WEQATAL vs. QATAL statistics

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Sun Aug 13 16:39:02 EDT 2000

Henry Churchyard wrote:


>> I would like to stress that I have not claimed that my statistics of
>> QATAL and WEQATAL show that these forms are parts of one and the
>> same semantic group (conjugation).  I have not even claimed that the
>> material show that QATAL and WEQATAL are not aspects (which I
>> believe that they are).  What I have claimed is that the statistics
>> shows what they are not; they are not tenses, and they are not
>> aspects in the English sense of the word.
>But when you ask "Can the waw in the WEQATALs be explained as a simple
>conjunction?", what you're suggesting is that WEQATAL should be purely
>"compositional" in meaning, in which case the meaning of WEQATAL
>should be a combination of the meaning of WE- (an ordinary conjunction
>without inherent tense/mood/aspect meaning) together with the meaning
>of plain QATAL.  This can be formulated as a hypothesis of the formal
>statistical "independence" of a QATAL vs. WEQATAL variable with
>respect to a semantic meaning variable.  It is this hypothesis (of the
>posited identical relative semantic frequency distributions of QATAL
>and WEQATAL) that I have shown above to be rejected five hundred times
>more conclusively than is usually considered necessary statistically.
>If you would provide data for WAYYIQTOL vs. WEYIQTOL vs. YIQTOL in a
>form that could be put into a proper two-dimensional table, I'm pretty
>sure that I could also show that the "null hypothesis" of independence
>(or simple compositional semantics) would be conclusively rejected for
>WAYYIQTOL vs. the other two; it would be an interesting empirical
>question whether WEYIQTOL would be statistically independent from the
>other two.  You may have the data that would pretty much conclusively
>settle the question of whether or not WEYIQTOL is a distinct
>morphological category, but I couldn't calculate this out until I'm
>given your data in a form which can be put into a proper
>two-dimensional table.

Dear Henry

I will try to focus on the most important issue, semantics versus
pragmatics. I take your last paragraph as my point of departure. In a
previous post you formulated the essence of this paragraph the following

>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."

I am not disputing your two-dimensional tables or the technical conclusions
you draw from them. What I am disputing, is that you, from this statistics
can draw *any* positive conclusions regarding the *meaning* of QATAL and
WEQATAL and whether they constitute one or two conjugations. To be able to
do that we must build on particular assumptions, and the conclusions are
not better than the assumptions. We can illustrate this by a quote from
what is snipped:


>However, if you provide data on the occurrences of two or more different
>>morphological categories,cross-classified with respect to the same list
>of >different meanings,then the resulting two-column or multi-column table
>is a
>two-dimensional table,

Your words show that to get your two-dimensional table, you assume that
QATAL  and WEQATAL *are* two different morphological categories. As a basis
for your statistical analysis regarding the *use* of QATAL and WEQATAL,
this assumption is not problematic. But as far as *semantics* is concerned,
this assumption makes the situation completely circular, because what shall
be proved is assumed.  My fundamental question was: "Do QATAL and WEQATAL
constitute one or two semantic groups? We cannot answer this semantic
question by pointing to a graphic difference, namely, prefixed waw. A
semantic question can only be answered


>>RF: Before we either presume that QATALs and WEQATALs *are* marked for
>> tense, or reject the possibility that one and the same form of
>> finite verbs can occur both with past, present and future reference,
>> a serious discourse analysis of the material must be undertaken.
> HC: Actually, for the purposes of the statistical analysis above, the
>nature of the semantic categories is irrelevant; we could re-label
>them as "APPLE", "BANANA", "ORANGE", and "CUMQUAT", and the results of
>the statistical calculations would come out exactly the same.

To make statistics of the *use* of QATAL and WEQATAL, it is true that the
names of the different areas of use are irrelevant. However, if we want to
use our statistics to fix the *meaning* of the verbs, there are several
problems. To classify Hebrew verbs according to the differences: RT>C (past
reference), RT=C (present reference, perfect reference), and C>RT (future
reference) and call these "semantic categories", builds on the aasumption
that past,present, perfect, and future reference are semantically
distinctive. However, such an assumption is only valid in a tense-language
(where tense is grammaticalized). In such a language we may, for a semantic
analysis, call each group "APPLE", "BANANA", "ORANGE", and "CUMQUAT". But
in a tense-less language, we have to change the names to "APPLE", "APPLE",
"APPLE", and "APPLE". This is so because in a language where tense is not
grammaticalized we cannot ascribe a different *semantic* meaning to verbs
with past, present, perfect, and future reference. True, the function or
use of the verbs is different, and this is described by your analysis. But
this is pragmatics and not semantics.

I conclude that without assumption one (QATAL  and WEQATAL  are two
different morphological categories) there is no "formal statistical
"independence" of a QATAL vs. WEQATAL variable" that can be used to draw
semantic conclusions, and without assumption two (Hebrew has different
semantic categories differentiated by temporal reference) there is no
"semantic meaning variable", namely,"APPLE", "BANANA", "ORANGE", and
"CUMQUAT". So your analysis is excellent for showing pragmatics (that there
is a significant difference in the use of QATAL and 	WEQATAL), but it is
completely useless for  showing semantics.



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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