preterite question again

peter_kirk at peter_kirk at
Sat Jun 19 16:53:49 EDT 1999

Dear Rolf,

"My basic complaint is that" when you assert that "the difference is 
basically modal", (despite the question mark next to "WAYYIQTOL") 
others' presuppositions, but don't presuppose your own answers to your 
questions which "nobody has ever systematically studied".

Your statement that "the dividing point in all the Semitic languages 
is between prefix forms and suffix forms" needs to be expanded and 
justified: are you talking about morphology (clearly true), pragmatics 
(clearly not true in biblical Hebrew narrative) or semantics? For 
semantics (as you define it), this statement is certainly possible, 
but it is unproven; in fact the proof of this for biblical Hebrew is 
equivalent to the result of your main study. So again you are 
presupposing your own answers. You cannot support your argument by 
introducing something which depends on your conclusions, that is 
circular reasoning.

As for demonstrating the dramatic semantic difference, I think that 
the use of WAYYIQTOL (short form) almost invariably (97% or so) in 
past contexts and YIQTOL (long form) almost always as non-past is 
sufficient to establish an a priori case for WAYYIQTOL being past and 
YIQTOL non-past. So I submit that there is an a priori case for you to 
answer, and that the only answer you have given here is flawed by 
assumptions and circular reasoning. I await the fuller answer which 
may come from your more detailed and nuanced semantic studies.

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: preterite question again
Author:  furuli at at internet
Date:    19/06/1999 03:50


Dear Henry and Rod,

There is no doubt that Semitic languages have several morphologically 
distinct prefix forms. Hebrew has three or four:  The question. however, is 
what kind of semantic difference there is between these forms. In Hebrew 
the difference is basically modal (short prefix-form and extra long prefix 
form (cohortative)= subjunctive/optative, normal prefix form =indicative, 
and WAYYIQTOL=?) and such a difference is also possible or likely in 
Ugaritic, Phoenician and Accadian. My basic complaint is that because the 
short prefix form in these languages often is used in past contexts IT IS 
PRESENTED ALMOST AS FACT.  But nobody has ever systematically studied the 
difference between the short and long prefix forms in the mentioned 
languages from the point of view of past meaning versus past tense 
pragmatics versus semantics!


Peter criticized you because you made the same mistake as I by assuming 
there is such a thing as "the prefix conjugation.  I do not *assume* this, 
and I do not think you did either. We both observe that the dividing point 
in all the Semitic languages is between prefix forms and suffix forms, and 
then it is up to those who claim there is a dramatic semantic difference 
between the prefix forms to demonstrate this!


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