[b-hebrew] Hebrew Verbs Request (from Rodney Duke)

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Mon Aug 22 12:05:49 EDT 2005

Dear Ken,

In a short time I will travel to Berlin to make a collation of a few 
important cuneiform tablets, and because I am working very hard with 
drawings and transcriptions of these tablets, in order to prepare 
myself, I just give a short comment to your inquiry without examples.

Ken Penner wrote:

>Rolf wrote:
>>2. Aspect in the traditional sense, with the opposition complete/ 
>>incomplete (or, complete/uncompleted), is not 
>>grammatical zed. However, 
>>aspect, with different definitions (made on the basis of the 
>>relationship between event time and reference time) is 
>Could you provide these "different definitions" of aspect for the list? In
>your view, what *is* the relationship between event time and reference time
>grammaticalized by the verb forms?
>Is it a relationship of precedence (a type of relative tense)?
>Is it inclusion (the usual meaning of aspect)?
>Is it overlap?
>Is it phase (inceptive/nascent, final/completive, continuative, resumptive,
>Does it involve iteration, stages, subintervals?
>Ken Penner

A good overview of different definitions of aspect is found in L. J. Brinton (1988) "The Development of English Aspectual Systems Aspectualizers and Post-verbal Particles". A common denominator in the different definitions is that aspect represents a viewpoint. The most important question to ask when one starts a quest for aspect definitions is the following: "Do the aspects *contribute* something new to the meaning of a clause, or do they only *show* something which already is there?"

For example, when you add a finite verb to a nominal clause in a tense 
language, you add something new. The same is true when you add a modal 
or an interrogative particle. But what do the aspects add? In my model 
the aspects are strict viewpoints, which means that they are just 
peepholes through which events can be viewed from different angles and 
perspectives. This means that the aspects do not directly contribute 
anything new to lexicon, grammar, or syntax, but they are tools that the 
author can use to make particular sides of the verbal action visible.

This does not mean that the aspects are superfluous in classical Hebrew. 
MH GENOITO! Because the two aspects are semantically different, there 
are different expectations as to what will be seen when either aspect is 
used. And this is used by the writers to signal particular nuances. For 
example, when the imperfective aspect is used, we (or at least I) expect 
to see a small sequence of progressive action with details visible. If, 
the default interpretation of the Aktionsart of the verb is punctiliar, 
the combination of punctiliarity and the imperfective aspect, can signal 
at least three different situations, 1) iterative or habitual actions, 
2) resultative actions, and 3) durative actions (i.e. the verb in this 
context is shown not to be punctiliar, and a small sequence in the 
middle of its ET is made visible),  These situations are signaled by the 
interplay of the objective lexical meaning/Aktionsart of the verb and 
the subjective nature of the aspect, and not by one of these alone.

To answer your questions above I would say:  Aspect as I define it has 
nothing to do with precedence or relative tense, with inclusion or 
overlap, with phases (inceptive/nascent, final/completive, continuative, 
resumptive, habitual), and it does not involve iteration, stages, or 
subintervals.  The aspects have no such intrinsic characteristics, but 
they can make visible one of those characteristics that already is there.

Because all verbs can signal incomplete and completed actions, aspects 
with this opposition are not found in Hebrew. However, when we look at 
the raltionship between event time and reference time we find aspects 
with a different nature.  In my view, reference time represents a 
conceptual intersection of event time, i. e., a small or greater area of 
event time is made visible for the audience. What is made visible has a 
particular quality (close-up, long distance perspective), and it has a 
particular angle in relation to our vantage point, and it has a 
particular breadth,

As regards the angle, the imperfective aspect in Hebrew can make visible 
an attempt do something (conative event), an event which includes the 
beginning and a small part of ET, progressive action in the middle of 
ET, an egressive event (immediately before the end, or it can signal a 
resultative situation (the end of an action and the resultant state is 
made visible). The perfective aspect can make visible the whole ET with 
beginning and end, a great part of ET which either includes beginning or 
end. But neither of the aspects can signal something alone, because they 
are just peepholes.

To sum up, my definition of aspect is based on the intersection of ET by 
RT, on the angle, the quality, and the breadth of this intersection.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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