Different verb forms - same meaning?
dwashbur at nyx.net
Tue Feb 2 01:08:17 EST 1999
I get the impression that, as often happens on this list, you and
Rolf are talking right past each other. I'll make an unsolicited
attempt here to mediate (a.k.a. stick my nose in).
> Rolf Furuli wrote:
> > Your discourse analysis does not tell *why* all these different forms are
> > used; the fundamental principle that a difference in morphology indicates a
> > difference in meaning is completely ignored. And because you refuse to
> > answer my question about your assumptions, whether semantic meaning
> > exclusively is connected with the word form or whether it can be changed by
> > the genre (thus not being semantic at all), any meaningful communication
> > between us in this case is impossible. For those who realize that a
> > discussion of theory is mandatory for a good practical result, I will take
> > the subject a little further.
> I never said that a discussion of theory is not beneficial, although I do think
> "mandantory" may be too strong a word. But please let me remind you of what you said
> on Jan 30:
> > Thank you for answering my Joshua question. Before I give my comments I
> > would like to hear your view of two questions.
> > (1) (Extremely important). Can "genre" change the semantic meaning of a
> > verb form? Wayyiqtol is either past tense, the perfective aspect, the
> > imperfective aspect, or a blend of past tense and the perfective aspect.
> > The meaning you ascribe to wayyiqtol (and yiqtol, qatal and weqatal) is it
> > different in one genre compared with another?
> At the time of reading and responding, I saw that question as an attempt to force the
> conversation from the specifics about the passage to a general discussion of theories
> (again!) And, having reread it again in preparation for this response, I still see
> the same agenda behind the question. Even now, in your supposed comments about the
> Joshua text, most of it is not *about* the Joshua text.
So a working theory isn't important? Yes, he's trying to elicit a
theory of the verb forms, because without some sort of theory
about what the forms "mean," what it is in their force that makes
them function this way, exegesis gets to be a lot like a wonderful
metaphor I heard once: we have all our clothes hung out to dry, but
there's no clothesline holding them up.
> You claim my response does not tell why the diffierent forms are used. Actually, I
> did, because I clearly stated that that was how the Hebrews of that time treated such
> topics. If you are asking why they treated such topics that way, then I would compare
> your question to why a word has one meaning in one context and another meaning in
> another. Etymology is an interesting subject, and it *may* help in understanding the
> semantic range of a word, but I'm sure that even you would agree that most native
> speakers don't think through the complete etymology of a word before choosing it in a
> particular context. They choose the word because, in that context, it is the word
> that carries the message that they are trying to express. In a similar light, an
> "etymological-like" study for verb forms may give the breadth of the range of meaning
> of the form. It may reveal why a form was originally used in a certain context. But,
> by the time of the writing of the Tanakh, I would dare posit that most of those forms
> were already "formularized," that the writer used the form that he did because that's
> the form used in the specific context.
This isn't what he meant, I'm certain. When he asked why the
different forms are used, he was asking "What is it about this
particular form that makes it the appropriate one to use in this
particular context?" This correlates with his other basic question,
can the distinctive syntactic features of that particular form change
from context to context, or are they a fixed feature of it? (I tend to
shy away from his term "semantic meaning" because I hold to a
strict separation of syntax and semantics, but I know what he
means by it).
I hope this helps; if not, just call me Mr. Buttinsky.
A Bible that's falling apart means a life that isn't.
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