Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous
WTJ 77:2 (Fall 2015) p. 395
Reviews Of Books
John A. Cook, Time and the Biblical Hebrew Verb: The Expression of Tense, Aspect, and Modality. LSAWS 7. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2012. Pp. xvi + 384. $54.50, cloth.
Ohad Cohen, The Verbal Tense System in Late Biblical Hebrew Prose. Translated by Avi Aronsky. HSS 63. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013. Pp. xiv + 304. $49.50, cloth.
The past few years have witnessed an explosion of weighty contributions concerning the Hebrew verbal system. This review will examine two contributions and compare their results.
Cook’s volume began as his 2002 dissertation at the University of Wisconsin under Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé, which he has substantially overhauled and expanded. His work seeks to describe the range of meaning conveyed by each of the Biblical Hebrew verbal forms, and to do so by explaining the verbal system as a whole from a linguistically sophisticated perspective. Although his work is very well-documented and at times extremely technical, Cook’s overall goal is practical: to understand what range of meaning a given verbal form has and to understand the contextual factors that would enable a reader to narrow this range for a given instance.
Cook’s first chapter sets forth the linguistic theory of tense, aspect, and modality that undergirds his project. Regarding tense, he summarizes the contribution of Reichenbach (see below) and the consequent discussion, and concludes that tense conveys precedence relationships between the speech time and the event time, mediated by a transient deictic center, the “reference time.” For aspect, Cook delineates several different kinds of aspect, including phasal aspect, which views the event in terms of three different phases (onset, nucleus, or coda); situation aspect, which incorporates whether the event has an end point, and whether it is dynamic or stative; and viewpoint aspect, which distinguishes whether the whole event is in view, or only the nucleus. Finally, Cook defines modality as involving alternative times and their relationship with the actual time.
The second chapter is an extensive survey of scholarly discussion concerning the Biblical Hebrew verbal system (BHVS). Cook treats earlier writers (Ewald, Driver), comparative Semitics, and three different kinds of theories: aspect-prominent, tense-prominent, and discourse-prominent. Cook faults tense-prominent theories (especially Joosten) for producing a theory of the verb that is unparalleled in other world languages, and for giving too much weight to statistical analysis. He faults discourse-prominent theories (i.e., those that see verbal forms primarily from the perspective of their discourse function) for putting too little emphasis on the semantic force (in terms of tense, ...
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