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

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Tue Aug 9 16:11:28 EDT 2005

Dear Ken,

You have understood my position correctly. But some details need some

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ken Penner" <pennerkm at mcmaster.ca>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 2:39 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Tenses and aspects; was: footnotes

> It might be helpful to determine whether the term "deictic centre" is
> being used in a consistent way in the discussion here.
> It seems to me that Peter is calling "deictic centre" what Rolf calls
> the "reference point" or "reference time".
> In my understanding, the deictic centre is normally at speech time, but
> can occasionally be moved, as sometimes happens in letter writing: "I
> have attached a document to this letter" or "I will attach a document to
> this letter" have different deictic centres, one at the time of writing,
> and one at the time of reading. Here I think Rolf is using the term in
> its usual meaning.


> When speaking of relative tense, though, we are speaking of the
> relationship between a *reference time* and the time of the event.
> It seems to me that Rolf calls any relationship between the reference
> time and the event time "aspect", and any relationship between the
> deictic centre (the time of the communication, which is normally the
> speech time) and the time of the event "tense". (Please correct me if I
> have misunderstood you.) Marion Johnson's work supports Rolf's usage
> here, but it has not yet become standard.

This is basically my position: aspect is the relationship between reference
time and event time, and tense is the relationship between reference time
(NB, not the event time) and the deictic center. An event may start in the
and continue beyond the present moment. If the relationship between event
time (the time from the beginning to the end of an event) and the deictic
center was used to signal tense,  in a few cases past and present would
merge. However, in communication, a part of event time is made visible for
the audience. This is reference time, which often is a point or a small
sequence of time. So, by using the relationsship between refence time and
the deictic center as an expression of tense, the result is more clearcut.
Please note that only when reference time comes before or after the deictic
center do I speak of tense. When reference time cioicides with the deictic
center do I speak of present reference. This is so. because present
reference can be
used of past and future as well. In a tenseless language the relationship
between reference time and the deictic center signals temporal reference and
not tense.

> So Rolf has no need of the labels "absolute tense" and "relative tense";
> these are simply "tense" and "aspect", respectively. Now, of course,
> there are different kinds of relationships between the event and the
> reference time (e.g. inclusion, precedence), so there would be
> correspondingly different kinds of aspects.

The terms "event time," "reference time," and "deictic center" and how these
parameters can be used to describe temporal relationships in real texts are
not difficult to understand, if one particular condition is met. This
condition is
that the person has studied scholarly accounts with definitions of these 
and have done some work with the application of the terms on real texts.
Reichenbach, Comrie, and particularly Broman Olsen are such sources. If one
only has picked up the terms from discussions on the Internet, confusion is
almost certain, particularly between reference time and the deictic center.

I would like to stress that even when aspect in English covers the
situations where Comrie and others would use the term "relative tense," the
analysis of "relative tense" (in my words "aspect") is the same.  In my
studies of Hebrew I have look at for the temporal relationships that others
call "relative tense" just as much, and even more systematic, than those who
view relative tense as very important. So, no one can rightly say that I
have neglected to look for "relative tense".

In my data base I have many examples of verbs with pre-past ("pluperfect")
and future perfect reference, which are relationships that others would call
"relative tense",  In 1) below a YIQTOL has pre-past reference. The deictic 
center of the WAYYIQTOL is speech time, but in the case of the YIQTOL the 
deictic center is the return of Joram.  Thus, his infliction is pre-past 
related to speech time.  In 2) the deictic center of the YIQTOL is speech 
time, and the deictic center of the WAYYIQTOL is the reaching point. Thus, 
the WAYYIQTOL is pre-past related to speech time. References with deictic 
centers other than speech time are often more difficult to pinpoint than 
those with speech time as deictic center. And different interpretations are 
often possible.

1) So king Joram returned (WAYYIQTOL) to Jezreel to recover from the wounds 
the Arameans had inflicted (YIQTOL) upon him.  2 Kings 8:29

2) and before he reached (YIQTOL)  them, they (had) plotted (WAYYIQTOL) to 
kill him. Genesis 37:18

> Have I captured your views accurately?

Yes you have.
> Ken Penner
> McMaster/Hebrew
> _______________________________________________

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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