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Such actuality-cancelling conditions do not exist for genuine habituais. From a diachronie point of view, I assume that potential pluri-occasion-ality as a rule occurs later than genuine habituality, given that the latter is more similar to the progressive prototype in terms of its actuality.

The modal nuances of ability and obligation which are expressed in the potential general uses of old progressives should not be confused with modal meanings which have more in common with the future use of such forms. Future-related modal meanings are often specific and non-imperfective, but they can also be general.

For example, in Biblical Hebrew, the imperfect can have a general directive meaning, as in 2 b. I take this meaning as an inference of the future function of the imperfect, closely related to the specific directive imperfect. For an illustration, consider 2 a. You shall say [impf] the same to Esau when you meet him Gen Remember the day of the sabbath, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor [impf. Exod A special subgroup within the general category is made up by the generic sentences.

Unlike the above-mentioned types, generic sentences have general subject referents, as in 3 :. Each year the daughters of Israel go [impf. In Hebrew, as well as cross-linguistically, generics represent an endpoint in the progressive-imperfective path, in the sense that this meaning tend to persist when the form ceases to be used with other meanings.

The Expression of Tense, Aspect, and Modality in Biblical Hebrew

Further, there is a distinction to be made between general pluri-occa-sionals habituais and non-general i. Consider the following example:. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing [ptc] them Exod The clause is not about the Egyptians and their habits, but about a campaign of oppression, which is being launched against the Israelites.

This oppression is viewed as an ongoing process, very much as the activity of building in the next example does, although in this case, the overall semantic structure of the predicate is telic, rather than atelic:.

Time and the Biblical Hebrew Verb

The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people from the exile were building [ptc] a temple for the Ford, the God of Israel. Ezra In both 4 and 5 , the reference is to a specific, but intermittent process, whose actualisation does not necessarily coincide with the time of speech. Notionally, as well as diachronie ally, this type of predicate occupies a middle ground between habitual predicates on the one hand, and uni-occasional actual-present predicates on the other.

A final distinction concerns the difference between events that are repeated over a number of separate occasions-pluri-occasional repetition- and events that are repeated during one and the same occasion-uni-occasional repetition, or iterativity. We have already seen examples of pluri-occasionality above.

The following example illustrates iterativity:. He dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the ground, and its top reached to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending [ptc] and descending [ptc] on it Gen Iterativity no doubt occurs at an earlier stage of the development than pluri-occasionality does, but the distinction is not likely to be the dividing line between two fully grammaticalised forms on the progressive-imperfective path.

In grammatical studies of Biblical Hebrew, as well as generally, the semantic categories that has been described above are often mixed. Especially terms like "iterative," "frequentative" or other terms indicating some kind of repetition, can function as catch-all for all, or most of the categories, including potential general meaning. For a more accurate understanding of the diachronie development, it is helpful to keep these categories apart.

Figure 1 summarises the distinct, but partly entangled and parallel semantic developments that characterise the progressive-imperfective path: The figure can be applied to the progressive form in general terms, as well as individual verbs. The extent to which the model applies to an individual verb, however, will depend on various factors, especially whether it is dynamic or stative.

A prototypical progressive, at least, has all the features in the left column, and in the most complete scenario it will incorporate each of the opposite characteristics during the course of its evolution. Thus, in the first step it represents a dynamic, transitory, uni-occasional, specific event which is actually occurring at speech time. In phase three, it loses both specificity and dynamicity, and is used with general, habitual meaning. Of these shifts, the movement from specific to general is the one that best reflects the change that the grammarians have described with regard to the LB H participial predicate.

It is to be noted that the opposition of specific versus general involves both the predicate and the subject. The generalisation of the subject referent which presupposes the presence of a general predicate event leads to the generic type of predications. Although generic meaning arises late and persists long, it is very possible that it develops partly in parallel with other general meanings.

TENSE, ASPECT & MOOD IN OA ft Biblaridion

Several of the cases that I have classified as generic are somewhat atypical and could represent an early, or even pre-generic stage. Thus, in the following example, the class of individuals referred to by the subject is very limited and the time span of the predicated states very short:.

On these conditions the girl came [ptc] to the king: Anything that she wanted [impf. In the evening she came [ptc] there and in the morning she returned [ptc] to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch, the guard of the concubines Esth While none of the various semantic shifts listed above defines the pro-gressive-imperfective evolution per se, I suggest here that they can be seen as different facets of an overall movement along a scale from accidentiality to essentiality.

Accordingly, in its prototypical function, the progressive form predicates accidental conditions, from which the subject referent is autonomous to a very high degree.

Time and the Biblical Hebrew Verb | Angus & Robertson

With time, the form is used for conditions that are more and more integrated in the subject referent, until, eventually, the subject-defining function becomes dominant, as in the generics. To this end of the spectrum belongs, of course, also the proverbial generic type, which does not speak as much of the subject referent as of timeless ethical and epistemological principles.

Figure 2 illustrates the development in both specific and holistic terms:.


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It is sometimes difficult to pinpoint which of the above semantic factors is at play in a given case. For example, the borderline between general and specific pluri-occasionality, or between actual and potential general meanings, is often very thin, and perhaps not even possible to draw without a preconceived idea of the inherent meaning of the verb.

