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

Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Tue Aug 9 02:18:01 EDT 2005

> >>1) "And he spoke (WAYYIQTOL) to her.: `Because I spoke (YIQTOL) to
> >>the Jezreelite and said (WAYYIQTOL)  to him...`" 1 Kings 21:6
> >
> >See, Rolf, there are different speaking conventions. Russians can say,
> >"Because I *speak* to Nabot..." about the past event. Deictic center is
> >meeting with Nabot. "Speak" is the present tense, no aspects.
> >Or, "Each time, as *I will meet* Nabot, I say to him..." Now, Russian is
> >very, very close to Hebrew in its mode of expression. ...
> >
> No, Vadim, it is not.

Peter, we discussed this with you before. Joseph Steinberg established the
connect in minute details, you may want to look at his books - I don't know
whether they are available in English, but you seem fluent in Russian.

Of course, many Russian verbs have both aspect and tense. What I mean, is
the mode of expression. For example, Hebrew and Russian can construe a past
reference phrase with future tense absolutely similarly, even with the same

> Hebrew has nothing analogous to this set of two orthogonal parameters -
there is
> just one distinction, which is of aspect in biblical Hebrew, according
> to most scholars, although of tense in modern Hebrew.

There is nothing unique about the verbs having both tense and aspect. It is
the same in English and in Hebrew, but aspect there is not morphological,
but established with participles. Russian more or less incorporated what are
participles in Hebrew as affixes. I cannot see any meaningful difference.

> >... Your example is
> >exactly similar: it was apparently customary in Hebrew, as now in
> >to use future tense with "as," "because," etc for past reference. ...
> Please can you send me an example sentence in Russian, perhaps off list.
> In all my studies of Russian I have never seen a future tense with past
> reference in this sense.

A person emphatically describing his earlier communication, and transposing
himself into the past deictic center: "He told me - get out. А я ему как
скажу - да пошел ты! (And I *as will tell* him - bug off!)" Even participle
is the same.

> >... When you read English phrase "Every time I meet Nabot, I say to
him...", you
> >understand this as past reference - yet you don't dispute that "meet" is
> >present tense, or that English has tenses. ...
> No, this is not past, but indicates a habit which the speaker expects to
> continue. If the speaker expects not to say the same thing to Nabot
> again (e.g. because he is dead), then the past tense is used.

You are right. I tried an English example closest to the Russian. In
Russian, emphatic or colloquial, you can use present tense about the past
perfect events, "Каждый раз, как я его встречу, я ему говорю..." (Each time
I *will meet* him, I say to him) even about the very dead person.

Vadim Cherny

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