[b-hebrew] Alleged "prophetic tense"

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Sat Dec 8 13:03:43 EST 2012


Frank:

On Sat, Dec 8, 2012 at 3:42 AM, Dr. Frank Matheus <post at matheus.de> wrote:

> Dear Rolf & Karl & all,****
>
> ** **
>
> quote Karl: 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.****
>
> ** **
>
> FM: The definition of SIL is not bad; they define aspect as follows: “ Aspect
> is a grammatical category associated with verbs<http://www.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsAVerbLinguistics.htm>
>  that expresses a temporal view of the event or state expressed by the
> verb.”****
>
> ** **
>
> Note that this definition says that the verb expresses a state or an event
> and that the aspect is associated with the verb. But it doesn’t say that
> the verbal form expresses the aspect, or refers to a specific time.
>

Not all languages grammaticalize aspect. Not all languages grammaticalize
tense. Those that don’t grammaticalize tense and aspect indicate such
through their contexts when it is important.


> I just would complement the definition: Aspects regulate the temporal
> relations within texts; they are independent from speaker and recipient
> (and, Rolf, therefore do not have communicational functions) – whereas
> tenses regulate the triangle of speaker-text-recipient (they are
> communicational).
>

This appears not just to be a complement, rather to be a contradiction to
the definition given in SIL. Aspect defined there is an understanding of
time communicated by the grammaticalization of the verb or communicated by
the context of whether we are dealing with point time, single event, start
of an action, end of an action, continuous or repeated actions, etc. It is
different from tense where tense refers to the temporal relationship
between the communication and the action or temporal relationship of
different actions, e.g. the temporal relationship between when something is
said and the action indicated by that which is said, or the temporal
difference between when one action occurred and a different action occurred
or will occur.

> ****
>
> ** **
>
> To understand the problem better, we can refer back to the British
> philosopher John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart (yes, that’s his name), a
> colleague of Bertrand Russell, …
>

Never heard of McTaggart before. And Bertram Russell? I can’t take him
seriously as a philosopher because what I’ve seen of his philosophizing, it
is based on contradiction. Romans 1:22.

Does it make sense to define grammar according to one’s preconceived
philosophy, in other words, to try to fit it into one’s own procrustean
bed? Or does it make more sense to analyze a text to find out what is its
own grammar and what is communicated thereby in order to find out what is
actually communicated?

> ** **
>
>>
> ** **
>
> When we apply these differentiations to Biblical Hebrew, we can describe
> the function of the verb, e.g.: Gen 2:19****
>
> וַיָּבֵא֙ אֶל־הָ֣אָדָ֔ם לִרְא֖וֹת מַה־יִּקְרָא־ל֑וֹ ****
>
>  ****
>
> In this text it is very hard to believe  that the finite verbal form
> וַיָּבֵא֙ is not tense.
>

It is very easy to believe that the finite verbal form here does not
grammaticalize for tense. In fact, from what I’ve seen of the Hebrew
language, it makes more sense to say that it signals continuation of
narrative than for tense.

However, context indicates that this particular event happened in the past.


>  Just by receiving the word I know that in the A-series I am advised to
> look at the past. The second verb  יִּקְרָא is in the past too – but its
> form does not tell me that. Instead it describes the future of the first
> verb.
>

Not necessarily. It is just as likely to refer to the subjunctive “… what
he should call it.”


>  As it connects the two events („bring to see“ and „call“) inextricably,
> it represents aspect.
>

This doesn’t make sense, as it appears you are trying to say that aspect =
tense.


>  The “bringing to see” is earlier than “call”, and this relation will
> never change. Besides the prospective aspect there is iterativity too. As
> god brings along a lot of animals, Adam has a hard job to carry out, which
> takes its time. But the verbal forms do not provide us with information
> about durativity or frequentness; these we sense by analyzing the temporal
> structure of the text as a whole.****
>
> **
>
It appears to me that you agree with me that the Qatal and Yiqtol
grammaticalizations don’t grammaticalize for aspect as defined in SIL. But
in analyzing the Tanakh as a whole, it appears that those
grammaticalizations don’t grammaticalize for tense either.

> **
>
> ** **
>
> Rolf, regarding 1 Kgs 1:5 I might have used the wrong terms. What I meant
> were the classes of the speech act theory, and in English I should have
> used “declaration” instead of “declarative”. To my mind declarations are
> connected to the suffix conjugations, but not to the prefix conjugation.
> There’s a chapter in my book about declarations, so we can talk this over
> when you have got hand on it.
>

?? How does that fit Exodus 5:2, last two sections? “… I don’t know (Qatal
suffix conjugation) YHWH and even Israel I have no intention to send him
out (Yiqtol prefix conjugation)”. Both are declarations.

> ****
>
> ** **
>
> Best regards,****
>
> Frank Matheus, University of Münster****
>
> **
>
> Karl W. Randolph.
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