[b-hebrew] Verb Inflection & Tense

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Mon Oct 3 13:17:17 EDT 2005

Rolf, thank you for this explanation of your idea of aspects, which is 
clearer and more convincing than I have seen from you before. I can 
accept that Hebrew aspect is not exactly the same as Slavic, although I 
still think it makes more sense to understand WAYYIQTOL as indicating 
perfective rather than imperfective aspect, even with somewhat 
non-standard definitions; after all, WAYYIQTOL (as opposed to YIQTOL and 
WEYIQTOL) systematically and overwhelmingly refers to completed events 
in the past, suggesting that, even if tense and aspect are not 
consistently grammaticalised in Hebrew, this particular WAYYIQTOL form 
is a perfective past tense.

But there is one more point below which I would like to comment on:

On 03/10/2005 12:07, Rolf Furuli wrote:

>... However, 
>in the Phoenician Karatepe inscriptions, the infinitive absolue plays the 
>same role as WAYYIQTOL in Hebrew. There are 16 infinitive absoluts with 
>prefixed WAW and 5 without prefixed WAW that describe past, completed 
>events. No one would claim that the infinitive absolute has an intrinsic 
>past tense or perfectivity. ...

Why not? In some languages e.g. Koine Greek infinitives intrinsically 
have both tense and aspect. There is no good reason why the Phoenician 
infinitive absolute should not have one or other of these. The more 
unusual thing is that it is used as a finite verb, although in fact 
infinitives are used as imperatives, a finite form, in many languages. 
Anyway, presumably even if the form is etymologically an infinitive 
absolute, its meaning within the language is determined by its use, 
which is apparently as a finite verb.

An alternative is that the Phoenician form called an infinitive absolute 
is not in fact this at all. I'm not sure how it can be identified as 
such in inscriptions with no vowels, not even matres lectionis. The form 
could presumably just as easily be an eroded (WAY)YIQTOL form which has 
lost its personal prefixes.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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