[b-hebrew] Fwd: Tense

James Spinti jspinti at eisenbrauns.com
Wed Dec 12 13:01:38 EST 2012


With apologies if this posts twice. John was having problems posting.

Please direct responses to him, not me : )

James
________________________________
James Spinti
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Eisenbrauns, Good books for more than 35 years
Specializing in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Studies
jspinti at eisenbrauns dot com
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Begin forwarded message:
> 
> 
>> From: John Cook <jacookvwbus at yahoo.com>
>> Date: December 12, 2012, 10:42:30 AM EST
>> To: "b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
>> Subject: Tense
>> 
>> **Forgive my tardy taking up of this thread; I had previously submitted this from the wrong e-mail and it bounced!**
>> 
>> Dear Rolf, Frank, et al,
>> 
>> I watched for some time from the sideline (yes, I continue to be a b-hebrew lurker), but I could not resist finally jumping in now that we have gotten beyond the inane theoretical discussion on which some will never agree because common definitions are not agreed upon (I'll leave that one alone because there is no winning that argument).
>> 
>> Let me respond briefly to some of Rolf's comments on this specific passage, as it is generally instructive:
>> 
>>> RF: If you expect the readers to understand what you write, in this case you must define "tense." I agree that the reference is past, and why can we say that? Because 2:19 is a part of a piece of narrative. And the verbs that carry the action forward in narratives have by definition past reference. But these verbs need not have past tense or have the perfective aspect; In Phoenician, infinitive absolutes are used as narrative verbs, and they neither are tenses nor aspects. I analyze the verse in the following way: The setting is the creation of animals and birds, bringing them to Adam, and the naming of these. All this must have taken some time, as you observe.
>> 
>> 
>> This is a wonderfully clear illustration of the viciously circular reasoning we need to avoid to make headway: of course the verb in 2:19 has a past reference because it is part of a narrative, which is past by definition; and how do we know that it is a past narrative, because the verbs that make it past indicate that to us (so would Weinrich argue too!). Can any deny that this is viciously circular and begs the whole question of what the verb forms actually indicate since presumably we can tell this is narrative apart from the verbs but yet discourse analysis tells us the verbs indicate the type of discourse.
>> 
>>> My translation of 2:19 is as follows: "YHWH God continued to form (WAYYIQTOL, Qal) from the ground every animal and every flying creature of the heavens; and he continued to bring (WAYYIQTOL Hifil) them to the man to see (infinitive copnstruct) what he would call (YIQTOL, Qal) each one. And whatever the man called (YIQTOL, Qal) it, each living soul, that was its name."
>>> 
>>> In the first WAYYIQTOL, reference time (RT) intersects event time (ET) in the middle; a part of ET whith continuing or iterative action is made visible. Exactly the same intersection is seen in the second WAYYIQTOL.  The first YIQTOL is modal, and therefore does not have any intersection. The second YIQTOL has a singular subject and object and the verb is semelfactive. So, RT intersects ET after its end, which means that it has a resultative force; a part of the resultant state is visible. The verse contains 4 imperfective verbs, three having past reference (but not past tense), and one i modal.
>> 
>> 
>> You force your preconceived notions onto the text in a way no more acceptable than the old rabbinic explanation for how this account can appear next to that of Genesis 1: to wit, God "RE-FORMED" all the creatures for Adam to name because the first set (Genesis 1) ran away! Here we have a simple narrative sequence of wayyiqtols followed by two modal yiqtols:
>> 
>> 'Yhwh God FORMED out of the ground every animal of the field and every bird of the air and he BROUGHT them to the man to see what he MIGHT call them; and whatever the man WOULD call them that was/is its name.'
>> 
