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

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Sat Nov 27 15:44:47 EST 2004

Dear Dave,

Thank you for your post.  See my comments below.

Dave Washburn wrote:

>On Saturday 27 November 2004 02:07, Rolf Furuli wrote:
>>It is true that Indo-European scholars have imposed upon classical
>>Hebrew their definitions of aspect, but it is my impression that most
>>modern Israeli scholars have done exactly the same, not with aspect,
>>which they reject, but with tense.  When you say that the
>>perfective/imperfective distinction work about half the time, you are
>>correct.  But note that this is when you apply English aspectual
>>distinctions to classical Hebrew.  And this is a cardinal error in
>>Hebrew studies, to assume that aspect is one and the same thing in all
>>aspectual languages, namely, the opposition incomplete/completed or
>>incomplete/complete!  I am not aware of a singly scholarly study that
>>presents a different view.
>Then you haven't read either my paper (Hebrew Studies 1994) or Galia Hatav's 
>monograph, because we both take different views.  Hers in particular 
>addresses your questions about aspect, R-time, and all the rest.  While I 
>don't agree with her in all respects, I found her approach to be a real 
>breath of fresh air, and was able to make some modifications of my own theory 
>based on it.
>In any case, I heartily commend Galia Hatav's book to you as you continue your 
>thought-provoking research.

I should have stressed in my words above that I spoke about new 
*definitions* (semantic meaning) of the aspects different from 
"incomplete/completed" and "incomplete/complete", and not about new or 
adjusted *uses* (conversational pragmatic implicture).  I have a copy of 
Galia's paper in my library, and in my dissertation I argue against her 
view that a WAYYIQTOL always give a new R-time (The same is done by J. 
A. Cook, 2002).  While Galia present different new viewpoints, she does 
not present a new definition of the aspects.

A big advantage of her study is that she distinguishes between aspect 
and Aktionsart (p. 2), something which Comrie, on whom she often leans 
does not do.  This is very fine.  Regarding aspect she says (p. 6):
"The aspect, on the other hand, plays a major role in the verbal system 
of BH.  Thus the crucial temporal relations in BH are those holding 
between the situations and their R-times.  The aspects will define: a) 
sequentiality; b) inclusion (=progressive); and c) perfect."  If I 
understand her correctly, b) is almost identical with "incomplete," and 
c) is almost identical with "completed" (though she mentions the 
"parasitic" use of  QATAL, p. 9).  True, she stresses sequentiality, but 
this is a pragmatic and not a semantic property.  She also stresses 
modality, but that is something in addition to b) and c) and does not 
invalidate these two points.  Others who define the aspects as 
"incomplete/completed" make use of modality as well.

Galia shows that English may use tenses where Hebrew uses aspects and 
says (p. 9): "To conclude, the English and BH perfects are not 
identical, but they both share the "parasitic" nature and many of the 
temporal and pragmatic functions." It is true that Galia argues that the 
*use* of the Hebrew aspects in some respects are different from the use 
in English.  But I am not able to find a new definition of the meaning 
of the Hebrew aspects compared with the English ones in her work.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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