[b-hebrew] Hebrew grammar, (was Zech 6:8)
furuli at online.no
Sat Nov 26 07:51:47 EST 2005
I shall not start a discussion of Hebrew verbs, just answer your questions
and give a few comments.
It is fine that scholars have different viewpoints, because that drives
science forwards. Unfortunately, the differences in views often are not so
great as to cause such a drive. A retired professor of Geophysics was
recently interviewed in our campus newspaper. His observation after a long
academic career was that students on lower levels have to work so hard with
their curriculums that they have no time for independent thinking, and
doctoral projects generally concentrate on establishing the different sides
of the present paradigm or model. Students with radical ideas that questions
the accepted model usually are not allowed to start any doctoral research. I
think this picture generally is true, not only in Norway.
----- Original Message -----
From: "David Kummerow" <farmerjoeblo at hotmail.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Saturday, November 26, 2005 11:49 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Hebrew grammar, (was Zech 6:8)
> Hi Rolf,
> You probably know all the evidence as much, and probably better, than I
> do. Perhaps you are the one who is right, but I need serious convincing.
> The thing is, I don't really have a problem with the Hebrew
> correspondences between long and short prefix verbs in, say, Amarna
> canaanite. The clustering of meanings associated with the long and short
> forms is like Hebrew. The thing for me is for evidence to demonstrate
> that this is not the case. I'm very interested in reading anything
> you've written where you interact, for example, with Rainey (he has
> about a ten or so relevant articles etc).
In my dissertation I demonstrate that Rainey, who is an excellent scholar,
is guilty of the fallacy that is so common among scholars when aspect and
tempus of verb forms are considers, namely, to fail to distinguish between
semantic and pragmatic factors. In other words, he draws semantic
conclusions on the basis of pragmatices.
As a proof that the YAQTULU (IPARRAS) form implies
continuous action Rainey quotes a clause where the verb form occurs together
with the adverbial
"day and night" ("Day and night I am heeding the words of the king, my
lord.") He fails to see that it is the adverb that indicates the continuance
or iterativity of the action and not the verb. I demonstrate that by using
the words of Enki in his sorrow over the death of Gilgamesh: "Day and night
I wept over him." The verb form here is ABKU, which is an IPRUS (YAQTUL)
form, and the continuance or itertivity is of course caused by the
adverbial. In other instances Rainey distinguishes between semantics and
pragmatices, e.g., in his excellent grammar (1996, II, p. 231) when he
argues that the final -u in singular prefix verbs in the Amarna letters is
not the Akkadian
subjunctive -u but "a West-Semitic indicator of indicative imperfect".
We radically differ here,
> because I don't see the answer receiving resolution in the direction of
> semantically equating wayyiqtol and (we)yiqtol (in my opinion, I do
> think you are right concerning (we)qatal). That is, I don't think
> wayyiqtol and yiqtol are semantically similar at all. The clustering of
> meanings or prototypical uses are on opposite ends of the spectrum:
> wayyiqtol is prototypically past perfective; yiqtol is future
> imperfective. But because we operate from different theoretical
> positions, exceptions for you will nullify such a conclusion (which has,
> I assume, prompted your long course of research?) whereas for me they
> are entirely acceptable (too many exceptions though would call the
> account into question).
I respect your disagreement with me. In this case I endorse the Words of
Waltke/O´Connor p. 460 "How can forms, each of which "represent" all three
English major tenses have a primarily temporal value?"
To achieve resolution you have had to create a
> new breed of aspect unique to Hebrew (correct me please if I am wrong in
> stating this). This MAY be the case, but typologically it is hard to
> justify, and so I am reluctant to move off from a position which doesn't
> have to create new categories that cross-linguistically seem to be
> questioned since Hebrew stands alone. To me we can operate with tense
> and aspect as normally understood and read and comprehend Hebrew.
Here I think you are very wrong! I say that, not to to devalue your
knowledge (you are well read and appear to have a very fine knowledge of
Semitic languages), but in order to let the list members see the importance
of considering cross-linguistic questions.
The basic error, as I see it, is to assume that aspect is one and the same
thing in all aspectual languages. That definitely is not the case, as can be
seen by comparing English and Russian aspects. I think the best starting
point is to try to describe tense and aspect by the help of fundamental
linguistic terms, and this is possible by the use of Reichenbach´s old terms
"deictic center," "event time," and "reference time". Doing this, a clear
picture emerges: Tense is the relationship between reference time and the
deictic center, and aspect is the relationship between event time and
reference time, i.e., aspect relates to how and where reference time
event time. Tense expresses deictic time, and aspect expresses non-deictic
By using these fundamental linguistic concepts one can start the research
without preconceptions as to what aspect is like in a particular language.
can simply look at the relationship between the deictic center, event time,
and reference time in a particular language. By doing this one can find out
whether tense and aspect are grammaticalized in that language and which
forms represent which tenses and which aspects. What I have done is simply
to apply this model to English and Hebrew. My conclusion is that Hebrew has
no tenses but aspects. And because there are in English only two options for
the intersection of event time by reference time, while in Hebrew there are
many different options, I conclude that the aspects in the two languages are
I would like to stress that I did not fist create an aspect model different
from the English one and then applied it to Hebrew. But my Hebrew aspect
model is a fruit of the study of the relationship between reference time and
event time in a few hundred Hebrew verbs. While I analyzed 80,000 verbs, I
say "a few hundred," because only in very restricted situations (clauses)
can we with certainty know where reference time intersects event time in a
dead language; cf. the error of Rainey mentioned above.
> Anyway, those are my thoughts. I've gotta have some sleep now.
> David Kummerow.
University of Oslo
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