[b-hebrew] Alleged "prophetic tense"

Rolf rolf.furuli at sf-nett.no
Thu Dec 6 10:57:47 EST 2012


Dear Frank,

Since my retirement from the University of Oslo two years ago, I have been completely absorbed in the study of Akkadian astronomical texts and their meaning for the Chronology of the Tanakh, as well as for Babylonian and Assyrian chronologies— with two books as a result. During this time I have read very few articles on the Hebrew language; and I was not aware of your article; now I will read it. See my comments below.
 
 
Torsdag 6. Desember 2012 14:41 CET skrev "Dr. Frank Matheus" <post at matheus.de>: 
 
> Dear Rolf & all,
> 
>  
> 
> could we agree in the following?
> 
>  
> 
> 1 Tense is a deictic phenomenon as it concerns the communicational activity
> of a deictic center resp. deictic community
> 
> 2 Aspects are a non-deictic phenomenon as they concern the internal temporal
> structure of an uttered text.
> 
>  
> 
> But I think we disagree in this:
> 
>  
> 
> 3 Tenses refer  to a specific point in or certain sphere of time.
> 
>  
> 
> In many cases they do, but very often they don't. E.g. the English present
> tense can be found in all three time stages, but no one doubts its tense
> character. The main feature of a "tense" is to be deictic, i.e. to allocate
> a proposition in a text, which as a whole has a time reference. E.g. in the
> sentence "Tomorrow Santa Claus is coming into town" the finite verb does not
> point to a specific time; this job is done by the adverb. Seen from this
> angle, the verbal form ("is coming") contradicts the time reference of the
> adverb, as it pretends to be part of the hic et nunc of the speaker. The
> adverb overrules the tense, and so we don't sense any contradiction. The
> same is true for a sentence like "Are you dating someone?" which refers to
> the past and to the future, but not, as the verbal form suggests, to the
> present tense.
> 

I agree with your examples, but I treat them in a way different from yours. I argue that because English present can have past, present, and future reference, it is not a tense. In other words, English has a past and a future tense, but no present tense. I therefore believe that English verbs have an intrinsic past and future reference. Under special circumstances, such as hypothetical conditional clauses etc., the tense nature of a verb may seem to be violated. But under normal conditions, words such as "went" and "walked" make visible their intrinsic past reference. For a discussion of English tenses, I recommend Broman Olsen's study (mentioned in my previous post), and B. Comrie, "Tense," 1985. As for English verbs, Broman Olsen argues, and I agree, that the present participle represents the imperfective aspect and perfet represents the perfective aspect. Further she argues that simple past is a tense, and have no aspectual value, simple future is a tense, and present is not a tense.

>  
> 
> A lot of languages don't express tense in their finite verbal forms, but
> that does not indicate necessarily that these languages are aspectual - they
> might as well say nothing about the internal temporal structure of a text.
> Those structures arise - and here I agree with you - by analyzing the> semantic properties of a verbal phrase (which I call event structure) in
> regard to its context (which is pragmatic, as someone has uttered it). But
> these observations do not falsify  the deictic character of the verbal forms
> of Biblical Hebrew.
> 

Before I get my hands on your article: What do you mean by "the deictic character of verbal forms in Biblical Hebrew? How can you be certain that what you call "deictic character" is semantic and not pragmatic?

>  
> 
> I have discussed these problems in my study "Ein jegliches hat seine Zeit",
> 2011, KUSATU.B 1, which contains an extensive English summary.
> 
>  
> 
>  
> 
> Frank Matheus,
> 
> Lecturer of Biblical Hebrew,
> 
> University of Münster, Germany
> 
>  
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> 
> From:  <mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org>
> b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [
> <mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org>
> mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Rolf
> 
> Sent: Donnerstag, 6. Dezember 2012 10:03
> 
> To: Til:
> 
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Alleged "prophetic tense"
> 
>  
 
 Best regards,


Rolf Furuli
Stavern
Norway



More information about the b-hebrew mailing list