[b-hebrew] b-hebrew Uncancellable meaning and Hebrew verbs
furuli at online.no
Sat Jul 4 04:49:59 EDT 2009
David Kummerow has several times made the challenge found in the
first quote below.
David Kummerow wrote:
And like I've said on this list: part of the problem with Rolf's
position is when we get down to actual details of the text. I've
repeatedly asked over the last few years to be shown how wayymer (just
as one example!) can be construed imperfectively. That is, assuming that
the imperfective aspect of WAYYIQTOL is uncancellable, how is this to be
>seen from wayyomer examples in the text?
When I read the words above, I wonder if DK has read my whole
dissertation. If he has read everything, he either has not understood
it or he speaks contrary to his better judgement. It is shown in my
work that in most verbs the relationship between event time and
reference time is not seen, but only in a few hundred verbs can we
clearly see the relationship between event time and reference time,
thus clearly pointing out the aspect. In chapters 2 and 8 I argue
that the perfective and imperfective aspect in Hebrew are not
mutually exclusive as in English, and on p. 412 I list two
similarities and four differences between the aspects. For example,
in my analysis, only imperfective verbs can express conative
situations (situations attempted but not carried through), and
situations where the action expressed by one verb is intersected by
another (When Moses read the law, Joshua entered his tent.)
Ignoring the points above, DK takes one root, )MR, and asks for one
example where we can see that this verb is imperfective and has
cancellable properties. A fair question to ask would have been:
Please give me ten examples of WAYYIQTOLs that are imperfective. But
let us continue with )MR.
James Read asked DK for examples, and DK used Gen 12:1.
> > I would like to invite you one more time to analyse a section of the
>> corpus using Rolf's method to see if your results have any major
> > disagreements with Rolf's.
>Well, OK, I'll start at Gen 12:1. First verb is problematic. Default
>construal can really only be taken as past perfective. Rolf would say
>that it is past imperfective. Already we see it not working so I see no
>point in continuing on.
I quote the verse from the NIV:
"The LORD had said (WAYYIQTOL) to Abram, "Leave your country, your
people and your father's household and go to the land I will show
What is visible in connection with the WAYYIQTOL of )MR? In most
cases the Aktionsart of this verb is dynamic and durative, but it can
also be semelfactive ("Peter said "ah"."), so the words has no
uncancellable Aktionsart properties. The relationship between the
deictic center and reference time is seen; R comes before C, so the
reference is past. But we cannot see which part of the action that
the writer wanted to make visible, whether the force is "YHWH began
to speak/ continued to speak/spoke/hd spoken."
And here is something that DK seems to have overlooked, namely, that
narrative sequences have different properties that cannot be ascribed
to the verb forms: B. Comrie (1985) "Tense" p. 63 says:
"In looking for examples of relative time reference, it is essential
to ensure that the relative time reference interpretation is part of
the meaning of the form in question, rather than an implicature
derived from, in part, the context. One area which is particularly
confusing in this respect is narrative, where one gains the
impression that a sequence of events which are located temporally one
almost immediately after the other, the chronological sequence
mirrored in a linear order of clauses. Thus one might be tempted to
think that this sequencing is part of the meaning of the verb forms
used, thus introducing a meaning of 'immediate past' or 'immediate
future' relative time reference (depending on whether one defined the
time reference of the preceding verb in terms of the following verb,
vice versa). However, as was shown in section 1.8 this sequencing of
events is a property of the narrative itself, quite independent of
the verb form used to encode the narrative, so that the mere fact
that verb forms receive this interpretation in narrative is not
sufficient evidence for assigning this meaning to the verb forms."
Linguistis may have different opinions, but I would think that all,
or most linguists would agree with Comrie in this case.
Comrie does not discuss WAYYIQTOL but the relative time reference in
narrative. But an important point is that he shows that a verb form
may be given a particular meaning in a narrative. But this meaning
need not be an intrinsic part of the verb form but rather an
implicature from the narrative itself (the context), Comrie's words
in an excellent way illustrate my distinction between semantics and
pragmatics. And they also imply that the verb forms used in narrative
contexts can have different meanings. For example, any verb form used
in narratives *must* per definition have past reference. In Hebrew,
WAYYIQTOL is used, in Phoenician infinitive absolute is used, and in
Ugaritic the prefix form (possibly the short one) is used. But we
cannot know the real meaning of each form just because it has past
reference and is used in narratives. So, the conclusion: "WAYYIQTOL
is so often used in narratives with past reference, that it must
represent past tense (or the perfective aspect), overlooks elementary
Therefore, the words of DK regarding the verb in Genesis 12:1
"Default construal can really only be taken as past perfective." are
really primitive words, because,
-they are not argued, just claimed.
-basic linguistic principles, such as those expressed by Comrie are overlooked.
-The perfective aspect are defined in more than ten different ways.
So what is THE perfective aspect?
-All-propositions (expressed by "only") do not belong to linguistics.
I will continue with )MR in my next E-mail.
University of Oslo
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