[b-hebrew] Alleged "prophetic tense"

Rolf rolf.furuli at sf-nett.no
Fri Dec 7 07:14:21 EST 2012

Dear Frank,

I have several comments:

You wrote:
"“Aspects” are the unchangeable time relations between events, processes or situations in uttered texts."

RF: In my view, "aspect" is connected with verb forms; for example, the YIQTOL form is always imperfective. If I understand you correctly, "aspect" is  not connected with verb forms, but with communicative relations. Is that a correct understanding? If so, can YIQTOL and QATAL both be imperfective and perfective? 

You wrote regarding my claim that English present is not a tense:
 "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." 

RF: This is a view of tense that is very different from Comrie's view and the view of most linguists.  What is the definition of "tense"?

You wrote: 
"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."

RF: I assume that you use "declarative" in the normal sense of "an expressed statement." Only rarely do pronouns precede finite verbs. When they do, they often serve as some kind of emphasis. Would your argument that the clause cannot be declarative also stand if we removed the pronoun?  

I agree that the phrase in 1 Kings 1:5 most likely has future reference— of the 25 examples of MLK as YIQTOLs, 24 have future reference and Proverbs 8:15 is gnomic. In addition to the possible interpretations of Adonijah's words that you present, I will add this one: "I declare myself as king!" (I have taken the kingly power and started to reign, now that my father is about to die). This is a declarative sentence, and the reference is present completed and not future. Why cannot the phrase be understood in this way?

In Genesis 31:39 the pronoun )NY precedes the YIQTOL form C+) in the Piel stem. I analyze the clause as declarative and having past reference. What is the difference between this clause and 1 Kings 1:5 as far as aspect is concerned? In the Tanakh, I have found 1027 YIQTOLs with past reference; of these 896 has one or more words preceding them, and 131 are clause initial. Most of these occur in declarative sentences. So  I do not understand why the verb in 1 Kings 1:5 cannot be declarative, but "has tense character."

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli



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