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Sometimes, the factors are simply inadequate, in which case it is more fruitful to resort to a holistic assessment of the degree of accidentiality or essentiality of the predication see examples [1] b. Hence, my employment of these concepts at this stage must be considered tentative, and the results approximate as far as the details are concerned.

The lexico-semantic and morphosyntactic origins of verbal forms affect their semantic profile and development, especially in the early stages. This section deals with the problem of the classification of progressive source types, and its possible consequences for the present investigation. To begin with the basic facts of the Biblical Hebrew forms, the imperfect is a finite inflected form, marked for person, gender, and number. The participle is, of course, non-finite. As predicate it has no auxiliary or other copula, and the participial clause is thus from a morphosyntactic point of view an asyndetic nominal clause.

There is a limited number of progressive source types, which can be classified in various ways.

1 Hebrew Tense and Aspect

Below is a simplified synopsis of the classification made by Bybee, Perkins and Pagliuca on the basis of their study of seventy-six languages from twenty-five different phyla. In the synopsis, the semantic and syntactic structure of the source types is described in general terms, and, where appropriate, approximated with English glosses, using "VERB" in the place of the verb. Of these types, the first is so much more common than all the others that Bybee, Perkins and Pagliuca assume the locative function to be the original meaning of the progressive class as a whole: "[T]he original function of the progressive is to give the location of an agent as in the midst of an activity.

Heine has a different classification, which includes what he calls the "equation schema," consisting of subject, copula, and participle:. Bybee, Perkins and Pagliuca do not count this type of construction as a separate class, but include it in the locative type on the basis that traces of locative lexemes are often hidden in such constructions. It is noticeable that Heine's equation schema corresponds exactly with how many Hebraists have reconstructed the original meaning of the Biblical Hebrew participial predicate.

Rather, they say, durative progressives represent an earlier stage of not yet fully grammaticalised progressives, which, in the course of time, may become focalised progressives. However, the evidence for this reconstruction is far from straightforward. Similarly, the Modern English progressive cannot readily be identified with the Old English participial periphrasis, as Bertinetto, Ebert and De Groot suggest. The same holds for the Greek participial periphrasis, which probably served as the model for the corresponding Latin form.

It seems crucial here to distinguish the postural progressive source type from constructions with a genuinely copulative auxiliary. The fact that the postural auxiliary of a progressive may become more and more copula-like over time is not relevant for the classification of the source construction, in which the auxiliary is not a copula but a main verb with a gerundial or other complement. Now, the Biblical Hebrew participial predicate can, from a syntactic point of view, be regarded as an asyndetic variant of the copulative periphrasis found in Greek and Old English. Semantically, however, only the Hebrew construction is a genuinely progressive form.

This means that cross-linguistic typology gives insufficient guidance as to what particular behaviours to expect of it. Among the source types discussed in this section, Heine's equative participial construction is the one that resembles the Hebrew construction the most, but the evidence for this type is disputed, and it is not certain that the progressive participle in Biblical Hebrew belongs to it. As for the Greek periphrasis, most of the occurrences of progressive meaning that are attested for it can probably be derived from an attributive participial construction, and this could be the case in Biblical Hebrew, too.

This caveat applies, for example, in the case of the participle's interaction with stative lexemes, and in the case of the non-focalised, durative uses to be discussed in the next section. As far as the Biblical Hebrew imperfect is concerned, its origins are uncertain. Anyhow, given that the imperfective is further advanced on the progressive path than the participle, it can be assumed that the impact of its source is less visible at the stage s of Biblical Hebrew.

The data for this investigation was gathered from a sample of texts representing what are widely held to be two distinct diachronie forms of Biblical Hebrew, namely Standard, and Late Biblical Hebrew henceforth abbreviated SBH and LBH. Moreover, even staunch critics of the standard model, as Young and Rezetko, seem to consider that SBH contains a higher degree of old features than LBH, even though they stress that this fact has no import for the dating of the texts, but rather reflects conscious stylistic choices by the scribes who produced them.

It has to be kept in mind, however, that the overall assessment of the corpora that is made here does not necessarily describe the diachronie status of every text within them. Moreover, the question of how the relative chronology relates to absolute chronology is not addressed. The core LBH texts are included in their entirety, except for parts of Chronicles that are common with texts in Samuel, Kings, and the Psalms.

The included samples are the following:. The participial forms under consideration are the qal active participle and the participles of the stem forms pi el, hip il, and hitpa el, which all typically have progressive-imperfective meaning when they appear in predicate position.

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Excluded are the nip al participle, the qal passive and the participles of the passive stemforms pu al and hop al. Only non-periphrastic, syntactic predicates are included. However, an exception was made for the negated participle, which syntactically is a conjunct participle, but functionally is the equivalent of a predicate e.

The data confirm the established view that the participle is used with general meaning to a greater extent in LBH as compared to SBH. At the outset of the investigation, I rated permanent-state lexemes e. The overall tendency as shown by the table is representative for all books except for Daniel and Ezra in the LBH-corpus.