Long: Re: QATAL C/RT [Statistics]

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Thu Aug 3 16:43:44 EDT 2000

Randall Buth wrote,

>>The data
>>you use in your analysis are given by me, but what are the premises behind
>>your anaysis of these data? The basic premise seems to be that QATAL and
>>WEQATAL in some sense are different *tenses* whose temporal uses are
>>restricted. But this is what is being discussed and therefore cannot be
>Such statements have the distinctive aroma of red herring.
>Henry was only pointing out the reality of four categories not their
>metalinguistic definition. Linguistically this is identical to accepting
>your admitted "pragmatic" categories being mapped to 4 morphological
>categories, thus EMIC. Your fight against brittle definitions of tense or
>aspect is irrelevant and blocking a productive beginning from a correct
>vantage point.
>End of one story.
>Now if you want to deal with a metalanguage that can handle those 4
>categories that is a new old story.
>Randall Buth
>PS: I read the rest of the email and found that the herring smell was
>indeed related to a boatload of redherring.

Dear Randall,

I am sorry to say it, but now you are not reasoning in a scientific way! If
you don't see that the premise for Henry's feeding my data of QATAL and
WEQATAL into  his SAS statistical program, was that QATAL and WEQATAL are
two distinct groups which cannot have both past, present, and future
reference, then I cannot see how we can continue an intelligent discussion.

Note that conclusion was: "therefore the hypothesis that there is
no significant difference in meaning between QATAL and WEQATAL is
rejected five hundred times more conclusively than is usually
considered necessary... So all in all, I'd say that your own data has shown
the existence of a significant and significantly large meaning difference
between QATAL and WEQATAL."

This conclusion is possible only if the premise mentioned above is used.
Let us see what the result will be if we discard the premise. Then we get
the following point of departure: 1)  QATAL and WEQATAL  can be parts of
one conjugation or be two defferent conjugations, and 2) each Hebrew
conjugation can have past, present, future, and perfect reference and
signal modality. Can we on the basis of my data draw the conclusions above,
if we take this as our point of departure? Certainly not! Because we take a
neutral standpoint and keep open the possibility that each conjugation can
have any reference, the percentages of past, present, future, and perfect
reference tell us absolutely nothing as to the *meaning* of QATAL and
WEQATAL or whether the two constitute one conjugation or two.

The only conclusions we can draw from the material (given that the data are
correct), is that  QATAL and WEQATAL neither are tenses nor aspects (in the
English sense). However, if we start from a neutral foundation, and look at
the data regarding QATAL  and WEQATAL, and add the data regarding WAYYIQTOL
and YIQTOL  as well, the natural thought we get, is that there most likely
is some connection between WAYYIQTOL and QATAL on the one hand and YIQTOL
and WEQATAL on the other. This thought is likely because the temporal
references of each of the two are similar. But we should not, as is often
done, draw the conclusion that the two *are* similar. Because then we sin
against "the problem of induction"; and we should neither forget the data
which speak against a semantic similarity between the two.

A scientific approach would be to scrutinize the matter systematically, by
testing out the data that speak for each of the two having the same
meaning, and at the same time test out the data which speak against it. In
addition we should ask whether we can account for the fact that so many
WAYYIQTOLs and QATALs have past reference and so many YIQTOLs and WEQATALs
have future reference, by help of the context in which they occur without
taking them as four different conjugation. This is what I am systematicaly
working on.

My basic criticism to many views of Hebrew verbs, including yours, is that
such tests have never been done. And instead of getting the four
conjugations as an end product after a longer study of the verbs, the four
conjugations are the starting point, it is simply assumed that there *are*
four conjugations with different meanings. We all use assumptions, but we
should allways be aware of which assumptions we make. This is not an area
where I can recommend you.

Let me add that when I speak of four "pragmatic groups", I simply mean that
we have one group where YIQTOLs stand alone and another where they are
connected syntactically with waw, and similarly with QATAL. I would also
speak of two pragmatic groups of participles, one of forms connected with
waw and the other consisting of participles standing alone.



Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

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