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

James Read J.Read-2 at sms.ed.ac.uk
Tue Jul 7 16:53:34 EDT 2009

Hi Rolf,

for the benefit of the list members can you provide a quick  
explanation of tense and aspect as defined by your parameters event  
time, reference time and deictic centre with a couple of example  
sentences that illustrate the use of the tools?

I'm fairly sure that using this same method and applying it to any  
modern language we would find that both tense and aspect are  
cancellable to the verb systems of all languages. The reason I make  
this observation is that while I concede that there may be an  
uncancellable meaning which is common to all uses of a verb form I'm  
pretty sure that language speakers are unaware of it when they use a  
verb form and are more conscious of the use they wished to express.

James Christian

Quoting Rolf Furuli <furuli at online.no>:

> Dear Karl,
> The final word is not said regarding Hebrew grammar and Hebrew verbs.
> We must keep in mind that there was no Hebrew grammar in the days of
> the Masoretes, and the grammatical suggestions that have been
> presented in the 19th, 20th, and 21st century all are built on
> induction-and induction can be tricky.
> I do not think you should approach Hebrew grammar by asking whether I
> am right or wrong. In any case, you will not have a basis for any
> answer before you have carefully studied my dissertation and
> considered a great part of its examples. What bothers me most in many
> studies of Hebrew verbs is the arbitrariness of many of the
> conclusions. Things are stated without arguments, and the readers of
> grammars and textbooks  simply have to believe the statements.
> To come to grips with Hebrew grammar, I see two important paths to follow:
> 1) Consider for yourself whether you want to use a method where you
> have to account for a lot of factors at the same time (i.e.,
> discourse analysis) or whether you want to study the smallest
> possible parts of the language, one at a time (semantic meaning
> versus conversational pragmatic implicature).
> 2) Try to get a clear understanding of the fundamental properties
> "deictic center," "event time," and "reference time" and how these
> can be applied to Hebrew verbs. To achieve that, I suggest that you
> study B. Comrie (1976) "Aspect" and (1985) "Tense".  Here you will
> find a fundamental introduction that will be of great help. Comrie is
> seen as a linguistic authority. However, you should keep in mind that
> he has been severely criticized for his confusion of aspect and
> Aktionsart, or rather his lack of distinction between aspect and
> Aktionsart by numerous linguists. So after you have read Comrie, you
> need something by which you can adjust your ideas regarding the
> fundamental aspectual properties. This you can do by a careful study
> of the dissertation of M. Broman Olsen, that I previously have
> referred to. Her discussion of the fundamental properties are
> excellent, the best discussion I am aware of, and she points out the
> weaknesses of Comrie's discussion in a rather simple way.  After
> this, you will probably have the right basis for the study of the
> Hebrew verb. The best way to learn the basics, as I see it, is first
> to read Comrie, and then throw away the 20-30% where he errs, and not
> just to Read Broman Olsen without having read Comrie.
> There are some tense-less languages in the world, but no languages
> that are not concerned with time, past, present, and future. So, you
> cannot approach BH by throwing out time altogether. What you should
> do is to ascertain what it means that tense is the relationship
> between the deictic center and reference time, and that aspect is the
> relationship between event time and reference time, and then apply
> this to BH.
> Best regards,
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo
>> Rolf:
>> Right now I cannot say that you are right or that you are wrong.
>> I question whether or not the Biblical Hebrew verbal conjugation
>> system had a time element at all. Even your modified aspectual system
>> still retains a time element. That's what I question. I could be
>> wrong.
>> As I previously admitted, before joining this list, I had given very
>> little thought to Biblical Hebrew grammar, concentrating on lexical
>> studies.
>> For example, before Randall Buth joined with his question, I had never
>> considered the grammar for simple, declarative statements concerning
>> ongoing events. As far as I have seen so far, he's right that the
>> Yiqtol is not used for those sentences. However, his conclusion that
>> the noun/pronoun plus participle is the default construction for those
>> sentences is belied by the finding that at least one such sentence has
>> that construction referring to the future and that the Qatal is often
>> used for present, ongoing events. The Yiqtol seems to be used for
>> optitative, subjunctive, interrogative and other such uses.
>> Like you, when I studied Hebrew in class, I was taught that the Hebrew
>> conjugation system necessarily includes time; whether tense as in
>> modern Israeli or aspect with its completed, point time action vs.
>> incompleted, continuing time action. One of the nice things about
>> being largely self-taught is that I don't have to argue with experts,
>> rather I can deal with the text directly without that distraction, but
>> it also means that I could be very wrong.
>> Thanks again for resending your definitions.
>> Karl W. Randolph.
>> _______________________________________________
>> b-hebrew mailing list
>> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
>> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew
> _______________________________________________
> b-hebrew mailing list
> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
Scotland, with registration number SC005336.

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list