<wayyiqtol> again

peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Wed Dec 29 12:52:52 EST 1999

Dear Rolf,

Thank you for your quick reply. I want to make a quick reply in turn 
and also to study in more depth the more theoretical matters here. See 
my comments below.

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re[2]: <wayyiqtol> again
Author:  <furuli at online.no> at Internet
Date:    29/12/1999 08:48

Dear Peter,


.. This approach is simply to use the hermeneutic circle: to interpret the 
data in the light of the hypothesis (the original definition /three points/ 
of aspect) and to modify the hypothesis in the light of the data...

PK: This sort of circle is OK, but it can get perilously close to 
unacceptable circular argument.


Your view about E,R. and S in Hebrew studies is definitely wrong! The 
important point for the study of tense is to find the C (deictic point) 
which is contextually determined. ST (Galia's S, speech time) appears to be 
the default or unmarked value for C, and the relationship between C and RT 
is what really counts.

PK: It is easy to state that someone else's views are wrong and add an 
exclamation mark. It is not so easy to demonstrate that. Do you claim 
to have demonstrated it?


I would also suggest that the waw conjunction, when
>prefixed directly to the verb only, rather than the verb form is what 
>signals the building of a new R time, i.e. it functions rather like 
>the conjunction "then" in English. Thus both WAYYIQTOL and WEQATAL 
>would build a new R time, and that is the essential difference between 
>these two and the forms QATAL, YIQTOL.

Here we are in agreement, in fact, I have repeatedly stressed that the 
we/wayy-element solely are conjunctions which has a syntactic and no 
semantic role...

PK: I don't think we are actually in agreement. In my thinking, WAYYIQTOL 
is close to QATAL, and WEQATAL to YIQTOL, with the additional feature of 
building a new reference time.

.. Let me make some additional comments. Please compare the following 
three passages from the NRSV:

(3) Deut. 11:26  See, I am setting (NOTEN) before you today a blessing and 
a curse:
(4) Deut. 30:15  See, I have set (NATATI) before you today life and 
prosperity, death and adversity.
(5) Jer. 21:8 .. See, I am setting (HINNENI NOTEN) before you the way of 
life and the way of death.

In (3) and (5) a participle functions as a finite verb and in (4) we find a 
QATAL in the same position. Do the participle and the QATAL have the same 
semantic meaning? Nobody would claim that. But they have exactly the same 
function - and there need not even be a difference in stress between (4) 
and the other two, even though the NRSV translates them differently. Why 
can two different verb forms be used similarly? Because the Aktionsart of 
the verb, the nature of the verbal arguments (whether subject/object are 
singular/plural, countable/uncountable, and definite/indefinite), 
linguistic convention, and other factors are much more important than 
*aspect* to convey meaning - and because the participle and QATAL have so 
much in common that they can function similarly.

PK: There is another simple explanation of the difference betwen (3) 
and (4): (3) was spoken in the middle of Moses' discourse, at a time 
when it was incomplete, so is present and/or imperfective; (4) was 
spoken at the end of Moses' discourse, when it was complete, and so is 
past and/or perfective.


My viewpoints are quite radical compared with the mainstream. Three good 
questions for those who seriously want to test the viewpoints:

(1) It is taken for granted that Hebrew has four conjugations and not two. 
Have you ever tried to figure out how greatly this aksiom influence your 
interpretation of texts, and how important it is for your theory? Have you 
compared this with the view that Hebrew just has two conjugations?

PK: Yes, I have compared these views. I reject the two conjugation 
view on the following grounds:

(a) There is no clear common component of meaning between YIQTOL and 

(b) In a significant minority of verbs there is a difference of form 
between non-jussive YIQTOL and WAYYIQTOL which competent phonologists 
attribute to them being originally separate forms which have partly 
come together.

(2) Do you know any principles for differentiating between "semantic 
meaning" and "conversational pragmatic implicature"? Have you ever tried to 
use them systematically?

PK: I have tried to apply the principles as you have expounded them. 
But I find them theoretically flawed because they are based on the 
assumption that semantic meanings must be absolute with no exceptions.

(3) Do you systematically use the difference between "past meaning" and 
"past tense" in your studies?

PK: In my studies of Hebrew the concept of "tense", in the sense of 
grammaticalisation of the relationship between event time and speech 
time, does not play a part.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

Peter Kirk

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