car, but I never found a buyer.") I am not claiming that 
the Hebrew MKR means the same, though I would not rule it out.

But you have still left me confused about exactly what you do mean by 
RT. In your interpretation of Ruth 4:3, it seems that your RT is 
different from C, but when is it? It looks like some time which you 
have pulled out of thin air which comes in the middle of the process 
of selling. Maybe I just need to read Broman Olsen's works, but I do 
not have them to hand.

So let me see how I would analyse your sentences, and I will see how 
this corresponds to your scheme.

     (1) After Harry has arrived, John will leave.

S: speech time
R: Harry's arrival (your C)
E: John's leaving (also apparently your RT in this case)

E>S (so future); E>R ("after"); probably R>S; aspect undefined

     (2) After Harry has arrived, John will have left.

I can only take this to mean "There will be a time after Harry has 
arrived before which John will have left."

S: speech time
R1: Harry's arrival (your C)
E1=R2: the indefinite future time (is this your RT?)
E2: John's leaving

E2>S (so future); E1(=R2)>R1; (E1=)R2>E2; probably R1>S; perfective as 
E1 and E2 are complete

But this sentence actually tells us nothing about the relationship of 
R1 and E2 and fails to specify E1=R2, which underlines its 
meaninglessness. It could be taken as meaning that John will complete 
his leaving (perfective) whereas in (1) this is not explicit, but this 
is not a natural English way to make this distinction.

     (3) Ruth 4:3 He then said to the next-of-kin,  "Naomi, who has 
     come back from the country of Moab, is selling (QATAL) the parcel 
     of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech.

(I will for the moment follow your understanding of this verse)

S: speech time (Boaz's words)
E: Naomi's sale (also apparently your RT in this case)
R: also speech time (your C)

E>S (so future); R=S; aspect undefined

I appreciate your point that E may be not a point in time but a period 
of time; but in none of these cases is there any suggestion that the 
event is drawn out over a period of time.

I would be grateful for your further comments, to help me to see if I 
am now grasping your meaning properly. I would be especially pleased 
to see a clear definition of RT as it appears in your scheme, for as 
you see that is where I am confused.

Peter Kirk


______________________________ Reply Separator 
_________________________________
Subject: Re: <wayyiqtol> again
Author:  <furuli at online.no> at Internet
Date:    29/12/1999 14:43


Dear Peter,

I would like to add a few words to my last post. I wrote that "Your 
view about E,R. and S in Hebrew studies is definitely wrong!" 
Reflecting a little more on your words, I suppose you think correctly, 
and you try to say the same as I try to say, but you use other 
symbols. Perhaps the reason for this is that Comrie "Tense", 1985, pp 
14,58 uses the term "reference point" to what I call "the deictic 
point", and this is easy to confuse with "reference time".  If I had 
realized your thinking before I sent my post, I would have used other 
words.

It is not easy for members of the list to get hold of the relationship 
between E (event time), RT or R (reference time), S or SP (speech 
time) and C (the deictic point), so I would like to add an example:

(1) After Harry has arrived, John will leave.

In (1) ST (speech time) is the time of the utterance. ST has little 
importance in this example, as you claimed is the case generally. If I 
understand you correctly, you will say that Harry's arrival is R or RT 
(reference time) and E (event time) is John's leaving. If this is what 
you say, you are right if you claim that what counts is the 
relationship between RT and E, and that S is irrelevant.

However, I would say that Harry's arrival is C (the deictic point) and 
not RT, E (event time) is the the time from the start to the end of 
the leaving incident of John, and RT (reference time) is the 
intersection of E at the nucleus (meaning that the aspect is 
imperfective). As a comparison, look at (2).

(2) After Harry has arrived, John will have left.

In (2) ST is the time of the utterance, Harry's arrival is C, the time 
from the start to the end of the leaving incident of John is E, and RT 
intersects E at the coda (indicating that the aspect is perfective).

Let me apply this to a verse in the book of Ruth (NRSV)


(3) Ruth 4:3 He then said to the next-of-kin,  "Naomi, who has come 
back from the country of Moab, is selling (QATAL) the parcel of land 
that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech.

In (3) SP (speech time) is both the time of the utterance and C (the 
deictic point). E (event time) must be the time from the start to the 
end of the selling incident. What is the relationship between C and E? 
E comes after C because the selling incident had not even started# (in 
spite of the English progressive present, which is strange). What is 
the relationship between C and RT? RT must come after C because the 
selling incident was not completed, it must intersect E at the 
nucleus. This gives the result that that QATAL  has future meaning and 
it has the same characteristics as the English *imperfective* (sic!) 
aspect. The only possible way to circumvent this *strange* 
conclusion,as far as I can see, is to show that MKR can have the 
meaning "to offer something for sale",i.e. a telic event which is 
finished at the time something is offered but not sold. However, I am 
not aware of any examples of such a meaning.

I hope the examples above can clear up some points for somebody, and 
at the same time show the great help an analysis of the relationship 
between C and RT can be when we seek the time reference of Hebrew 
verbs.


# This is also seen in v 5.


Regards
Rolf


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo




























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