(To Niccacci) about your review of G. Hatav's book

Moon-Ryul Jung moon at sogang.ac.kr
Sun Mar 24 11:17:03 EST 2002


Dear Prof. Niccacci,
I read your review on G.Hatav, The Semantics of Aspect and Modality in
_Liber Annuus_49 (1999) 525-546 in pdf format at the following address:
http://www.custodia.org/sbf/edit/LA1999.html

This review was very helpful to me. Let me ask some questions,
though. 

Q1: p. 543, you said:
 1) In historical narrative, in reference to the past: x-qatal
  (or other non-wayyqtol forms = setting, or antecedent information)
   -> wayyiqtol ( main line or foreground) -> x-qatal (or other non-
   wayyqtol forms = off line, or background).

 The traditional reading of Gen 1.1-3, which you do not seem to support,
 seems to match the pattern above. Here Gen 1.1 provides the setting,
and 1.2 provides off-line explanation for the setting. Gen 1.3 starts
 the main line narrative. If the "setting" refers only to the
 antecedent information that can be retrieved or inferred from the text,
 then Gen 1.1 is not qualified. But should the setting be always  
 inferrable from the text? It is so typically. But under special 
 situation, wouldn't the reader simply accept the setting provided 
 in the situation where the reader would not expect to infer it, e.g.
 in the beginning of a story? 

 I often read a novel which starts like "He went to the city last night".
 The reader does not know who "he" is or where "the city" is. But novels
 often start like that. In that situation, the readers would accomodate
  themselves by assuming the existence and relevance of "he" and "the  
  city". But in the middle of a story, such situations cannot be accepted.


Q2: p. 533, you said:

Contrary to common opinion, WAYHI and WHAYA are not particles but full
verbs, whose subject is the two following sentences taken together
as a noun equivalent: "It happened THE FACT THAT while-they-were-burying-
a-man, they-saw-the-band"...... The function of these WAYHI and WHAYA is
to place the two-sentence complex on the main line of communication.....

Without WAYHI and WHAYA, the double sentence would be placed on the off
line of communication.
-----------------------------------------------

It is the case with the pattern of TemporalExpression + W+X+QATAL
(e.g. 2 Kgs 13:21, which you quote in p. 533). But is it also true
of the pattern TemporalExpression + WAYYQTOL. e.g. Gen 22:4? It seems
that Gen 22:4 is a main line statement. 

Q3: pp. 543-4, you said:

Wayyqtol is the narrative tense; it corresponds to the narrative tense
of modern languages- the simple past in English, etc...
Initial x-yiqtol and continuation weqatal are the future tense. The non-
verbal sentence, with or without participle, is the present tense. These
are fix or independent tenses, in the sense that they express a point
in time by themselves, without any need of adverbs, temporal phrases, or
context. On the contrary, the verb forms and non-verbal constructions
expressing background are relative, or dependent tenses, in the sense that
they are syntactically linked to the fix tenses and express each one
a particular aspect or mode of action, i.e. specification/highlighting of
a detail of the main information, or repetition / custom/description, or
simultaneity/anteriority/posteriority. ......
....
Besides, if wayyqtol "cannot be interpreted in the time sphere of future"
and "cannot be interpreted as reporting situations in the present tense,"
what prevents it from being a past tense?
---------------------------------------------------

Let me try to understand your point, Prof. Niccacci.
If weqatal and yiqtol can describe future single situations and past
repeated and habitual situations, we cannot say that
weqatal and yiqtol forms are the future tense. These forms are not
committed with respect to tense. Non-verbal sentences  with or without
participles can describe both present and past situations. So, we cannot
say that they are the  present tense as you do. So, I thought that
it was reasonable to describe verbs in terms of parameters +/-SEQUENCE,
 +/-MODALITY, +/-INCLUSIVE, +/-PERFECT, which are independent of tense.
Wayyqtol can refer only to past situations because it is +SEQ, -MOD, -INC,
-PERF, according to Hatav. But Hatav does not consider it to be a past
tense. She could have done so. But she does not seem to have done
so because of the unsymmetry it creates. She would have to say:

(1) wayyqtol is a past tense describing a single nonrepeated event/state,
(2) yiqtol and weqatal is a past tense that can describe a repeated
    habitual event/state,
(3) yiqtol and weqatal is a future tense that can decribe a future 
    single nonrepeated event/state,
(4) etc...

Hatav seems to think that only when verbs have particular means of
specifying  the present, past, and future, the language has tense.
I think that both you and she are right, because it is a matter of 
what "tense" means. Some language might have developed
specific verb forms only for past single nonrepeated events, while the
same forms are used to describe past and future situations, which have
some common feature. That language is partially tensed.  If so, we can
say that the language is tensed with some caveat, or that the
language is not tensed with some caveat. I think Hatav's approach comes
down to the latter position. Is there more to your criticism other than
the different perception on what tensed language is?

Q4: You talked about the "resumptive repetion" use of wayyqtol.
    I found that such wayyqtol is translated as pluperfect in English.
    E.g. Gen 2.19. I do not see the difference between this use of
wayyqtol
    and that of x-qatal, which is also often translated as pluperfect.
    How would you compare them?

Sincerely
Moon 
Moon R. Jung
Sogang Univ, Seoul, Korea
    






 

 



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