[b-hebrew] VERBS

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman joel at exc.com
Tue Jul 26 12:30:28 EDT 2005

>When I hear someone deny that characteristics of some words cannot be 
>blotted out by the context, I become stunned. This is so elementary that 
>even children understands it.

If so, the children are wrong.

The meanings and connotations of words absolutely depend on context,
and your examples actually disprove your theory:

>cancelled.  "To sing" will always indicate that words and melody come out of 
>someone`s mouth, and this is durativity and dynamicity.

	   "The deaf woman was able to sing with her hands, conveying
	    the melodic beauty through the intricacies of her
	    signing [sic, signing, not singing]."

Here we see that the most fundamental aspect of "sing" can be changed
by context.  Idiomatic usages such as "sing his praise," further
demonstrate.  (For the non-native English speakers, "sing his praise,"
just means "to praise," and is commonly used of ordinary people.  For
example, "the politician demonstrated his loyalty to the president by
singing his praises every chance he got.")

Tense and apsect behave similarly.  In American English, for example,
the news uses the present tense to describe the past (e.g., "Two
children die in a fire overnight"); sportcasters use the future tense
to describe the past (e.g., after a baseball batter swings at and
misses the last pitch of a game, "and that'll be strike three!"); and
everyone uses the present for the future (e.g., "I'm flying to Norway
tomorrow.").  In Modern Hebrew, past-tense motion verbs (but not other
verbs) are used for future-tense suggestions (e.g., "HALAXNU?,"
literally "did we go?"  meaning "shall we go?") [This example is
doubly interesting because "SHARNU," "did we sing?" cannot mean "shall
we sing?"  It basically only works with motion verbs.]

-Joel Hoffman

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