LINGUIST List 13.1659

Tue Jun 11 2002

Books: Syntax, Golda H. Kaplan

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  1. LINCOM EUROPA, Use of aspect-tense verbal forms in Akkadian texts of the Hammurapi period by Golda H.Kaplan

Message 1: Use of aspect-tense verbal forms in Akkadian texts of the Hammurapi period by Golda H.Kaplan

Date: 11 Jun 2002 17:56 GMT
Subject: Use of aspect-tense verbal forms in Akkadian texts of the Hammurapi period by Golda H.Kaplan

Use of aspect-tense verbal forms in Akkadian texts of the Hammurapi period 
(1792-1750 B.C.)
Golda H.Kaplan
Institute of Oriental studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, St.-Petersburg

The conjugated forms traditionally named as the Present, Preterite and Perfect
are the main components of the Akkadian aspect-tense verbal system. The
existence of the Akkadian Perfect and the peculiarities of its usage
had been the subject of lengthy discussion. When studying the Perfect
in the Middle Assyrian dialect the author came to the conclusion that
the use of the Perfect in that dialect should have been explained a
way different from that suggested by W. von Soden (Grundriss der
Akkadischen Grammatik. Roma 1952, 19953). Thus, the necessity arose to
check anew the use of the Perfect at the earlier stages of the
development of Akkadian. The Perfect being a component of the single
aspect-tense verbal system, its usage was to be studied along with
that of the Present and Preterite. The detailed analysis of all the
verb contexts in the letters of Hammurapi and in the Code of Hammurapi
has led to the following conclusions. In the texts under discussion
as in the Old Babylonian dialect in general the three conjugated forms
could express the action of any time and aspect. The difference lies,
in the first place, in the frequency of their use in this or that
aspect-tense function. But this difference is so great in a num ber of
cases that one can speak of certain aspect-tense functions as 
attached to a particular verb form. Comparing Old Babylonian with later
Akkadian dialects shows that the aspect -tense system was constantly
changing. It is best seen on the relations of the Preterite and
Perfect within the past. A clear tendency is observed of the Perfect
becoming the form of the punctive in the past in affirmative 
sentences (or main clauses) and the Preterite into the form of the
punctive i n the past in subordinate clauses. The changes within the
aspect-tense system were penetrating into the texts of various genres
not evenly but depending on the closeness of this or that written
genre to the spoken language. This seems to explain the uneven
distribution of the Perfect in different texts: being an innovation of
Akkadian, the Perfect is more frequent in the texts which are closer
to the spoken language.
It has long been debated on which time and tense should be applied to 
translate protases of the law clauses of the Code of Hammurapi. The author is 
of the opinion that most protases of the law clauses of the Code of Hammurapi
should be translated by the past. Her arguments are as follows. The law part 
of the Code of Hammurapi as a whole can be considered as the main clause
of a complex sentence whose subordinate clause of time placed in the
Introduction of the Code of Hammurapi refers to the past. So the main
clause seems to refer to the past as well. When used together in one
clause of a protasis the Preterite as a rule denotes a prior
action while the Perfect - a posterior one. An analogous phenomenon
is observed in the Old Babylo nian letters in sentences (or main
clauses) describing past events. In the subordinate clauses of
protases the punctive is expressed as a rule by the Preterite. In
Akkadian the punctive of subordinate clauses expressed by the
Preterite generally referred to the past.

ISBN 3 89586 692 X.
LINCOM Studies in Afro-Asiatic Linguistics 05. 130 pp.
USD 46 / EUR 48 / � 29

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Thursday, January 17, 2002