[b-hebrew] Tenses and aspects; was: footnotes

Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Mon Aug 8 15:01:17 EDT 2005

> >>>... Does he choose statistically most
> >>>common translation? Or, perhaps, a translation justified by the
> >>>   Or, by the historical perspective? Or, by his exegesis needs? ...
> >>>
> >>Not his or her personal needs of course, but his or her exegesis of the
> >>text, with a view to the context, the historical perspective etc. It is
> >>impossible to translate without doing this kind of exegesis.
> >
> >Why? I cannot imagine exegetical needs affecting, say, Livy or, say,
> >translation. Even Sumerian texts, open to variant readings, are generally
> >translated without recourse to preconceptions.
> >
> Vadim, you clearly don't have a clue about how professional translation
> is done.

I didn't - before I realized--with shagrin--that yours and Rolf's views on
translation are not bizarre, but common.

> >Exegetical needs sometimes give rise to grammatical superstitions like
> >ludicrous idea that Hebrew lacked tenses. See how many advocates of that
> >bizarre assumption are around, even though there is not a single language
> >around--nor could there be for obvious semantical reasons--that lack
> >Chinese, for example, has tenses in adverbial format, but since there is
> >comparable constructs in Hebrew, Rolf et al want us to believe that
> >did not distinguish between past and future. Thus, exegetical needs
> >not only the garbled grammar, but garbled philosophy.
> Do you know more about Burmese than the professional linguists who state
> that it has no tenses?

I have no idea about Burmese, but your other two examples, Arabic and
Chinese, were plain wrong. But I really, really doubt that those Burmese
folks have no idea of time, and thus don't have tenses. Most likely, they
have tense constructs (like Chinese) instead of affixes.

> Of course Hebrew had some obvious adverbial devices for stating clearly
> whether an event was past, present or future if necessary.

Come on. They are so rare. Phrases like "yesterday he say" are few, if any.
If Hebrew affixes form aspects, not tenses, then Tanakh--and Hebrew thought
of the time--practically did not employ tenses.

Vadim Cherny

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