[b-hebrew] Tense and aspect; was: "The use of "

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Wed Apr 22 10:46:58 EDT 2009

Rule number one: The less we define the better off we are.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

On Apr 22, 2009, at 10:00 AM, Rolf Furuli wrote:

> Dear Stoney,
> When we discuss linguistic issues, we may define
> our concepts differently. And that need not be a
> problem as long as the other part clearly
> understand our definition. So, you are free to
> define tense as you have done below. Another
> question is whether the definition is precise
> enough to give good results in the study of
> languages. To borrow a viewpoint from the natural
> sciences: If a hypothesis is so general that it
> can explain everything, it explains nothing. A
> scientific hypothesis should be falsifiable, that
> is, it should be possible to think of situations
> which, if they occurred, would prove the
> hypothesis to be wrong. And similarly in
> linguistics; if definitions are so subjective or
> general that there are no controls to use in
> order to distinguish between what falls inside
> and outside the definition, such definitions are
> not helpful in linguistic research. I am afraid
> your definition belongs to this group.
> My definition, on the other hand, can be used to
> falsify, and as far as dead languages are
> concerned, it can be used to find whether there
> are particular verb forms that uniformly express
> a particular time reference. Based on my
> definition, the test is very simple. Applied to
> WAYYIQTOL it goes like this: If WAYYIQTOL
> represents past tense, we will expect that it
> always has past reference, except in situations
> which linguistically can be explained as special
> cases (such as hypothetical conditional clauses
> etc). If we find a reasonable number of
> WAYYIQTOLs with non-past reference, the
> hypothesis that WAYYIQTOL represents past tense
> is falsified. Can you apply your definition of
> tense in a similar way to Hebrew and get
> linguistic results? In that case, please explain
> how.
> I suggest that you read the book "Tense" (1986)
> B. Comrie. There you will find a definition
> similar to mine.
> Best regards,
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo
>> Rolf :
>> '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 when the temporal reference 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".'
>> This seems to be unnecessarily restrictive. Isn't simpler and more
>> productive to treat 'tense' as a component of the utterance, a  
>> component
>> which may be realized either grammatically or lexically — or,  
>> redundantly,
>> both — or even (as often in English, and I am beginning to suspect in
>> Hebrew) left unmarked?
>> Stoney Breyer
>> Writer*
>> Touchwood Creative | www.touchwoodcreative.com
>> 3200 Locust Street, St. Louis, MO. 63103
>> tel: 314-421-9878 x103 | fax: 314-421-6276
>> stoneyb at touchwoodcreative.com
>> *ein Mann ... dem das Schreiben schwerer fällt als allen anderen  
>> Leuten.
>> -Thomas Mann
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