[b-hebrew] b-hebrew Uncancellable meaning and Hebrew verbs

David Kummerow farmerjoeblo at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 7 05:45:58 EDT 2009

Hi Rolf,

>  >
>  >
>  >His definitions are so elastic that he can even say on p.438 that
>  >perfective and imperfective aspect is "not mutually exclusive" and that
>  >"if an overall picture [in any given context] is enough, different forms
>  >can be used with the same meaning" (p. 460)! To me, this just shows that
>  >the definitions are inappropriate. But when it comes down to actual
>  >details of the text, even these elastic definitions don't always work
>  >either -- wayyo'mer in Gen 12:1 being an example, which Rolf has so far
>  >dodged in showing how this can be taken as imperfective.
>  >
>  >snip
>  >
>  >Now, please show me how wayyo'mer in Gen 12:1 is imperfective.
> The question above has been repeated five times or more in different
> posts of DK. My answer that it is not possible in many verbs,
> including this one, to see the relationship between reference time
> and event time, has been ignored.  That is not fair!

Then this just means that you read back the meaning of the minority of 
uses into the majority of uses. But how do we know that the semantic 
meaning of the majority of uses wasn't in part cancelled to allow for 
the minority of uses? How do we know that the meaning found in the 
minority of uses is also by default to be attributed to the majority of 
uses. Here work on frequency in linguistics would tell against your 
position as I argued in my review.

> A few questions:
> 1)  As I already have mentioned, S. R. Driver's view was  that the
> verb of Genesis 12:1 was imperfective, "he proceeded to speak". How
> can we know that Driver was wrong, and that the WAYYIQTOL  of the
> verse "looks at the situation from the outside, without necessarily
> distinguishing any of the internal structure of the situation"?

Context has no interrupted speech event, hence we can assume the whole 
of the speech event is on view and not a part. Put another way, how do 
we know its imperfective but from the minority of uses being read back 
into the majority?

> 2) Is my definition more "elastic"  or "vague" (that DK said
> elsewhere) than Comrie's? (Please note that I give a lot of details
> explaining the definition.)
> RF:
> "The imperfective aspect is a close-up view of a small section of the
> event where the progressive action is made visible. The perfective
> aspect is a view, as if from some distance, of a great part of, or of
> the whole of the event, where the progressive action is not made visible."
> Comrie:
> "The perfective looks at the situation from the outside, without
> necessarily distinguishing any of the internal structure of the
> situation, whereas the imperfective looks at the situation from inside,
> and as such is crucially concerned with the internal structure of the
> situation."
> 3) I am criticized by DK for by the words: "that he can even say on 
> p.438 that
> perfective and imperfective aspect is "not mutually exclusive". But
> would not  those saying that the aspects are mutually exclusive say
> that they have uncancellable meaning? If they do not have a fixed
> meaning that cannot change, how can they be mutually exclusive? In
> one place I am criticized because I say that something has semantic
> meaning, and in another context because I am not claiming semantic
> meaning.

It is elastic in the sense that, for example, your perfective aspect can 
correspond at times to what under a traditional definition corresponds 
to imperfective. I see that you have to have this elastic definition so 
that you have a chance of trying to achieve an uncancellable meaning 
across all of the occurrences of the verbs in the corpus.

> Best regards,
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo

David Kummerow.

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list