Time, Tense and Aspect in Early Vedic Grammar: Exploring Inflectional Semantics in the Rigveda.

Author:Klein, Jared S.
Position:Book review

Time, Tense and Aspect in Early Vedic Grammar: Exploring Inflectional Semantics in the Rigveda. By EYSTEIN DAHL. Brill Studies in Indo-European Language and Linguistics. Leiden: BRILL, 2010. Pp. xviii + 475.

The question concerning the precise temporal and aspectual values of the Rigvedic present, aorist, and perfect stems has been a vexed one, producing a range of different interpretations by such scholars as Berthold Delbruck, Jan Gonda, Karl Hoffmann, Peter Arnold Mumm, Eva Tichy, and Paul Kiparsky, among others. The present work adopts a formal semantic approach to both of these parameters, involving the notions of evaluation time ([t.sub.o], the default value of which is speech time [[t.sub.s]), reference time (t'), and event time ([t.sub.E]). Taken together with relationships of inclusion ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), precedence (

With regard to the two main past tenses, imperfect and aorist, the latter seems to be compatible with a broader range of past reference times than the former. Both are found in hodiernal and remote-past reference times, but the aorist alone is found in contexts with an immediate-past reference time. Both the aorist and imperfect can be used with completive-sequential and inchoative-ingressive readings, and both are compatible with durative adverbs ('for X years'), although only the imperfect forms of telic predicates are compatible with a progressive-processual reading. Dahl concludes that aspectual distinctions play a more central role in the Early Vedic past tense system, whereas temporal distinctions are more central in the present tense system.

As for the relationship between aorist and perfect, Dahl shows that both categories may be used to indicate a single, specific situation located in the immediate or recent past but that the aorist is preferred in such instances. In cases where both occur within the same passage (e.g., the Usas hymn I.113.11 and 13), the aorist signifies a single specific situation located immediately prior to the time of the utterance, whereas the perfect designates either a former habitual event completed at the time of the utterance or a situation that has been terminated prior to reference time.

Because of its solid theoretical linguistic foundation and scientific rigor, Dahl's investigation has avoided sonic of the pitfalls of prior studies which, however philologically grounded, are still not free of impressionistic assessments and, to some extent, cherry picking of examples. As such, this book provides the current definitive analysis of the general tense and aspect system in the Rigveda. That does not mean, however, that the book is without errors. The author has read widely in linguistic theory and has a good command of Rigvedic grammar. The book is free of the howlers one all too often finds in studies of this sort. But it does not attain the highest philological standards. This is most obviously seen in the author's treatment of sandhi, which is not in line with standard usage and is internally inconsistent. Thus. through page 162, with only a few exceptions, the author employs m and m for anusv[a.bar]ra and anun[a.bar]sika, respectively, in the manner in which these are used in Aufrecht's Rigveda text (Theodor Aufrecht, Die Hymnen des Rigveda (2). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1877) (although Aufrecht employs n for the latter). Beginning. however, with Chapter 3 and extending to the end of book he consistently (except in footnotes) uses m for anusvara, both internal and external, before s, s, r, and h and, somewhat less consistently, in before a labial.

The author adopts a presentational style widely found in general linguistic treatments of languages...

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