[b-hebrew] Consecutive waw in Lev .22:7 ?
furuli at online.no
furuli at online.no
Mon Sep 29 14:50:23 EDT 2003
There are many words used by linguists and others to try to "define"
aspect, but in almost all instances these words are ambiguous and
tell very little about the nature of aspect (cf. Waltke-O'connor
20,2). Very few studies distinguishes systematically between what is
pragmatic and what is semantic in relation to tense and aspect and
between what is Aktionsart and what is aspect. Terms like complete,
completed, incomplete, progressive, punctiliar etc are used, but
seldom systematically described. So your question about the
acceptance of linguists of my use is not an easy one, because aspect
is almost always only superficially treated (I was not able to get to
your link to see your approach). There is one important exception:
Mari Broman Olsen (1997) "A Semantic and Pragmatic Model of Lexical
and Grammatical Aspect", New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc.
Reichenbach, H. (1947) "Elements of symbolic Logic", London:
MacMillan was the first to present the distinction between "the
deictic center," "event time," and "reference time". Olsen developed
this further and showed convincingly that the "relative tense" of
Reichenbach and Comrie was unnecessary; the whole verbal system of
English could be explained as a function of tense and aspect. The
"deictic center" is the vantage-point from which an event is seen
(often speech-time), "event time" is the time of the action from
beginning to end, and "reference time" is the small part of event
time that is made visible when an event is reported. Tense is the
function of the deictic center and reference time, and aspect is the
function of event time and reference time. Whereas there will be some
disputes as to the details, I think her basic system is generally
accepted. Thus tense represents deictic time and aspect represents
The great advantage of Olsen's model is that tense and aspect are
clearly defined in specific terms, so the vagueness of Hebrew
grammars is absent. In English the perfective aspect is expressed by
perfect (not simple past, which is a tense), and the imperfective
aspect is expressed by the present participle. In English the
interpretation of the aspects is unambiguous. When the imperfective
aspect is used the event is incomplete, and when the perfective
aspect is used the event is completed (Note that the event is
"completed", and not just "complete"). Up to this point Olsen's
discussion is excellent, but then she falls in the trap where most
Hebrew grammarians have fallen: The English aspects are extrapolated
to Greek (in her case) and to Hebrew. But this is impossible.
If we look at Hebrew verbs (I have made a table of their temporal
references), we see that YIQTOL, WEYIQTOL, WAYTYIQTOL, QATAL and
WEQATAL can refer to past, present and future, and to events that are
incomplete and completed. Thus Hebrew lacks tense (grammaticalized
location in time) and aspect (in the English sense of the word - the
reason why I claim Hebrew has aspects is that aspectual qualities are
found). The question, therefore, is whether we can describe any finer
nuances of the intersection of event time by reference time (which is
aspect), in order to compare Hebrew verbs with English ones (thus
using the English verbal system as reference points but not in a
normative way). In connection with this I have developed three
parameters in order to make these finer nuances visible so we can
evaluate the Hebrew verbal system. Because there are two aspects and
three parameters, the English and Hebrew aspects can be compared in
six different ways. Obviously, linguists cannot at present agree or
disagree, because this is breaking new land; an article outlining the
case will be published later this year, and my dissertation will be
published next year.
The intersection of event time by reference time indicates a certain
*focus*, and the three parameters are, 1) the quality of focus, 2)
the angle of focus, and 3) the breadth of focus. A comparison of the
English and Hebrew aspects gives the result that in three areas the
Hebrew and English aspects are similar and in three areas they are
different. However, in the most important area both the perfective
and the imperfective aspect in the two languages are different. This
means that whereas the use of the English aspects shows whether an
event was completed or incomplete at reference time, this is not the
case in Hebrew. Both Hebrew aspects can include the beginning and end
of an event, which is impossible in English.
By way of conclusion I will say that an aspect is a subjective
presentation of an event where a part of the event is made visible
and all other parts are invisible. The aspects are distinguished by
their "quality" (a "close-up" view of details versus a
"long-distance" view without details), their breadth (how big a part
of the event that is made visible), and (most important) by their
angle (does reference time intersect event time before the beginning,
include the beginning, come after the beginning, come before the end,
or include the end?).
A sketch of my thesis is found at my web-page
http://folk.uio.no/rolffu I have heard that this page is not always
easy to open, but please try again.
University of Oslo
>I am sympathetic to your view that "the map [of traditional grammars] does
>not fit the terrain [of the Tanakh]" perfectly, and needs to be reexamined.
>In fact my dissertation is on Hebrew Tense, Aspect and Mood between the
>Bible and the Mishnah.
>Yet I agree with Trevor's statement that what he calls the "converted
>perfect" covers the same basic range as the imperfect, especially in
>sequences in legal passages.
>I realize that your argument that Hebrew is aspectual must be more
>sophisticated than simply, "The verb forms do not mark tense, therefore they
>must mark aspect."
>Could you concisely define what you mean by "aspect"? Is your use of
>"aspect" widely accepted by other linguists?
>Ken Penner, McMaster/DSS
>> With all due respect, I beg to disagree with your words regarding
>> the "converted perfect ...that covers the same basic range as the
>> I therefore claim that YIQTOL , WEYIQTOL and WAYIQTOL represent the
>> same thing - the imperfective aspect, and that QATAL and WEQATAL
>> represent the same thing - the perfective aspect.
>> So - for those who are newcomers on the list, don't believe the
>> traditional grammars, but ask critical questions regarding their
>> conclusions . The authors of modern grammars have evidently only
>> looked at *some* of the verbs in the Tanakh and not *all* of them.
>> Often views from previous grammars are adopted without any new tests
>> of the conclusions. When we look at *all* the verbs of the Tanakh, it
>> is evident that the map does not fit the terrain.
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