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

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Tue Aug 9 17:07:08 EDT 2005

Dear Ken,

See my comments below.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ken Penner" <pennerkm at mcmaster.ca>
To: "'Rolf Furuli'" <furuli at online.no>; <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 9:32 PM
Subject: RE: [b-hebrew] Tenses and aspects; was: footnotes

>I wrote:
>> > It seems to me that Rolf calls ... any relationship between the
>> > deictic centre (the time of the communication, which is normally the
>> > speech time) and the time of the event "tense". ... Marion Johnson's
> work supports Rolf's usage
>> > here, but it has not yet become standard.
> Rolf replied:
>> ... tense is the relationship between
>> reference time (NB, not the event time) and the deictic center.
> Right. My mistake. In Johnson's terms Tense is S:R, Aspect is R:E, and
> Status is S:E (where S=speech time, R=reference time, and E=event time).
> I do think that even after reading the basic works on tense and aspect,
> there is room for confusion regarding the terms "reference time", "deictic
> centre", and "aspect". Comrie noted the inconsistent use of terms in the
> literature, yet he himself added to the confusion at times. And I do not
> think Mari Broman Olsen's work is the place to learn what is standard 
> usage.

I basically agree with your last paragraph. Of the terms, I think that 
"deictic center" and "event time" are easy to grasp with just a little 
study. The concept "reference time" is more elusive, and in my view, Broman 
Olsen definitely has the best explanation of this concept.

Good researchers do some thinking themselves, and therefore I am not very 
happy with those why rely on "standard usage" (I do not think that you do, 
because you have your own approach, but you mention it) or look at degrees 
or credentials as evaluation criteria for scientific studies. For example, 
Comrie is seen as one of the great names in tense/aspect research. Yet, as 
you say, his discussion is confusing; he particularly does not distinguish 
between Aktionsart and aspect. Broman Olsen is not not a great name, 
although she is a fine linguist. Yet, she has some very clear thoughts. 
Particularly am I impressed by the ability of her model to account for the 
whole English verbal system solely on the basis of the relationship between 
tense and aspect, i.e by the relationship between reference time and the 
deictic center and between reference time and event time. This is a much 
more systematic and thoroughgoing approach than the one used by Comrie

The concept "aspect" is the most difficult to understand. One reason is that 
it never is adequately defined in Semitic scholarly literature, and almost 
always it is assumed that aspect is the same in all aspectual languages. 
That is the reason why I have done an indepth study of the very concept and 
have developed three new parameters that can be used to compare aspects in 
different languages. I would say that those who rely on what *the standard* 
textbooks and grammars say regarding aspect will be confused. But Broman 
Olsen is different.
> Ken Penner
> Ken Penner, M.C.S. (Biblical Languages, Greek Aspect), M.A. (Hebrew 
> Poetry)
> Ph.D. (cand.), McMaster University
> pennerkm at mcmaster.ca
> Flash! Pro vocabulary software: http://s91279732.onlinehome.us/flash or
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/flash_pro/join
Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo 

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