perfect vs imperfect

Randall Buth ButhFam at
Sun Mar 25 17:34:26 EST 2001

>>>>> (Holmyard) but they are aspects,
>>>>> in speaking of action as complete or incomplete. Thus both can be 
>>>>> used of
>>>>> past time or future time.
>>>> but they are not 'pure' aspects, either. When talking about future
>>>> events
>>>> the prefix verb is not usually referring to the ASPECT of the event, 
>>>> to an
>>>> "in-process, incomplete" event, rather it usually refers to an
>>>> aspectually
>>>> complete (=perfective) event in the future. Thus YAVO is usually 
>>>> a simple
>>>> 'he will come' rather than 'he will be coming'.
>>>Agreed.  That's why Hatav's work is so exciting.  By moving the 
>>>main focus of the discussion out of the aspect realm and into the 
>>>area of modality, she has resolved a lot of the problems associated 
>>>with the aspect approach.  Hence, the suffix conjugation is "realis" 
>>>mode and the prefix is "irrealis" which includes future.
>> except when prefix is not "irrealis" but assumes reality, like with
>> habituals.
>> or when suffix verbs are used with 'irrealis' 'if he had done it (but he
>> didn't)'. This is in the JOTT article, too.
>> Just to complicate matters.
> (Washburn)
>Hatav very effectively classifies habituals as modal as well.  Since I 
>can't get my hands on the JOTT article, could you give an example 
>or two of the irrealis suffix verb?

'lu' "remote if, contrafactual if" and 'lule' "contrafactual if not"
strongly prefer the suffix tense. 

Cf. Judges 8.19 lu haHayitem ... lo haragti etxem
'if you had let them live (but you didn't), I didn't/wouldn't kill you (but
I am about to). 
I think most linguists would apply the term "irrealis" to this example. 

For the JOTT article, Peter Kirk can email it to you.

(On modality and prefix tense, Zuber already write a book on the subject in
1986. I haven't seen Galia's to know how different it might be. In general
I'm not impressed by indicative/factual vs. modal/potential as an absolute
contrast. One must be careful with definitions because "modality" could
always be redefined in such a way as to cover most cases, even
indicative/factual ones. I don't see much point in that, though there is
nothing inherently wrong with the words 'realis' and 'irrealis' if given
enough slack. 
Her 'realis' would be my 'definite', 
her 'irrealis' would be my 'indefinite'. 
I don't get excited about my own labels, either, as you'll see in the
article. Mainly, I just use the ol' Hebrew verb and follow the
prototypical/defalt implications without commitment to absolute tense,
absolute aspect or absolute mood.)

Randall Buth

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