[b-hebrew] b-hebrew Uncancellable meaning and Hebrew verbs
furuli at online.no
Thu Jul 9 02:44:08 EDT 2009
See my comments below.
>>In order to find examples where the perfective aspect portrays
>>actions that are ongoing, and where the end is not reached, you can
>>only use the perfect participle - he has stood.
I am sorry but I am not following your reasoning.
Please consider a) and b). We agree that from 8
until 12 the state of standing held as in (a),
and from 8 until 12 the action of working
as in (b). But remember that the aspects are not
concerned with what actually happened, but they
make visible *a part* of what actually happened.
How long E lasted, and whether the person also
"stood" after 12 o´clock is irrelevant. The point
is that R intersects E at the coda (at 12
o`clock). Therefore, c) and d) are odd and
a) From 8 o´clock this morning until 12 he has stood on his feet.
b) From 8 o´clock this morning until 12 he has worked.
c) While he from 8 o´clock this morning until 12
has stood on his feet, his daughter was born.
d) While he from 8 o´clock this morning until 12
has worked, his daughter was born.
>>>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)
>>Where is the intersection of E by R in 3)?
>In 3 I would understand both the imperfect and
>the perfect aspect being made visible as you
>analysed the 'He has been ... ' phrase above.
>That is to say that two features are revealed
>a) The length of time the thing has been known (perfective sense)
>b) The ongoing knowledge (imperfective sense)
>Consider also the following:
>4) I have felt this way for a long time
>5) I have had this email account for almost a year
>These emails seem to indicate that certain verbs
>are used in the present perfect construction but
>with a present progressive sense. The semantics
>of the verb overrides the default sense of the
That the person had a particular feeling for a
long time, (and the state of feeling held for a
long time), portrays a factual situation. But it
has nothing to do with the aspect, i.e., where R
intersects E. You must always distinguish between
the event or state and what the aspect makes
visible of the event or state. My view is that
e) odd and ungrammatical while f) is a normal
e) While I have felt this way for a long time, I
started to consider whether my feelings where
rooted in reality.
f) While I was feeling this way, I started to
consider whether my feeling were rooted in
>6) I have been having this email account for almost a year
>7) He has been being in the corner for a long time
>In fact, as the above examples show, when we
>attempt to use the present progressive
>construction with these verbs the sentence
>sounds odd although it is possible for us to
>extract the intended sense.
>I dare say that a similar phenomenon may have
>happened in BH. That is to say that the
>semantics of individual verbs could override the
>semantics of the verb form. However, we simply
>do not have the data required to fully test this.
Clauses 6) and 7) show that by combining the two
aspects in English, and thus getting present
perfect progressive clauses, you can signal
ongoing situations by the use of "has". But still
you have not cancelled the uniform interpretation
of the combination of have + perfect participle.
To do that you must give examples of these two
forms where R intersects E at the nucleus.
When we start to study a dead language such as
BH, we do not know what the language is like and
we do not know exactly what we will find. But we
need a model, on the basis of which we can study
the language. When I started to study the Hebrew
verb, my model built on two basic assumptions, 1)
there is nothing special with BH compared to
other languages. So it can be studied in the same
way as other languages, and 2) a difference in
form suggests a difference in meaning. I still
think that these two assumptions are built on a
Let us leave the infinite form alone at the
moment. When I looked at the unpointed texts of
the DSS, I saw only two fundamental verbs forms,
the suffix forms (some prefixed with WAW), and
the prefix forms (some prefixed with WAW). My
first task was to find out whether there was a
semantic difference between the forms with
prefixed WAW and those without prefixed WAW. On
the basis of a study of the functions, temporal
references, and the occurrences of the different
forms, my conclusion was that there was no
difference, and BH has only two finite verb forms
(conjugtions) . The next step was to look for the
meaning of the two BH conjugations, and how could
that be done? I will use two English examples.
Suppose that English was the dead language we
studied; We knew its vocabulary but we were
working to find the meaning of the verbal system,
and we were to consider g) and h). From the
vocabulary we see that there is a reach-event in
connection with a peak. The clauses are similar
except some characteristics of the verbs- "was
... ing" versus "has ... ed". There is nothing
in the two clauses that can tell us where R
intersects E, so what should we do? We should
look for examples of similar verb forms in our
corpus, where the intersection of R and E is
visible, and see if these can be given a uniform
interpretation. I have found such a uniform
interpretation of was + present participle and
has + perfect participle, and therefore I think I
have a good reason to extrapolate these
interpretations and conclude that g) signals that
the end was not reached at C, while the end was
reached in h).
g) She was reaching the peak.
h) She has reached the peak.
Then what about the theoretical setting for the
analysis above? Because I know that semantic
meaning does exist (e.g., the telicity of phrasal
verbs), I refuse to accept David Kummerows
categorical dictum that uncancellable meaning
cannot be found because it does not exist. This
is in my view linguistic anarchy. When I started
my study I did not know whether uncancellable
meaning existed in the BH conjugations, but I
studied the systems in order to see if uniform
interpretations were possible. Then to your
concern, the possibility that "the semantics of
individual verbs could override the semantics of
the verb form". This concern has some relations
to DK's standpoint, because it focuses on the
possibility that a uniform interpretation can be
cancelled by counterexamples. Because it is not a
categorical standpoint, it deserves to be
considered. How? By looking for examples in the
BH text. But we should be careful in our
interpretation of the BH examples. So far, you
have given several examples of a combination of
the imperfective and perfective aspect, but these
examples do not blot out the semantics of English
perfect, that R intersects E. at the coda. (BTW
The two aspects cannot be combined in BH, so that
languge is less flexible.) My point, therefore,
is that we should not stop drawing conclusions
regarding the Hebrew verbs because of the
*possibility* that we will find something that
cancels our conclusions. And we should not
believe that our conclusions are weak, because
there is the *possibility* that they can be
canceled. Until it is demonstrated that our
uniform interpretations do not hold, we should
stick to them.
University of Oslo
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