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

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Tue Jul 7 16:55:08 EDT 2009


On Tue, Jul 7, 2009 at 11:28 AM, Rolf Furuli<furuli at online.no> wrote:
> 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.

That’s not the question at all. You might be right and I wrong, or
both of us wrong.  What’s important that there be an open and honest
discussion pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each argument.

> 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.
When a student is just starting out, he has no choice. What is
disappointing is how hard it is to recognize and admit when one is
wrong, that what he was taught is less than accurate, or is one sided.

> 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).
Why should I have to choose? When looking for meaning, shouldn’t we
look at all that has influence on meaning?

Sometimes I need to read a whole chapter to put a single verse in its
context in order to make sense of what is said, and other times focus
in on a single phrase or word: both approaches are valid.

> 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.
Thanks for the list, it looks like a good reference.

> There are some tense-less languages in the world, but no languages
> that are not concerned with time, past, present, and future.

I thought it was a link from this list a few years ago that discussed
a people living in a jungle who had no concept of past or future, but
are stuck in the present. But that was just an interesting aside.

Back on topic: while it appears to me that Biblical Hebrew grammar had
no grammaticalization for time, the same is not true for the teachings
of Tanakh. There, the realities of the past are taken as reasons for
actions in the present, and the future is taken as a given though not
yet present. So while the verbal conjugation may lack a time
reference, the contexts in which those verbs are used are very time
sensitive. Thereby the contexts impart to the verbal usages historical
understandings not present in the verbs in isolation.

> 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
Thanks again.

Karl W. Randolph.

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