[b-hebrew] Aspect

Eduard C Hanganu eddhanganu at hotmail.com
Thu Jun 10 10:56:05 EDT 2004

Dear Mr. Furuli:

Thanks for your reply. It has been most helpful. It is clear that I need to 
do some serious personal research in order to get a good hold of the 
Aktionsart and aspect notions. You mentioned that your disssertation was 
going to be ready soon. Would it be possible for me to get a copy?



From: furuli at online.no
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Aspect
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 2004 16:40:03 +0200

Dear Eduard,

See my response below:

>Dear Mr. Furuli:
>Thanks for your answer. By the way, the definition of aspect was from 
>R.L.Trask, and is indeed basic. Your explanation on Aktionsart and the 
>*procedural trait* of verbs was very interesting. How can I learn more 
>about these issues? What references have you used for personal research?

My dissertation, which is based on an analysis of the 70,000 verbs of 
classical Hebrew will be completed and proof-read in two months.  It is a 
study of *text*, not of scholarly opinions regarding the text, but I refer 
to about 250 different sources.  A very fine place for you to start is with 
Broman Olsen.

>But to return to the verb NITZDAK my interest was related to the kind of 
>action described. You mentioned that it had a perfective aspect. Does this 
>mean that the action is nondurative, that is an event and not a 
>progression? Actually, how does a Hebrew verb reflect a progression, or the 
>progressive (continuous) aspect of the English language? I notice that the 
>translators of the NRSV
>( New Revised Standard Version) translate some of the original Hebrew verbs 
>in the progressive.
>( Sorry, I don't have an example right now of such a text). Is such a 
>translation right or legitimate?

In order to understand Hebrew aspect you have to do much work yourself, 
because *definitions* of aspect  are generally lacking (except superfluous 
ones), and when definitions are attempted, the readers are usually lead 
astray.  For example, I have no problem with ascertaining a "complete event" 
with reference to what happens in the world.  That simply is the progression 
of the event from its beginning to its end.  But what in the world is a 
"complete event" in the *grammatical (aspectual) sense* of the word?  What 
does the word "complete" signify when used grammatically?  And further,  all 
events, save semelfactive, instantaneous ones are progressive.  Both aspects 
can be used for all these progressive events, so what then is the 
grammatical meaning of "progressive aspect"?

My point is that the lexical meaning of a verb and its Aktionsart are the 
most important factors for conveying meaning, and aspect comes as third in 
importance.  We have to put these three together and combine them with other 
contextual matters in order to see the meaning. Bible translators must 
carefully weight all these factors when they choose their rendering.  And in 
addition, the target group of the translation will influence the renderings. 
  In my view, modern translators should use progressive English renderings 
such as "she continued to", "she began to",  "she was (walking"), and the 
like to a much greater extent than what is done.  So generally I see no 
problem with NRSV's progressive renderings.  The   imperfective aspect is 
generally used to signal "she started to" (e.g. the WAYYIQTOL in 1 ki 6:1  
"In the four hundred and eightieth year... he began to build the temple").

>Essentially, what I wanted to know was if NITZDAK described an event or a 
>progression, Can this aspectual characteristic of the verb be deduced from 
>its morphology?

One of the most basic distinctions in Hebrew is between actions and states.  
A state is durative but not dynamic, and any part of a state is similar to 
any other part or to the state as a whole.  The default interpretation of 
ZDQ  in Dan 8:14 is "to be just", which signifies a state.  If the verb is 
taken in this meaning, you can drop the word "progression", because nothing 
happens inside a state. As I already have written, taking the WEQATAL as 
perfective could give an ingressive interpretation, i.e. the holy (thing) 
entered the state of justness and continued to be there.

I would say that the aspect can *only* be seen by verb morphology: QATAL and 
WEQATAL always signal the perfective aspect.  A Hebrew aspect can never be 
neutralized, but its nature is not always made visible in communication  
(this is very important but usually neglected.


Best regards


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo
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