Qatal, 1 Kings 11:1
dwashbur at nyx.net
Sat Feb 6 02:58:16 EST 1999
> Dear Dave,
> I think you had already adequately communicated to me at least that
> you hold to this principle, though I was glad of your clear statement
> of it. What you have failed to demonstrate is the correctness of this
> principle and its adequacy for study of verb forms of Biblical Hebrew,
> or for that matter of any other language.
For that I would refer you to the body of literature based on a
transformational-generative model, perhaps beginning as far back
as Chomsky's *Syntactic Structures*. A good overview of the
principles involved and the evidence for them is Frederick J.
Newmeyer, "Linguistic Theory in America." The edition I have only
goes as far as government-binding, but it gives good explanations
of where we've been and why.
> I do not in fact want to criticise the correctness of this principle
> as far as it goes. With this principle, we can identify clauses which,
> taken in isolation, are grammatically correct in Hebrew; this would
> include clauses with X + qatal, weqatal, X + yiqtol, wayyiqtol,
> weyiqtol etc, but would rule out as ungrammatical clauses with
> non-existent verb forms such as *waqqatal. For this, there is no need
> for discourse analysis.
It actually does go farther than that, but yes.
> But I also see your principle as inadequate for describing which verb
> forms are appropriate in a particular context. Take this fragment from
> the start of an English discourse: "I got up at eight o'clock this
> morning. I take a shower and get dressed. Then I had some
> breakfast..." Is this good English or not? Each individual clause is
> grammatical. But the second sentence should read "I took a shower and
> got dressed.", because the discourse context is a single past event
> rather than present and habitual. Does your principle, and your
> grammatical approach as a whole, give a way of determining that this
> English discourse is ungrammatical? If not, I would suggest that it is
> inadequate, and unable to deal with the analogous questions in Hebrew
> of when to use which verb form.
Actually, my approach does because it takes into consideration
the grammatical context of a clause. In your example, someone
claiming it *was* well-formed would have to give many, diverse and
profuse reasons why that one present-tense clause (and tense is
the chief force in English verb forms) is grammatical in the context
of immediate preceding and following past-tense clauses.
This is possible under the Autonomous Syntax Principle because
the principle only refers to non-syntactic information. For example,
"the ball is falling up" is grammatically well formed, but it is
unacceptable because of the semantics of the verb "fall" and the
preposition "up." Likewise, it would be just as well-formed
syntactically if the statement were made on a planet with no gravity
where objects actually had the ability to "fall" up. That wouldnt'
affect syntactic judgments about it in any way. OTOH, "The ball is
falling go" is not well-formed because the selectional restrictions on
the verb "fall" preclude its taking another verb as its immediate
This falls in nicely with someone else's principle (Rolf? I'm having
trouble keeping everybody straight this morning) that the "semantic
meaning" of a verb form is immutable. While I would quibble with
the terminology, the principle itself is right in line with a TG
approach and the autonomous syntax principle: different verb forms
exist for a reason. Within the bounds of regular language, a verb
form cannot be both X and opposite-of-X within a single society's
usage. Of course, someone will immediately throw the NT Greek
"historic present" at me, found profusely in Mark and other places;
the question there is, was this a construction that pretty much all
native Koine speakers considered "good" Greek, or was it an
occasional syntactic aberration that writers would sometimes use,
perhaps for the sake of effect (or something similar)?
In any case, every theory has its problems. The question, as
Gordon Lewis used to ask us in a different context, is: which
theory best explains the data at hand with the least number of
difficulties. On that question, I suspect that YMMV as will mine,
and as long as we're open to each other's ideas, I figure we can
learn a lot from each other (that goes for everyone here). That's my
goal as much as anything else.
A Bible that's falling apart means a life that isn't.
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