[b-hebrew] Alleged "prophetic tense"

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Thu Dec 6 11:14:25 EST 2012


Dear Frank:

On Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 5:41 AM, Dr. Frank Matheus <post at matheus.de> wrote:

> 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.
>

Are you saying that in a language that grammaticalizes tense that that
grammaticalization is “aspect”?

> ****
>
> ** **
>
> 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.
>

But it is generally recognized, often by the author himself, that when
grammatical present tense is used for events that are in the future or the
past (reference time), that that is an incorrect use of the English
language.


> 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.
>

As I am writing this response (present tense, because I haven’t finished
yet), I thought of three exceptions: the present tense can be used to
indicate intent—present plans for future accomplishment (future
perfective)—, subjunctive and optative moods require the use of the present
tense grammaticalization even for future actions, and idiomatic phrases
that use the present tense. As far as I know, all other uses of the present
tense for other than present actions is considered incorrect use of the
language.


> 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.
>

Here you have to look at the meanings of the terms and phrases. There is a
difference in meaning between “Are you dating someone?” and “Are you on a
date?”  or “Are you going out on a date?” “Are you dating someone?” refers
to a relationship, that the person is regularly going out on dates with the
same person, but not necessarily on a date at the moment the question is
asked. That question can be asked at the water cooler at work and a
positive response still be accurate. “Are you on a date?” means that the
respondent is at a restaurant or other venue with the person he is dating.

> ****
>
> ** **
>
> 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.
>

Shouldn’t there be a distinction made between deictic and
grammaticalization? And that by analyzing context that incorrect use of
grammar can sometimes be compensated for?

Another objection I have: just because a language doesn’t grammaticalize
its verbs for tense, does it necessarily grammaticalize for aspect? Why not
mood? Why limit it to TAM (Tense, Aspect, Mood)? Is it possible for a
language to grammaticalize concepts that none of these descriptions derived
from modern western languages describe?

> ****
>
> ** **
>
> 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
>

Karl W. Randolph.
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