[b-hebrew] The perspective of this native speaker of Modern Hebrew of Biblical Hebrew tenses

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Sat Nov 27 10:33:29 EST 2004

On 27/11/2004 09:07, Rolf Furuli wrote:

> ...
> Aspect can be defined as the relationship between ET and RT.  Given 
> that the perfective aspect in English is expressed by perfect and the 
> imperfective aspect by present participle, there are just two options 
> in English for the relationsship between ET and RT.  When the 
> perfective aspect is used RT intersects ET and the coda (end), and 
> when the imperfective aspect is used RT intersects ET at the nucleus 
> (the two aspects can be combines though, as in "Ann has been reading 
> the book".)  On this basis the distinction incomplete/completed (or, 
> as some prefer: incomplete/complete) is made. ...

I don't accept this "Given". In English, the canonical perfective 
aspect, as defined by linguists on the basis of Russian etc usage, is 
expressed not by the perfect but by the simple past and future forms, 
sometimes also the simple present. The English perfect is something 
rather different, expressing the present results of a past action - it 
is perfective plus something else, although forms like "Ann has been 
reading the book" are imperfective plus something else. As such the 
English perfect is like the Greek perfect but unlike its analogue (the 
verb meaning "have" plus past participle) in many other modern European 
languages, which does have simple perfective sense. Sorry to digress 
from Hebrew to English, but this misunderstanding may be part of the 
problem which many English speakers have in understanding what Rolf is 
trying to say.

> I agree with your comments regarding the use of WAYYIQTOL and QATAL in 
> past contexts, with one exception.  There are several examples of 
> WAYYIQTOL with non-past reference (at least 998).  And here I would 
> like to point out the second cardinal error in the study of classical 
> Hebrew, namely the almost total reliance on quantity rather than 
> quality.  Let me illustrate the point:  The difference between long 
> and short WAYYIQTOLs is being viewed as very important, because it is 
> believed that WAYYIQTOL goes back to a short preterit YAQTUL.  
> However, 73 per cent of the WAYYIQTOLs are long. ...

Do you in fact mean, 73% are undifferentiated between long and short? Or 
possibly 72.9% are undifferentiated and 0.1% are long in distinction 
from short? Remember that for most verbs there is no possible 
distinction between long and short, as this distinction is made only 
when the final root consonant is he and I think with hifil forms - is 
that correct? And when there are two possible forms, in the overwhelming 
majority of cases the shorter one is used with the WAY- prefix. Isn't 
that correct? You offer exact figures; do you have an exact figure for 
WAYYIQTOL with a longer form when there is a shorter alternative?

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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