[b-hebrew] 998 non-past wyyqtl's

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Sun Nov 28 14:30:22 EST 2004

On 28/11/2004 17:25, Rolf Furuli wrote:

> ...
>>>> Hopper gives the following example from Russian:
>>>> ...Peasants returning from the city whipped (impfv.) their horses 
>>>> and rushed by (impfv.) in silence past these regualarly distributed 
>>>> figures with their highly felonious appearance.  The soxoz managers 
>>>> and the authorities rumbled by (impfv.) on carts and demostrably 
>>>> showed (impfv.) the colonists their double-barrelled and sawed-off 
>>>> shotguns, while people on foot stopped (impfv.) at the bridge and 
>>>> waited (impfv.) for other travellers.
>>>> While I was around the colonists never misbehaved (impfv.) or 
>>>> bothered (impfv.) the travellers, but when I wasn't they allowed 
>>>> (impfv.) themselves some dirty tricks, so that soon Zadarov refused 
>>>> (pfv.) to take the revolver and demanded (pfv.) that I absolutely 
>>>> had to spend time out on the road.  So I began (pfv.) to go out 
>>>> with every detachment, but still gave (impfv.) the revolver to 
>>>> Zadorov, so as not to deprive him of deserved pleasure.
>>>> Hopper's comment, "The habitual actions here do not come to an end 
>>>> with the event verbs 'refused', 'demanded', and 'began', but are 
>>>> thought of as on-going.  The three perfective verbs, however, are 
>>>> sequenced among themselves, and in fact the morphological 
>>>> difference between perfective and imperfective is a clear signal 
>>>> that these, and only these, events are presented as sequenced, and 
>>>> that they are not sequenced with respect to the imperfective verbs."
>>>> p. 10 "Aspect Between Discourse and Grammar" from   _Tense-Aspect: 
>>>> Between Semantics and Pragmatics_, ed. Hopper.  Amsterdam/Phila.: 
>>>> John Benjamins, 1982.
Looking at this again, I don't think there is really anything unusual 
about the use of Russian aspect, although the way the translation is 
divided into sentences is a bit misleading, perhaps based on the 
original Russian punctuation (but I haven't seen the Russian text to 
check). It seems clear to me that everything up to "they allowed 
(impfv.) themselves some dirty tricks" is repetitive and habitual. But 
after that a specific unique incident is described: Zadorov's refusal to 
take the revolver and his demand. Following that is a new one-off 
beginning "I began (pfv.) to go out..." and a description of new habit 
"[I] still gave (impfv.) the revolver to Zadorov". Imperfectives are 
used for repeated and habitual verbs, and perfectives for one off 
occurrences, including the start of a new habit, according to the 
regular rule.

> 1a)  The basic reason why WAYYIQTOL is viewed either as preterit of 
> perfective is that most of the occurrences have past reference.  The 
> universal view has been, and is that only perfective verbs or 
> preterits can systematically be used with past reference.  But this is 
> an example of how the linguistic views of the scholars are forced upon 
> Hebrew.  This is also based on anerroneous definition of Hebrew 
> perfective/imperfective as completed/complete versus incomplete. ...

Rolf, this is a bit like saying that "scholars are wrong to insist that 
2+2=4 because this is based on an erroneous definition of 2 and 4". 
"Perfective" is an English word which means "completed/complete" and 
"imperfective" means "incomplete". No one person (especially a 
foreigner!) can tell us that our language is erroneous.

> ... The new definition of the imperfective aspect that emerges from a 
> systematic study of the relationship between reference time and event 
> time in Hebrew, allows imperfective verbs to express past terminated 
> events.

So let's drop the words "imperfective" and "aspect" and call this 
"Hebrew verb class 1". Then we might be able to study its 
characteristics without confusing ourselves with Russian and English 
definitions of aspect.

> In my dissertation I discuss 2,198 participles, 900 infinitives, and 
> 1,027 YIQTOLs that function as finite verbs and express past 
> terminated actions.  Applying the same viewpoint to these 4,125 forms 
> as to the    WAYYIQTOLs, all these forms must be perfective as well!  
> But nobody would argue that way, and these examples show that forms in 
> great numbers that neither are perfective nor preterit can be used for 
> past terminated actions.  Thus, the basic assumption behind the 
> preterit/perfective view of WAYYIQTOL is shown to be invalid.

Well, here you ignore another factor, highlighted by the translated 
Russian passage, that some past actions are single events and others are 
iterative. In Russian, at least, these are distinguished by different 
verb forms (aspects). It is at least possible that this factor 
distinguishes YIQTOL and WAYYIQTOL. And it is certainly clear that some 
past WAYYIQTOLs, such as the common WAYYAMOT, are not iterative, whereas 
some past YIQTOLs are iterative, as in 1 Samuel 1:5. If that proves to 
be a general pattern (in those cases where it is possible to determine 
whether an event was iterative or not), we can perhaps conclude that our 
Hebrew verb class 1 includes iterative past events, but not single past 
events. At this point we see some overlap with Russian aspect, but this 
may be accidental.

> As for the 1,027 YIQTOLs expressing past terminated actions or states, 
> 896 has some word element preceding, and a great number of these 
> elements have a prefixed  WAW.  It is shown that the reason for the 
> choice of YIQTOL in most of the 896 cases is word order: When the 
> author wants a subject, object, adverbial,  particle etc precede the 
> verb, he had to choose a YIQTOL rather than a WAYYIQTOL.  If the word 
> order were reversed and the verb was sentence initial, the YIQTOL 
> would be changed into a WAYYIQTOL.

This doesn't follow. There are two alternatives when the verb is 
sentence initial: the rare WEYIQTOL (pointed differently from 
WAYYIQTOL); and WEQATAL. There are clear examples of sentence pairs 
which seem to have the same basic verbal force (tense/aspect/modality) 
but different word order, in which WAYYIQTOL is paired with QATAL (e.g. 
Genesis 1:5), but YIQTOL is paired with WEQATAL (e.g. Genesis 3:18). 
This common pattern strongly suggests that YIQTOL is changed to WEQATAL, 
and QATAL to WAYYIQTOL, when it is forced into word initial position. 
But I accept that in the examples I have in mind the YIQTOL and WEQATAL 
pairs are future and/or modal. Does anyone know of any such contrasting 
pairs with an iterative past sense?

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

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