LINGUIST List 13.1171

Sat Apr 27 2002

Qs: V Tense Inversion, Acoustic/Written Word Shapes

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  1. William Morris, Verb tense inversion
  2. g, literature on acoustic/written word shapes/impressions?

Message 1: Verb tense inversion

Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 17:46:50 -0700 (PDT)
From: William Morris <>
Subject: Verb tense inversion

Short question:
Does anyone know of any language in which past tense verbs 
can take on future tense meaning and vice versa? 

The background:
Biblical Hebrew has a strange syntactic/morphological construction
that is usually called the waw-consecutive (or vav-consecutive).
Other names for this construction are "waw conversive" & "waw

The word for "and" in Hebrew is the letter "waw", which is attached to
the beginning of the following word. In Biblical Hebrew (mercifully
not in Modern Hebrew) the attachment of a waw to a verb causes the
sense to invert; past becomes future, future becomes past. And, since
Biblical Hebrew was primarily a verb-initial language, this usage
occurred frequently. It appears that the heavy use of "and" was the
standard narrative style, as can be seen in almost any translation of
the Hebrew Bible.

Deeper, but still shallow, background:
Weingreen, 1959, A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew, 2nd
Edition, p252, quoting Professor G.R. Driver of Oxford, attributes
this to Hebrew being a "composite" language, with elements of both
Aramaic style verbs and Akkadian style verbs. According to this
explanation, some Akkadian verb forms denoting aspect were
superficially similar to the Aramaic verb forms that denoted tense,
and regularization led to . . . you get the picture.

A friend recently asked me whether any other languages have anything
at all similar to this. I am most interested in verb phenomena, but I
would also be interested if some odd construction causes singular
nouns to mean plural, and vice versa.

I will post a summary. Thanks!

Bill Morris
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Message 2: literature on acoustic/written word shapes/impressions?

Date: Sat, 27 Apr 2002 17:48:51 +0100
From: g <>
Subject: literature on acoustic/written word shapes/impressions?


Can someone direct me to research (and the proper terminology!) done on the 
factors that contribute to why "center", for example, may be better 
recognised when abbreviated "ctr" than "cnr"? I am also looking for analogous 
research for spoken word recognition (e.g. perhaps "defily" is a more 
recognisable corruption than "detily" for "definitely").

Thanks in advance,
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