[b-hebrew] Tense and aspect; was: "The use of "
furuli at online.no
Wed Apr 22 03:36:46 EDT 2009
It is important to distinguish between tense and
time/temporal reference. All languages have
different means to signal whether an action is
past, present, or future. But first whenthe
temporal refrence is an intrinsic part of a verb
form, can we say that a language has tense.
Therefore, tense is defined as "grammaticalized
location in time". Burmese, for example, do not
have tenses. In English the forms "went" and
"spoke" are preterits, they have an intrinsic
past reference. But not so with the participle
walking in 1), 2), and 3) below. Each clause has
a different temporal reference, but this
reference is not an intrinsic part of "walking".
1) At present He is walking.
2) Tomorrow he will be walking.
3) Yesterday he was walking.
Classical Hebrew has different ways to signal
temporal reference. The most important one,
according to my analysis, is a narrative sequence
of events, one event following the previous one,
expressed by YIQTOLs with the prefixed
conjunction WAW. These forms are often called
"waw consecutive" or WAYYIQTOL. Narratives are by
definition past, and regardless of which verb
form is used in narratives, it has past
reference. So the time markers in this case are
the narrative setting plus the conjunction WAW,
which moves the sequence of actions forward.
Please note that the WAYYIQTOL form also can
have present and future reference, it can be
modal, and the action of one WAYYIQTOL can occur
at the same time as the action of the previous
WAYYIQTOL. Moreover, the WAYYIQTOL can be
conative, ingressive, progressive, egressive, and
resultative, as other imperfective forms can. And
it occurs in typical imperfective constructions
such as, "When Jill entered the room, John was
reading (WAYYIQTOL) the book.
University of Oslo
>How common do you think it is for the understood/translated tense to
>correlate with imperfect or perfect aspect? Is the correspondence
>truly so trivial that (at the very least, in narrative) we cannot
>assume any type of tense indication in the form? In my personal
>reading, anyway, I don't see the problem in narrative with viewing
>imperfect (and corresponding vav-conversives) and perfect (same)
>simply being understood/assumed as future in tense.
>In other words, there is nothing necessarily contextual that would
>make me choose past tense in my translation of ÂÈýÓ¯ VY)MR on its own
>in a simple sentence introducing some piece of speech. I mean, it
>could just as well be future, telling me what someone WILL say. I know
>it's kinda being absurd, but surely there is SOME TENSE FUNCTION
>within the narrative flow, something above and beyond "aspect/Aspekt"
>or perspective. I cannot help but feel that Hebrew (yes, Biblical
>Hebrew) expresses tense quite naturally in most cases. In those which
>are less straightforward, the aspectual features of the forms come
>into play. For the vast majority of verbs, though, it seems rather
>clear (again, in narrative).
>I don't mean to argue the position. It just doesn't set well with me
>to think that the language had nothing to indicate tense inherently in
>the verb, when it is so naturally there in the majority of cases.
>On Wed, Apr 22, 2009 at 1:24 AM, K Randolph <kwrandolph at gmail.com> wrote:
>> No. Unlike English and other Indo-European languages, Biblical Hebrew did
>> not express tenses through the form of the verb.
>> Context is the main and final arbiter.
>> Karl W. Randolph.
>b-hebrew mailing list
>b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
More information about the b-hebrew