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

James Read J.Read-2 at sms.ed.ac.uk
Wed Jul 8 02:54:47 EDT 2009

Hi Rolf,

Quoting Rolf Furuli <furuli at online.no>:

> Dear James,
> Your questions below are appropriate, so I will give a few examples.
> But for my part I think it is time to stop participating in this
> thread. I see no reason to participate in a discussion for the sake
> of the discussion, as some do, in order to get the last word. I have
> tried to concentrate on the big issues of Hebrew verbs, and for those
> interested, I think it is time to read the works of Comrie, Broman
> Olsen and myself.
> The deictic center (C) is the vantage point from which an event is
> seen. It is often the present moment or the time of writing. Events
> that are not instantaneous take time, and the time from the beginning
> to the end is "event time"  (E). Because of the nature of the
> English verbal system, E is in most cases considered in relation to a
> time line. But that is not necessary, because we can speak of "a
> two-hour walk" without placing it in the past or in the future.
> Communication means that the speaker or writer makes the whole event
> or a part of that event visible for the listener or reader. In order
> to make a particular part visible, aspects are used-in English the
> participle and perfect. The parameter "reference time" (R) can be
> compared to a pointing finger that points to a particular part of an
> event, either after the beginning and before the end, or at the end
> (the only two options in English). The small part of event time being
> made visible by the pointing finger is reference time (R). To say it
> in a technical way, R intersects E at the nucleus when the
> imperfective aspect is used and at the coda when the perfective
> aspect is used. Please consider the four examples below.
> (1) She was walking in the garden.
> (2) She has walked in the garden.
> (3) #Yesterday she has walked in the garden.
> (4) While she was walking in the garden, her husband entered the scene.
> The form "was"  in (1) signals that R comes before C, which is the
> present moment. This means that we know that the walking-event
> factually was terminated- its end had been reached before the present
> moment. However, the writer of the clause, while signalling that the
> event is terminated, does not want to make the whole event visible
> for his audience. He points his finger at the middle of the event;
> thus R intersects E at the nucleus. There can be reasons for making
> just a part of the event visible, such as we see in (4).
> Perfect can be defined as "the continuing present relevance of a past
> situation". In (2) perfect is used, and that connects the
> walking-event with the present moment. We know that the event is
> terminated, and the author's finger points at the end of the event-R
> intersects E at the coda. The two hours of the walking-event is not
> made visible, only its termination.
> Clause (3) is ungrammatical because the event is not connected with
> the present moment. This example can throw some light on your view
> that "tense and aspect are cancellable to the verb system of all
> languages". I guess that if we observed people for a long time in the
> UK or the US, we would discover one or more persons who used clauses
> similar to (3); thus speaking in an ungrammatical way. The
> consequence would be that "the present relevance" of perfect was
> cancelled, and your words are justified. But we must remember that
> this is an ungrammatical use, which means that there are particular
> rules, and these are violated.
> This throws light on my use of "semantic meaning". I would say that
> the English perfect (the perfective aspect) has a uniform
> interpretation-a past event is connected with the present moment.
> This is the use governed by grammatical rules, and counterexamples
> should not violate grammatical rules, but they should be found in
> normal speech situations.
> The interesting question therefore is: Can we find normal uses of the
> perfect in English were R does not intersect E at the coda? In other
> words, can we find examples of perfect that signals that the end of
> the event has not yet been reached? If such examples cannot be found,
> we should accept that English perfect has an uncancellable semantic
> meaning.
> Best regards,
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo
>> 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.

Consider the following almost synonymous sentences:

1) He has been in the corner for over an hour.
2) He has been standing in the corner for over an hour.

Also consider the following:

1) I have gone for a long time (doesn't make sense)
2) I have been gone for a long time (now makes sense)
3) I have known this for a long time (unlike sentence 1 this makes sense)

As I mentioned, I suspect that each language may have specific verbs  
which can cancel a default grammaticalisation because of internal  
semantic reasons like English 'think'. e.g.

He works at the factory (repeated event)
He thinks she's lying (reference limited to the present)

These examples illustrate my major reservation with your work at this  
time. Have you considered the possibility of semantic factors  
constrained to specific verbs?

James Christian

>> James Christian
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