Responses to Zevit and Goldfajn

Matthew Anstey manstey at
Mon Sep 27 15:31:08 EDT 1999

Gday all,

I was wondering what people thought of the two major works published last
year that argued that the Hebrew verb system grammatices tense and not
aspect, by Zevit (The Anterior Construction in Classical Hebrew) and
Goldfajn (Word Order and Theme in BH Narrative). Both these works would seem
to raise doubts about the "emerging consensus" that the Hebrew verbal system
is predominately aspectual. I've read these and also Hatav's work which
takes the opposite view and am still unsure about what to think.

Has anyone evaluated these books in one article? I am particularly
interested in whether Zevit's claim, quoting Bybee, is true, that the
"anterior does not occur in languages that do not have other tense
distinctions marked inflectionally." (This is based on Bybee's analysis of
languages across the world.) If this premiss is true, and if Hebrew clearly
has grammaticised anterior constructions, then is this not an unassailable
argument that BH has tensed verb forms? What are your thoughts?

With regards,
Matthew Anstey

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