b-hebrew digest: June 01, 1999

Rodney K. Duke dukerk at appstate.edu
Wed Jun 2 10:08:01 EDT 1999

> Peter Kirk wrote:

> Subject: Re[2]: die Flucht ins Prasens (minimal semantic value)
> From: peter_kirk at sil.org
> Date: Tue, 01 Jun 1999 22:00:32 -0400
> X-Message-Number: 7
> Dear Rodney,
> I appreciate what you are trying to do here. Unfortunately in the
> following question:
> (2) what if we first just ask, "Is there an *irreducible semantic
> minimum* to the prefixed conjugation that differs from that of the
> suffixed conjugation? (Furuli's question);
> you are continuing to make Rolf's assumption that there is such a
> thing as "the prefixed conjugation", when the phonetic evidence as
> just restated by Henry Churchyard is that there are (probably) two
> prefixed conjugations. So you, like Rolf and now Bryan, have been
> misled into trying to search for some speck of common meaning between
> Thus to your question, "might the prefixed conjugations still have a
> common semantic value that is different from that of the suffixed
> conjugations?", I would answer, well, they might, just as chalk and
> cheese might have something in common, but there is no particular
> reason to expect them to as they were (probably) originally quite
> different verb paradigms. If you can demonstrate that they really
> have, well and good. But don't assume that there is something and then
> go searching for it.
> As for the link to discourse analysis, I think Bryan's attempt to find
> a common meaning between YIQTOL and WAYYIQTOL has obscured what is
> otherwise the clearest and simplest part of the discourse model, the
> use of WAYYIQTOL and X-QATAL in narrative corresponding respectively
> to WEQATAL and X-YIQTOL in instructional discourse. So this seems to
> be a complication rather than a clarification.
> Now I realise that I like you am coming at this rather naively and
> without the benefits of deep understanding of some of the background.
> However, I do feel that the best scholars are the ones whose deep
> theories clarify the surface issues rather than confuse them.
> Peter Kirk

Thanks Peter,

I agree that I lack the deeper level of training in these areas.  That is why I am raising
questions for the experts.  I want to learn.

Regarding the long/short prefixed verb form theory: as I understand it, although the evidence is
clear that such a system existed in cognates prior to around 1100 BCE:

1) There appears to be evidence argued both ways as to what the impact was on Biblical Hebrew
(discussed in Waltke-O'Connor).  Since the language lost its final short vowels around 1100 BCE,
causing most yaqtulu and yatul forms to merge into homonyms, one has to ask how long a language
could tolerate the same form representing opposing meanings (W-O'C, p. 469).  How much merger into
a common semantic meaning was generated?  How much distinction was retained and at what value:
tense, aspect, mood?  (I am eager to read Henry Churchyard's chapter that he sent the list!)

2) There are always new questions and perspectives that arise that call for scholars to go back
over the evidence and to reassess it.  It seems to me that discourse linguistics is raising such
new questions and perspectives.  It seems to me that Furuli is raising some new questions.  I would
like to know if the studies on the long & short prefix forms assumed some of the older (I am not
implying inferior) perspectives about tense, aspect, and mood.  When scholars go back to the
evidence can they distinguish a irreducible semantic value of tense/aspect/mood from
temporal/aspectual/modal deixis from pragmatically arising tense/aspect/mood?

Rodney K. Duke
Dept. of Phil. & Rel., Appalachian State Univ., Boone, NC 28608
(O) 828-262-3091, (FAX) 828-262-6619, dukerk at appstate.edu

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