[b-hebrew] Verb Inflection & Tense

Kevin Riley klriley at alphalink.com.au
Mon Oct 3 00:01:48 EDT 2005

 I have been away, and I prefer not to reply to posts from which the group
has moved on, but I'll make an exception for this one.
-------Original Message-------
From: Vadim Cherny
Date: 09/18/05 15:58:44
You well may be right, I don't have a clue about Tagalog.
It could be, however, that the same bias affected its study, as was for
I guess, Polynesians don't have a large body of written literature, and are
generally moderately educated (a guess, not an assertion), and cannot very
well relay to scholars and translators subtle semantical differences, such
as between tenses and the completion aspects.

Your guesses are badly off on all of the above.  There are quite a number of
Polynesians who are very well educated, including in the field of
linguistics.  It's been said many times that one of the problems with
Biblical Hebrew is that we don't have living speakers to ask - that is not a
problem with almost all the Polynesian languages.  Some of them have even
written accounts of their studies - usually in English for the benefit of
those who don't speak a Polynesian language so you should have no trouble
finding them and reading them before making assertions about Polynesian
languages and their speakers.  I would suggest Bruce Biggs' [not a
Polynesian] "Let's Learn Maori" and Winifred Bauer's "Maori" for Maori, and
Samuel Elbert and Mary Pukui's "Hawai'ian Grammar" for Hawai'ian as good
places to start.  I think they may convince you that it is aspect, not tense
 that is gramaticalised.  Or maybe you will just come up with your own
theory to prove you are right and they are wrong.


Myself, I don't see major difference between completed aspect ('having
studied') and the past tense. I cannot imagine how scholars could establish
that Polynesians mean aspect, not tense in this case. For example, consider
a hypothetical Polynesian who studied but did not graduate. If Tagalog has
aspects, that Polynesian should use imperfect in describing his studies. My
guess, he would use perfect - which would therefore be not perfective
aspect, but past tense.

Then, of course, he [or she, Polynesian females also aspire to studying] may
not see the need to indicate either perfection or imperfection.  There are
languages that allow for a verb to be marked merely as a verb, without
indicating tense or aspect.  The Maori 'ka' indicates that what follows is a
verbal phrase, without any reference to time.  It is sometimes referred to
as 'inceptive', as it is always used when a new action is beginning, but is
not restricted to that context.  Or the perfect 'kua' could be used, as the
studying is finished [one need not graduate to finish studying].  'kua' can
also be used with adjectives to say what they are now [present tense, no?]
if their present state is the result of a process - 'old' is a good example.
 The imperfective 'e ... ana' could be used if the studying is viewed as
ongoing [as in 'while I was studying...'].  Whether or not the student
graduated is irrelevant, as it would be in most languages.  That most of the
verbal particles can be used with words like 'yesterday', 'today', 'tomorrow
 and in contexts that are obviously past, present, or future, would indicate
tthey are not tenses, but aspects.

And, while the Tagalog and Polynesians are all speakers of Austronesian
languages, the Tagalog are not Polynesians, but Malayan [Indonesian??]. 
Your assertions might be better listened to if you demonstrated you know
something about the subject.

Kevin Riley 

Vadim Cherny

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