[b-hebrew] Re: Prophetic Perfects?

Sameer Yadav sameer_yadav2 at yahoo.com
Tue May 18 13:09:31 EDT 2004


The "prophetic perfect" is typically explained in
terms of the notion of *confidence*  The writer is so
confident about the surety of the future event that he
speaks of it as a past event.  The description of an
event in the future using a past tense form is the
mechanism from which is derived the rhetorical force
of 'confidence' or 'certainty.'  I think Rolf's point
is that this semantic function only makes sense if
qatal has a baseline meaning of past-tense (or
perfective aspect).  

But in the case you describe, it would be
inappropriate to designate these as prophetic perfects
even if you did take the qatal to be a past perfective
form.  This is because prophetic perfects not only
require the view that qatal is essentially a past
tense or perfective aspectual form, but also that
these are being employed to refer *to events in the
future.*  But if, as you suggest, the larger discourse
suggests that this is a past-tense description of a
vision, then the qatal forms are not functioning
prophetically.  Even if the events being described in
the vision are future events, the reference time
conveyed relative to the speech time is past, even if
the time of the events in the vision is future.  

When I have a dream about the future, (e.g. that I am
54 yrs old and have 3 kids) I still use past tense
verbs ("So I had this dream that I *was* 54 yrs old,
and I *had* 3 kids"...etc.), not because I am so sure
that this will happen that I convey the future event
as already completed, but because my dream happened in
the past. Since the visionary event already happened,
and we are not sure that the semantics of qatal
necessitates that it is past tense or perfective
aspect, we simply cannot assign it the value
associated with the prophetic perfect as described by
Jouon and the grammatical textbook tradition.


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