[b-hebrew] VERBS. Was " masorete pointing v's LLXtransliterations"

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Tue Jul 26 18:17:26 EDT 2005

Dear Hayyim,

You ask good questions.  See my comments below.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <Bearpecs at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tuesday, July 26, 2005 9:54 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] VERBS. Was " masorete pointing v's

> In a message dated 7/26/2005 4:43:06 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
> furuli at online.no writes:
> Again  the parameters "event time," "reference time,"
> and "the deictic center" can  be used. By studying where reference time
> intersects event time in Hebrew  verbs it can be argued that Hebrew verbs
> represent aspect, though of a  different nature than English aspect.
> Rolf,
> 1.  It might be helpful for the non-linguists if you gave a brief
> definition
> of these terms, especially "deictic center".

When we report an event, we see this event from a vantage point, and this
vantage point is the deictic center. Often this vantage point is the present
moment, but it can be both in the future and in the past. The vantage point
is "tomorrow" in the clause "when I come to-morrow, Liza will already have
arrived". The vantage point is Peter`s arrival in the past in the clause
"when Peter arrived, his father was already dead".

Tense is seen in relation to the deictic center: An event that occur before
the deictic center represent past tense, an event occurring after represent
future tense, and an event that occur contemporaneously with the deictic 
has present reference (I use "reference" here because present can refer to 
present and future, and therefore is no tense).
> 2.  With all due respect, and without commenting on your conclusions  or
> the
> logic of your reasoning, you cannot reasonably expect people to simply
> accept
> your conclusions when I have not seen in your remarks clarity on the
> basis
> of your argument:

You are absolutely right.

> a.  Where DOES reference time intersect event time?

When we use tense, we look at the time of an event in relation to our
vantage point, the deictic center. But time can be described without such a
vantage point as well.  It is a little difficult to grasp this for a native 
of English, because to chose a tense is mandatory in English. But let me use
an unfinished sentence where the tense is not yet chosen as an axample:
"Running for one hour, Rita...." The temporal reference of the participle is
decided by another verb ( here the verb following Rita). Before the tense of
this verb is chosen, we have a description of a time which is not anchored
to a deictic center: Rita was, is, or will be running for an hour. This
period of one hour, not yet connected with a deic center is the event time
of the event. So the event time is the time from the beginning to the end of
an event.

Tense and event time represent real physical time, but reference time
represents conceptual time. So it may be even harder to grasp.  But let me
try to illustrate.  When we report an event, we tend not to make the whole
event visible for our audience, but only a part of it.  For example, when I
say "Elsie was walking in the garden," by using the participle I make
visible a small part of progressive action at the nucleus of the action. We
know that every action has a beginning, and we know that it has an end, but
neither beginning nor end is made visible by our use of the participle.  It
is as if we point our finger at the event time, and the small part of event
time that our finger "hits" is reference time. We may say that reference 
intersects event time, because it makes visible a small part of event time.
So the small part of event time that is made visible by our choice of verb
is reference time. In this case the participle is used, and this is the
imperfective aspect.

I will argue that the perfective aspect in English is expressed by perfect
(and not by simple past, which is a tense). When I say, "Elsie has walked in
the garden," what I make visible is the the end of the action. We know that
the action had a beginning, and we know that it progressed over some time, 
only the end is made visible.  This is the perfective aspect.

The English aspectual system is very simple. The opposition is 
uncompleted/completed, and when the imperfective aspect is used (present 
participle) we know that the action was not concluded at reference time (at 
the small area of event time that we make visible for the audience). And 
when the perfective aspect is used (perfect) we know that the action was 
completed at reference time.

In Hebrew there are at least five different options for the intersection of 
event time by reference time when the imperfective aspect is used and at 
least four options when the perfective one is used. There are other 
differences as well, and this means that we cannot by the use of aspect in 
Hebrew know whether an action was completed or in progress at reference 
time.  So there are fundamental differences between English and Hebrew 
aspects, but there are similarities as well.

 > b.  What is the nature of your "aspect"?  (and why don't you call  it
> something else to avoid confusion.

In order to give some understanding of Hebrew aspect I need a rather long 
description, and I may return to that later. I use the term "aspect" also 
for Hebrew because in both English and Hebrew (and other aspectual 
languages) it is possible to describe a particular side of the verbal system 
by the relationship between reference time and event time. So the term 
"aspect" is fitting even in languages where this relationship is different 
from English.

> Hayyim

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list