[b-hebrew] Hebrew grammar, (was Zech 6:8)
farmerjoeblo at hotmail.com
Sat Nov 26 17:38:01 EST 2005
I appreciate the discussion as it helps my own thinking. I, too, think
undergrad study is too "busy" to allow time for thinking. Simply too
much "assessment". In recent years, at least at the institution I teach
at, it has gotten even worse. I'm glad I passed through when I did.
A few things below.
> Dear David,
> 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
> 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.
I'm not sure what you are driving at in criticising conclusions draw
from pragmatics. What you say in the paragraph below seems semantic to
> As a proof that the YAQTULU (IPARRAS) form implies
> continuous action Rainey quotes a clause where the verb form occurs
> 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
> 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".
OK, so iterativity might be constructional, involving a [verb + adverb].
But can ANY verb be used here in the iterativity construction, or is it
only a prefix verb (ie [prefix verb + adverb]) (I'd have to do some
research here, perhaps you know offhand?). In any case, there might
remain a difference between yaqtulu and yaqtul in the different
constructions: the second could be referring to a past action (hence
yaqtul) and the first to the present-future (hence yaqtulu). In Hebrew I
think wayyiqtol is used in iterative contexts; cf 1 Sam 1.
I certainly agree that more, and better, work needs to be done on
constructions and their meanings.
> 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?"
Yes, but the same question can be levelled at the aspectual view: how
can forms that have a primarily temporal value represent both aspects?
Your answer is to modify the definition of aspect (and also to equate
wayyiqtol with (we)yiqtol and all the other necessary things (eg the
hypthesis regarding way-) in order to acheive this). The reason in my
view is that the prototypical tense and aspectual values of a particular
verb can be neutralised in certain constructions or is constructionally
dependent (I can provide a bit of evidence when I find a bit more time
if you like).
> 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.
Then I would not call it "aspect" what you have found. Aspect is a
cross-linguistic semantic universal relevant in the discription and
explanation of some languages. (Some languages don't even verbally
express tense OR aspect; cf.
may not be relevant to Hebrew, but I think it is to some degree (just
Since the category of "aspect" hasn't needed to be redefined in the
description of numerous languages (cf. Dahl's works etc), then the
supposedly needed modification in Hebrew is flagged as doubtful. This
does not mean that Hebrew may not be unique, but that one has to be very
careful in describing features of typological uniqueness. The fact that
a redefinition is necessary means we should either be cautious of
"aspect" in general or either the uniqueness of the Hebrew account.
Again, I would say that the redefinition calls for a new label.
> 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
> "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
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> > Sincerely,
> > David Kummerow.
> Best regards
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo
Again, I have to go so I can't write more for the day.
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