[b-hebrew] WAV Conjunction

Noam Eitan bhebrew at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 3 16:11:54 EDT 2004

Dear George,


Thank you for this explanation. If that is what ‘aspect’ is about, this is disappointing, because I learned this concept in high school, and while (of course) it is valid, it does not solve everything. If I understand your explanation correctly, IMHO Modern Hebrew makes ample use of aspects as well, i.e., giving the time from an inside perspective (really from the perspective of the subject of the sentence, not the speaker.) In English, when you want to conjugate ‘he says he is sorry’ in the past, you would say ‘he said he was sorry.’ In Modern Hebrew you would say literally ‘he said he IS sorry.’ Many Hebrew speakers speak English  like that, and I have always felt kind of apologetic about it, as if there is some basic deficiency in Hebrew. This difference also leads to a lot of futile discussions. But my understanding is that Hebrew conjugates the sentence NOT from the perspective of the speaker, like in English, but from the perspective of the subject of the sentence ('camera
 angle'.) Even though that is not exactly what you said, it seems modern Hebrew is using aspects – or did I mess things up completely? Also, tenses in Hebrew, Modern and Biblical are not exactly what they mean in English, but I can’t exactly break it down (tenses often do not mean a lot more that the form of the verb in whatever tense, e.g., past, but not a lot about the time of the action, Hebrew is just not that specific – I hope this is not too vague. In other words, when medieval Jewish grammarians talk about past and future 'tenses', they don’t make a statement about BH having tenses like European languages) Coming from modern Hebrew, some of the controversies about BH grammar seem artificial to me and emanating from trying to understand the logic and grammar of BH in terms applicable to European languages. I can happily cruise through much of the Bible without feeling challenged by the grammar, it’s when I try to conceptualize it systemically in grammatical concepts that I
 encounter in English text books of BH that I feel despair. 


Noam Eitan, Brooklyn, NY

George Athas <gathas at hotkey.net.au> wrote:
Hi Noam!
Aspect is basically about the speaker's perspective (ie, aspect) of the action. It takes in more information that just tense (timing). One way to put it is how the action is positioned in relation to the speaker. It allows you to answer the following questions:
- When did the action occur?
- Does the speaker convey a detailed or non-detailed view of the action?
- Does the speaker consider the action to be a background action or a foreground action?
You might like to think of aspect as providing you with a 'camera angle' on the actions, not just a chronology of them.
I hope that makes some sense.
Best regards,
Lecturer in Biblical Languages
Southern Cross College
Sydney, Australia

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Noam Eitan 
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org 
Sent: Thursday, June 03, 2004 11:50 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] WAV Conjunction

Dear George,
Thanks for this summary. I have despaired of making sense of BH verbal system. There are places that tolerate the concept of past and future tenses, particularly narratives; in others, mostly in the prophets, when I try to play with switching verbs form past to future or infinitive and step back to get the feel of it, it looks like "anything goes", as long as you don't use the same conjugation repetitively (which would indicate emphasis.) The perfect/imperfect concept doesn't help me at all and I feel is foreign to BH. Can someone summarize for me the concept of "aspects" or refer me to an online source? I don't understand this concept - maybe that's where the money is -  Noam Eitan, Brooklyn, NY

George Athas <gathas at hotkey.net.au> wrote:
Hi Chris!

As you've picked up, the WAW CONSECUTIVE is a very prickly subject in Biblical Hebrew. The problems do not all come down to the WAW CONSECUTIVE, though -- there are other peripheral issues involved.

Essentially, let me outline the old school of thought, and then outline some new currents.

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