[b-hebrew] Paper uploaded: Tagging Hebrew Tense, Aspect, Mood

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Sat Dec 13 02:24:27 EST 2003

Dear Ken,

Your approach of analyzing *all* the verbs is fine, and your 
criticism that earlier works have just made partial analyzes is fine 
as well.

I have the following comments though:

Note 4. "used differently".  What is the meaning of "differently"? 
Because you mention the basic TAM factors in your introduction, the 
reader may think that "differently" refers to one or more of these. 
If you for instance are saying that the *meaning* of a verb, say a 
WAYYIQTOL is different in different genre situations, I disagree with 
your assumption. A verb form has the same meaning in any context, but 
it can be used differently.

p 7.  I think that a participle used as substantive  (and as 
adjective) must be a part of the database as well as all other uses 
of the forms. They tell something about the use of participles, and 
they may throw light on the use verbs in different books as well. In 
my database of 70.000 verbs I have listed all participles and 
infinitives as well as all the finite forms.

p 9.  WAW.  I am not sure what the terms "T" and  "F" refer to. If 
the application of these letters is based on the Masoretic pointing, 
I see no problem here. Because then the database only give data as to 
Masoretic pointing. But if the letters are based on the judgement of 
the compiler, then their use is circular. The purpose of the database 
is to give a basis for the interpretation of Hebrew verbs, so the 
compiler should  not assume *before* everything is compiled that WAWs 
have a converting (or some other) power and that there are four 
rather than two conjugations in Classical Hebrew. Conclusions 
regarding this should be drawn when everything is compiled.

pp 17, 23. ASPECT. "temporal constituency (complete /progressive 
recurring/ event)". This is the most problematic part.  You refer to 
Broman Olsen's treatment of aspect. Her work on English aspect/tense 
is excellent. But her application to Greek leaves much to be desired, 
because Greek aspects are different. The basic weaknesses in studies 
of the Hebrew verb are, 1) the term "aspect" is only vaguely defined 
or not defined at all, and 2) the nature of English aspect is 
projected into Hebrew. In my view, the best way to understand the 
nature of Hebrew verbs, is first to make a thorough analysis of the 
nature of Hebrew aspect compared with aspects in other languages, and 
then to view the Hebrew verbal system in the light of the finds. To 
force the aspectual system of one language upon Hebrew is a fallacy.

I see no problems with your classification by the letters "C, R, D" 
on p 19. What you get in your database by such a classification are 
groups of similar events, and that is OK. The problem I see, is to 
connect these to "aspect". For example, the characteristics 
"repetitive/iterative" is hardly an aspectual quality, but such a 
situation is the function of what you call "lexical aspect" and 
"grammatical aspect," and cannot be connected with "grammatical 
aspect" alone. Iterative/repetitive situations can be expressed by 
perfective verbs in Hebrew as well as imperfective ones.

As to the tagging of "complete" and "durative" events and relating 
these to the aspects, I have the following comments: The term 
"durative" (=continued action or state) in this context is a 
misnomer, because it is an Aktionsart term and not an aspectual term. 
A verb such as $YR (sing)  is durative "by birth". It can never cease 
to be durative, and is just as durative when expressed by a QATAL as 
when it is expressed by a YIQTOL. The term "complete" is problematic 
as well. I have a list of close to one thousand QATALs with future 
reference, most of which do not have the force of what we call future 
perfect. So how can these be said to be "complete"? And if they are 
not "complete," should they not be subsumed under the imperfective 
rather than the perfective aspect, given the contrast 
"durative/complete"? A classification on the basis of 
"complete"/"durative" can be done, but the results are not directly 
related to aspect.

And further, what does the terms really mean? For example, what does 
the term "complete" mean in contrast to "completed"?  Comrie is 
unclear in his discussion of aspect, and I think that Broman Olsen is 
correct when she says that the perfective aspect in English is 
expressed by perfect and not by simple past. This means that 
"completed" is what should be applied to the English perfective 
aspect and not "complete", as Comrie does. However, this does not 
work in Hebrew, where both the imperfective and perfective aspect can 
be used to describe completed actions or states. But if you apply the 
term "complete" to a Hebrew verb, how can you by observation 
distinguish between what is completed and what is complete? What are 
the characteristics of a complete verbal event? And the same can be 
asked regarding a "durative" event? How can you by observation know 
that a verb is what you call "durative" and that others are not? I am 
afraid that both terms at the outset entail circularity. If the terms 
are not circular (it has already been decided that the perfective 
aspect is complete and the imperfective is durative), there must be a 
clear observational distinction between "complete" and "completed" 
and between "durative" and "non-durative" events.

The creation of a database along the lines you suggest is a very fine 
work. And I hope my criticisms, which I have tried to pose in a 
positive way, can be of help of the further refining of your search 

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>I am seeking feedback on a paper entitled "Toward a Method of Tagging Hebrew
>Tense, Aspect, and Mood." http://s91279732.onlinehome.us/thesis/TMA.pdf
>Those of you who have been following my dissertation research know that I
>propose that the prototypical feature set of the basic verb forms may be
>discovered using an empirical method of statistical correlation between
>formal features and semantic function:
>"A major pitfall has plagued past studies of the Hebrew verbal system,
>namely the lack of reproducible statistics supporting alleged correlations
>between form and meaning. Today's computational technology offers a
>solution: to produce a computer database of all the verbs in the corpus,
>tagged for both formal and semantic features. In order to yield the required
>correlations, such a computer database of the verbs in a corpus must be
>tagged for indicators such as morphology, lexis, and syntax on one hand, and
>semantic values such as time reference, aspect, and modality on the other.
>One may then determine the strength of an association between each form and
>each function by correlating the semantic values with the forms and
>positions of the verbs."
>Ken Penner, M.C.S. (Regent College), M.A. (McMaster)
>Ph.D. (cand.), Religious Studies,
>Biblical Field (Early Judaism major)
>McMaster University
>Hamilton, Canada
>pennerkm at mcmaster.ca
>Vocabulary Memorisation Software:
>http://socserv.socsci.mcmaster.ca/westerholm/flash or http://sensoft.nav.to

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