>> A few comments: (1) the initial two verbs are simply past narratives (yes, past tense, grammaticalized temporal location as prior to the speaker's deictic center and then, once the narrative sequence is begun the verbs pragmatically express simple successive events (see Smith 2003); (2) the first yiqtol makes perfectly good sense as an irrealis mood 'might'—i.e., God gave the man the chance to call the creatures whatever he wanted to; (3) the final yiqtol then expresses what the man wanted to call them (i.e., would = past of will = volitive expression not tense); (4) the final null copula clause seems ambiguous: for the ancient reader these names are the ones that are still used in their own reference time, so it might be better present than past reference here.
>> 
>>> The imperfective force of the WAYYIQTOL FORM is clearly seen in 2:21 where one WAYYIQTOL intersects another WAYYIQTOL: "Then YHWH God caused a deep sleep to fall (WAYYIQTOL) upon the man. And while he was sleeping (WAYYIQTOL), he took (WAYYIQTOL) one of his ribs, and closed up (WAYYIQTOL) the flesh over its place."
>>> 
>>> The third WAYYIQTOL expresses a state "while he was sleeping" and this state is intersected by the next  WAYYIQTOL "he took one of the man's ribs."  A parallel clause is: While John was reading the paper, Kate entered the room." Such a sentence is used by Comrie and others to demonstrate that the English participle FORM is imperfective.
>> 
>> 
>> No, it is not clearly seen; here you miss that the stative verbs may easily fit within a narrative sequence by their ambiguous stative-inchoative interpretation:
>> 
>> 'Yhwh God MADE a deep sleep FALL upon the man and he FELL ASLEEP (inchoative past narrative) and he took one of the ribs from the man and he closed the flesh over it.'
>> 
>> The intersection of time here comes from the fact that 'sleep' is not fully bound by the past-tense, perfective-aspect wayyiqtol (se Smith 1999; Cook 2004, 2012); but the narrative sequence continues to hold to the irreversibility principle that defines narrative: the events cannot be reported in the reverse order without a change in meaning (i.e., sleep fell first, then man fell asleep, then God took a rib, then he closed it up; it cannot happen with the same meaning in any other order).
>> 
>> You need to do reading beyond Comrie and Olsen so as to discover the gradual nuancing of these things in linguistics; unlike the field of biblical studies, dates of publications really matter in linguistics!
>> 
>> References:
>> Cook, John A.
>> 2004	The Semantics of Verbal Pragmatics: Clarifying the Roles of Wayyiqtol and Weqatal in Biblical Hebrew Prose. Journal of Semitic Studies 49/2: 247–73.
>> 2012	Time and the Biblical Hebrew Verb: the Expression of Tense, Aspect, and Modality in Biblical Hebrew. Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.
>> 
>> Smith, Carlota S.
>> 1999	Activities: States or Events? Linguistics and Philosophy 22: 479–508.
>> 2003	Modes of Discourse: The Local Structure of Texts. Cambridge Studies in Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
>> 
>> 
>> John
>>                                                                     
>> John A. Cook
>> Associate Professor of Old Testament
>> Asbury Theological Seminary
>> 204 N. Lexington Ave.
>> Wilmore, KY 40390
>> 859-858-2292
>> 
>> On Dec 10, 2012, at 8:01 AM, b-hebrew-request at lists.ibiblio.org wrote:
>> 
>>> Message: 1
>>> Date: Sun, 09 Dec 2012 18:00:23 +0100
>>> From: "Rolf" <rolf.furuli at sf-nett.no>
>>> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Tense
>>> To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
>>> Message-ID: <368f-50c4c380-f-d856e20 at 255742708>
>>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
>>> 
>>> Dear Frank,
>>> 
>>> I will read your book, and you should read my dissertation, because it is good for a lecturer to be aware of the different scholarly approaches to the Hebrew verbal system that exists. Many list members do not read German, so I will make some comments before I have read your book. Now I understand a little more of your model, but not all of it. It reminds me somewhat of the "Textlinguistik" of Harald Weinrich (Tempus: Besprochende und Erz?lte Welt (1964), but there are differences as well. It also reminds me of the discourse linguistics of different other auhors. Both of these systems are unassailable (admitted by Weinrich); there are no controls, because the focus is on chunks of texts and not on words or word forms.
>>> 
