Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

The Hebrew Verb System: Changes in Time

The Hebrew Verb System: Changes in Time

Jeff Dempsey

This paper identifies the changes and cultural influences on the Hebrew verb system. The primary focus is the shift in Hebrew from an aspect-prominent to a tense-prominent verb system. Tense, such as the past, present, or future, locates when a situation occurs in time. Aspect, such as a progressive action, does not focus on when a situation occurs, but it views how a situation internally relates to time.  This paper seeks to discover the practical differences and consequences of the Hebrew verb system changing from aspect-prominent to tense-prominent. It also investigates the reasons for the changes from a historical linguistic perspective. Differences in the verb system are identified by comparing Ancient/Biblical and Modern Hebrew grammars and studies. Gradual changes to the verb are traced through a broad history of the Jewish people and their language, including the Persian exile, the Greek Empire, Jewish diasporas and regathering in Israel, and through the revival of spoken Hebrew. Verb forms in Hebrew stayed the same in morphology but shifted in function to locate tense and consequently lost much of their aspectual value. This paper proposes that influences from other languages were the primary cause for Hebrew changing to a tense-prominent verb system.

April 16, 2020 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. Wow. I didn’t know that Modern Hebrew had tense rather than aspect. I am interested in how this was mapped and if this is a common phenomenon in contact linguistics.

    Comment by Shannon Yee | April 28, 2020 | Reply

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