[b-hebrew] Consecutive waw in Lev .22:7 ?

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Mon Sep 29 14:50:23 EDT 2003

Dear Ken,

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 
non-deictic time.

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.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>Hi Rolf,
>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
>>  imperfect". 
>>  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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