BH, TMA matters, rolf and black swans
furuli at online.no
Sat Dec 5 15:07:57 EST 1998
>why don't you listen to your colleagues? might save you a lot of time.
I listen attentively.
>(A) Rolf, what kind of supervision are you getting over there? who's
>watching the store on semitics? on semantics? really curious. who's on
>your supervisory committee? I ask because what I see suggests you've
>got some big hurdles to overcome. really curious.
I take the responsibility for my own research. If fact, I have no axe to
grind, I am open for suggestions, and I am willing to to discard any
hypothesis or model which is pointed out to be wrong. Only one condition: a
better hypothesis must work with the smalles units of language and be
>(i) it appears that you're working with some sort of nonstandard
>interpretation of TMA, though I don't know what the source of the
>difficulty is: whether it's a particular source, or your misreading,
>(ii) the use of pragmatics is probably problematic. for instance,
>deixis is semantic, and pragmatics secures the reading of deixis.
>deixis is not *itself* derived pragmatically. just an example that makes
>me wonder what's going on.
I agree that tense is deictic. This means that it relates the time of the
situation referred to some other time, i.e. to a deictic center. Aspect is
non-deictic. It is not concerned with relating the time of the situation to
any other time-point. If one (or more) of the Hebrew conjugations is
deictic, it is a tense, and the tense is a part of the semantic meaning of
that conjugation. If neither of them is deictic, neither of them represent
tense, and the temporal meaning we ascribe to each verb simply is pragmatic
To find out whether tense is grammaticalized in Hebrew is my first task. I
am not using a non-standard interpretation of TMA-systems, but I am using a
non-standard approach to Hebrew verbs. Two recent dissertations about the
Greek verb with a first rank linguistic approach, differentiated between
past tense and past time, based on the difference between semantic and
pragmatic factors. One of them (S.L. Porter: Verbal Aspect in the Greek of
the New Testament, 1993) concluded that tense is absent from the Greek
verbal system. The other (Mari Olsen: A Semantic and pragmatic Model of
lexical and Grammatical Aspect, 1997) concluded that imperfect represents
past tense and the imperfective aspect while aorist represents the
perfective aspect and is time indifferent. I have never seen a study of the
Hebrew verb differentiating between past time and past tense! it is high
time to have such a study.
My definition of aspect is nonstandard because it is language-specific, but
it takes the standard definition as its point of departure.
>(B) on the semitic side, lumping together short and long yiqtols is
>mindboggling, and the resort to unpointed texts also mindboggling.
>this sort of business has been considered unacceptable for some time
You misunderstand. I view the difference between long and short yiqtol as
an important semantic difference.
>(i) I'm working on a manuscript called "The Tiberian Way" which among
>other things rehabilitates the masoretes from the slings and arrows of
>19th century denigration. for you to come along with this business is
>really frustrating. I don't know what others on the list think. these
>guys spent generations perfecting a phonetic transcription of a
>reading with roots as old as the mishnah. <sigh>
I agree that the Masoretes were extremely careful with their pointing. The
reasons why I believe that the difference between wayyiqtol and yiqtol
originated with them are: 1) There is no evidence for this difference
before the Masoretes. (Origen, for instances did not know about it.) 2)
There is no difference between wayyiqtol and yiqtol in unpointed texts, and
all the differences seen in the MT can be reduced to one difference -
apocopation (togetherwith enclitic waw). 3) A crucial difference in the
traditional system is between shewa and patah (wayyiqtol versus weyiqtol)
but shewa may have been pronounced similarly to patah, and while the other
"strong" vowels are handled quite uniformely by Josephus, Origen and
Hieronymus, this is not the case with the "weak" patah and the "chameleon"
shewa. Therefore, if the Masoretes introduced the difference, this was not
due to carelessness.
>(ii) since apocopation correlates with a syntactic and semantic
>distinction, I can't see how you can get off the ground with ignoring
>the distinction. there must be two yiqtol paradigms at the least.
>maybe Niccacci might hold his nose about this one, but I can't think
The difference is one of mood, and of course it is important.
>(iii) consider MLKK and MLKT, one a noun king with 2s suffix, the
>other a verb form with 2s suffix. gee, in the consonantal text there's
>no difference, guess there is no difference in gender in the singular
>for hebrew. if there is, there is across the board. if not, well. I
>don't know. you can't have it both ways, IMHO.
I do not say that if a difference is not seen in the consonantal text,
there is no difference. I say that a difference cannot only be postulated,
it must be shown! If there is absolutely no evidence for a difference
between wayyiqtol and yiqtol before the Masoretes, how do we know there was
such a difference?
>(C) since aspect is encoded formally in the participle, I'm free to
>ascribe a general perfectivity to the entire finite system and
>infinitives, a legitimate use of the pragmatics/semantics distinction.
>so I don't have the problems you ascribe. just a thought.
I do not accept that the participle codes for aspect.
>(D) I still think that if you want to carry forward such a project
>that you should write up the controversial assumptions as papers for
>reputable refereed journals. if the work goes through that process,
>then I'd be willing to revisit it.
>I just don't get it. maybe lee or bryan or someone else has more
>insight into this. it may be a poverty of imagination on my part: I'm
>willing to admit it. what do others think about any of the problems or
>issues flagged above? e.g., about apocopated forms?
>and rolf, skip the swans thing: it's a weak rhetorical stance to
>lecture on scientific method. oh well. saw a pink swan the other day,
>btw, I don't think it was alive in the christmas display though.
Lecturer in Semitic languages
University of Oslo
>Vincent DeCaen, Ph.D. <decaen at chass.utoronto.ca>
>Hebrew Syntax Encoding Initiative
>c/o Deparment of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations
>4 Bancroft Ave., 2d floor, University of Toronto, Toronto ON, M5S 1A1
>...the idea of a perfect language risks becoming nothing more than a
>waste bin for prejudices which have not survived confrontation with
> --Mark Sainsbury, "Russell", 1979: p15
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