[b-hebrew] Alleged "prophetic tense"

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Thu Dec 6 14:40:59 EST 2012


Dear Frank:

On Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 9:55 AM, Dr. Frank Matheus <post at matheus.de> wrote:

> Dear Karl, dear Rolf & all,****
>
> ** **
>
> quote:****
>
> 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.****
>
> ** **
>
> Karl: Are you saying that in a language that grammaticalizes tense that
> that grammaticalization is “aspect”? ****
>
> ** **
>
> My Answer: ****
>
> “Aspects” are the unchangeable time relations between events, processes or
> situations in uttered texts.
>

I’m not a great scholar in linguistics, but this doesn’t sound like
anything that I learned in class, nor read up on line such as at
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/ . In those
sources, aspect has specific references to time, and tense a different set
of references to time. I’m having trouble understanding what you are saying.


>>
> ** **
>
> Karl: 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.****
>
> ** **
>
> My answer:****
>
> But this is exactly the point. Comrie and others define tense as the
> information about the “when”. If I don’t get the answer from the finite
> verbal form – as it can be used in such different ways – it does not comply
> with the definition.
>

There’s an English statement, “Special cases make bad laws.” That’s true in
grammar as well as jurisprudence. There’s the normal grammaticalization of
tense in English, but there are a few, special cases where the use trumps
normal grammar. For example, “Were I there when that happened, …” (German
“Wäre ich zur Zeit da, …”) we find that the optative mood trumps normal
English use whereas in German the optative is grammaticalized. Do these
special cases change the understanding of grammar? Likewise there are a few
special cases where the present tense grammaticalization in English can
legitimately be used for future reference, but does that delegitimize that
in normal use the present tense is grammaticalized? I don’t think so.

How many of the present tense uses for the future in reality refer to
present intentions to do future actions? And as such, really refer to
present actions?


> And here is the point that Rolf makes:****
>
> ** **
>
> Rolf: 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.
>

As a native English speaker, this is not true. Apart from some special
cases, present tense is clearly grammaticalized.

> ****
>
> ** **
>
> My answer: This might be right. But I would argue that our definition of
> “tense” is too narrow: It does not need to point to a specific time to be
> called a tense.****
>
> ** **
>
> Rolf: 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?****
>
> ** **
>
> My answer: I would differentiate between time relations in a text
> (non-deictic) and the deictic process of communication. As communication
> always has a pragmatic purpose (else no one would communicate), the text as
> the output of a communication implicates an illocutional force. This force
> can be sensed in a different way, depending on the role of the recipient
> and emitter. The sentence אֲנִ֣י אֶמְלֹ֑ךְ (1Ki 1:5 WTT) can be
> understood in several ways: I will be king (assertion), I want to be king
> (expressive), It’s me who will be king [so I have to do something in order
> to become king:]  (commissive), It’s me who will be king [so YOU have to do
> something so that I can become king:]  (directive), but it cannot be
> understood as declarative. Please note: Though it might differ in its
> pragmatic orientation, the sentence is always pointing to the future. In
> this case the deictic force of the finite verb has tense character; along
> comes the imperfective aspect, because a part of the future and “being
> king” happen at the same time.
>

Nope, this isn’t necessarily future. It can refer to the present, “I intend
to be king” then we see his actions to carry out his present tense
intention. With this understanding, this is a declarative statement. I
noticed that intention always takes the Yiqtol form, yet intention always
refers to a present or past, not a future, action. The fulfillment of
intention may be future, present or past, but that fulfillment may be
thwarted by other events.

> ****
>
> ** **
>
> All the best,****
>
> Frank****
>
> ** **
>
>
> Karl W. Randolph.
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