>>> You have indirectly answered my question regarding aspect, that the conjugations are not aspectual, but that aspect is connected with one or more clauses. But you have not defined "tense."  
>>> 
>>> You say:
>>> "In this text it is very hard to believe  that the finite verbal form ????????? is not tense." 
>>> 
>>> RF: If you expect the readers to understand what you write, in this case you must define "tense." I agree that the reference is past, and why can we say that? Because 2:19 is a part of a piece of narrative. And the verbs that carry the action forward in narratives have by definition past reference. But these verbs need not have past tense or have the perfective aspect; In Phoenician, infinitive absolutes are used as narrative verbs, and they neither are tenses nor aspects. I analyze the verse in the following way: The setting is the creation of animals and birds, bringing them to Adam, and the naming of these. All this must have taken some time, as you observe.
>>> 
>>> My translation of 2:19 is as follows: "YHWH God continued to form (WAYYIQTOL, Qal) from the ground every animal and every flying creature of the heavens; and he continued to bring (WAYYIQTOL Hifil) them to the man to see (infinitive copnstruct) what he would call (YIQTOL, Qal) each one. And whatever the man called (YIQTOL, Qal) it, each living soul, that was its name."
>>> 
>>> In the first WAYYIQTOL, reference time (RT) intersects event time (ET) in the middle; a part of ET whith continuing or iterative action is made visible. Exactly the same intersection is seen in the second WAYYIQTOL.  The first YIQTOL is modal, and therefore does not have any intersection. The second YIQTOL has a singular subject and object and the verb is semelfactive. So, RT intersects ET after its end, which means that it has a resultative force; a part of the resultant state is visible. The verse contains 4 imperfective verbs, three having past reference (but not past tense), and one i modal.
>>> 
>>> The imperfective force of the WAYYIQTOL FORM is clearly seen in 2:21 where one WAYYIQTOL intersects another WAYYIQTOL: "Then YHWH God caused a deep sleep to fall (WAYYIQTOL) upon the man. And while he was sleeping (WAYYIQTOL), he took (WAYYIQTOL) one of his ribs, and closed up (WAYYIQTOL) the flesh over its place."
>>> 
>>> The third WAYYIQTOL expresses a state "while he was sleeping" and this state is intersected by the next  WAYYIQTOL "he took one of the man's ribs."  A parallel clause is: While John was reading the paper, Kate entered the room." Such a sentence is used by Comrie and others to demonstrate that the English participle FORM is imperfective.
>>> 
>>> I do not understand how we can know the nuances of a dead language if its conjugations cannot be semantically distinguished. This is illustrated by 1), 2) and 3) below.
>>> 
>>> 1) Jill reached the peak.
>>> 
>>> 2) Jill had reached the  peak.
>>> 
>>> 3) Jill was reaching the peak.
>>> 
>>> If English was a dead language that we tried to understand, and we did not which verb FORMS expressed aspect and which tense, we could neither distinguish the time reference of the three clauses, neither their nuances. If there was a context, we could possibly know whether the reference was past or future; but not if a clause lacked a temporal context. (This is the case in many poetic texts in the Tanakh). If semantic meaning was expressed by the verb form, each single sentence could be understood: The verb of 1) is simple past and therefore is a tense; the verb of 2) is pre-past, and is a combination of past tense and the perfective aspect. The verb of 3) is a participle, and because we know the the verb FORM participle is imperfective, and the verb is semelfactive, the meaning is that Jill was on the point of reaching the peak, but had not yet reached it. So, RT intersects ET immediately before the reaching event. Even if we had a context, it would have been impossible to k
>>> now the nuances of 3) if we did not know that the participle had a particular semantic meaning, that it was imperfective.
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> Best regards,
>>> 
>>> 
>>> Rolf Furuli
>>> Stavern
>>> Norway
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> _______________________________
>> John A. Cook
>> Associate Professor Old Testament
>> Asbury Theological Seminary

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