[b-hebrew] Aspect

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Wed Jun 9 10:28:29 EDT 2004

Dear Eduard,

>Dear Mr. Furuli:
>In his 'Student's Dictionary of Language and Linguistics' defines 
>aspect as 'a grammatical category which deals with distinctions in 
>the wayin which an action  or a situation is regarded as being 
>distributed in time'. He also mentions that 'traditional grammar 
>often confused aspect with tense, but the two are quite distinct'(p 

This definition i general and therefore gives little information, but 
I see no problems with its words.

>I have been wondering recently if Hebrew has indeed 'aspect' in the 
>classical sense. Are 'perfect' and 'imperfect' indeed the two 
>'aspects' of the Hebrew language? And how are they related to the 
>'telic/atelic' and 'bound/unbound' notions?

I define Aktionsart as the kind of action that is signalled by the 
lexical meaning of the verb.  Durativity, dynamicity, telicity, and 
punctiliarity are typical Aktionsart terms.  The concept stativity 
must be put in the same slot,  but it cannot be said to be an 
Aktionsart because it does not signal any action.  I define the 
concepts iterative, habitual; and the Vendlerian characteristics such 
as achievements, accomplishments and activities, not as Aktionsart 
(which is an objective characteristic caused by a single factor), but 
as *procedural traits*, because they are functions of several 
factors.  The interplay of aspect, tense, Aktionsart; and the 
difineteness/indefiniteness of the verbal arguments, adverbials etc. 
contribute to signalling different procedural traits.  I will 
generally avoid boundedness/unboundedness in connection with Hebrew 
verbs, because any Hebrew verb form, finite and infinite can (with a 
few exceptions) express any bounded or unbounded event, past, present 
and future.  Whereas in English the perfective aspect can only 
portray bounded events and the imperfective aspect can only portray 
unbounded events.  (Exceptions can occur in any language, but to be 
accepted they must be linguistically explained.)

>One of the verbs that have preocupied me in this sense is the 
>NITZDAK of Daniel 8:14 ( the niphal waw consec perfect 3rd person 
>masculine singular of the verb TZADEIK). NITZDAK appears to have an 
>'imperfect' aspect. Does this mean that the verb describes an 'open' 
>event with beginning but no end? The verb phrase 'the sanctuary 
>shall be vindicated' seems to suggest a telic, bound event with a 
>relatively short duration indicated by the noun phrase 'the 
>sanctuary.' How would you personally describe the action of the verb 
>NITZDAK in the context of Daniel chapter eight, and especially in 
>reference to the discourse fragment  of Daniel 8:9-14?

The verb you mention in Dan 8:14 I analyze as a QATAL with a prefixed 
conjunction, which means that it has the perfective aspect.  One 
possible translation is:  "and the holy (place) will be brought into 
its right condition".  Because the verb may signify a state, the 
situation can be compared with all the situations in Kings when 
someone "bacame king" (was brought into the state of being king).  So 
what is signified by the noun QD$ was brought into the state of being 
right (a thing can hardly become righteous).

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>I am just beginning to find my way through these topics, so forgive 
>me if I sound imprecise or confused. I would greatly appreciate your 
>help in this matter.
>Eduard C. Hanganu
>From: furuli at online.no
>To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
>Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Aspect
>Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2004 08:06:31 +0200
>Dear List-members,
>For those who want to come to grips with the term aspect, the sources
>listed by Ken should be included.  But there is one particular fine
>work that should be included as well, namely, Olsen, Mari Broman
>(1997). "A Semantic and Pragmatic model of Lexical and Gramatical
>Aspect". New York: Garland Publishing.  Olsen defines tense a the
>relationship between reference time and the deictic center and aspect
>as the relationship between reference time and event time.  On the
>basis of these three parameters alone she is able to explain the
>whole English verbal system without seeking recourse in the so-called
>relative tenses. Please note that she points out that the perfective
>aspect in English is only expressed by perfect and not by simple
>past; regarding this both Comrie and Cook errs, in my view.  The
>strength of Olsen's system is that she uses a few fundamental
>concepts systematically, but the weakness is that she, as most others
>believe that aspect definitions are universal, so they can be applied
>to any aspectual language.
>In contrast with Ken I think that the basic obstacle for
>understanding the verbal system of the Hebrew Bible is how aspect is
>defined.  There are even parts of standard definitions that in my
>view are pure nonsense!   For example, what is a "complete" event?
>Is "complete" applied to the literal event or to the description of
>it?  And regardless of the answer, does the term "complete" make
>sense at all?  And what is "an event in progression" (taken from the
>opposition "progressive/nonprogressive")?  Are not all events, save
>instantaneous ones, in progression?  And if we substitute
>"progression" with "durativity", (as in the misnomer "durative past"
>for YIQTOLs with past reference) are not all events, save
>semelfactive ones, durative?  And is not "durative" an Aktionsart
>term rather than an aspectual term?
>Let us apply the term "complete" to real situations portrayed in the
>Hebrew Bible.  There are more than 2,000 QATALs and more than 2,000
>YIQTOLs with present reference.   How can we say that the QATALs are
>"complete" and the YIQTOLs are events "in progression"?  There are a
>little less than 1,000 QATALs with future reference (less than 10 per
>cent of these are future completed (future perfect), according to the
>context). How are these forms with future reference "complete"?  And
>to use a past example:  There are several QATALs of MLK in Kings with
>the meaning "He began to reign" - the entrance into the state is made
>visible.  How are these events "complete"?  And should not
>"complete"+past reference  be "completed"?
>There is a methodologically simple way, though requiring much hard
>work, to solve these problems, namely:  Take all the Hebrew verbs, or
>at least a few thousand of them, and follow Olsen's method, by
>applying the parameters "reference time" (when possible), "event
>time", and the "deictic center"  to the verbs.  The result will
>probably be that you discard what standard grammars say about Hebrew
>tense and aspect.  It is quite ironic that most dissertations and
>monographs on Hebrew verbs in the past fifty years basically are
>studies of what other scholars have said about the Hebrew verbal
>system, rather than a study of thousands of verbs of the verbal
>system itself. We should not chew cud on the old definitions of
>aspect which has come to us with a few revisions, through Reichenbach
>and Comrie, as far as general linguistics is concerned, and through
>S. R. Driver and Waltke-O'connor, as far as Hebrew is concerned.
>It is time to reject the whole old system and do some qualitatively
>new thinking.
>Best regards
>Rolf Furuli
>University of Oslo

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