WEQATAL vs. QATAL statistics

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Mon Aug 14 08:31:11 EDT 2000

Dear Randall,

Thank you for hoping in me, but see my comments below.

>vayyixtov rolf:
>> 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.
>Your last two sentences expose unresolvable linguistic ignorance.
>Morphological categories which encode pragmatic distinctions are
>significant, emic and part of the communication code. In this case they are
>proven distinct from the simple vav plus simple verbs. The different verb
>categories are carrying different communicative information. If you ignore
>them, thus ignoring your evidence, then by definition you cannot learn
>Hebrew. As has been pointed out, a Biblical Hebrew without vayyiqtol and
>veqatal categories is a fiction.

There is some misunderstanding regarding the two paragraphs above. As has
been mentioned several times, "tense" is defined as "grammaticalization of
location in time", so tense has what we can call semantic meaning. In
Burmese, Mandarin Chinese, and sign language, there are no tenses, but
still the time of an event can be expressed relative to a deictic point.
The important thing in our context, is that such languages lack one
particular form coding for past tense and for nothing else, and similarly
with future. In such tenseless languages, particular forms are often used
with a certain time reference (due to linguistic convention), but these
forms do not represent tense because they can also be used for other time
referenses. Thus their time reference is pragmatic and not semantic. I
claim that this is the case with English present (and present in NT Greek
as well), which is no tense, but which very often is used with present
reference (C=RT). An example from Hebrew which illustrate my point that a
particular category may be used often with a certain reference or in a
certain sense, but still not represent semantic meaning, is stativity. Some
verbs are viewed as typical examples of stativity, but they can have a
fientic interpretation as well. This means that stativity is not a semantic
property in Hebrew, yet particular verbs may have a stative interpretation
in 90 % of their occurrences.

What I tried to put across, and which you criticize above, is that it is a
contradiction of terms to claim that a particular form is a tense in a
tense-less language. The context of my words was the possibility of proving
that WEQATAL and QATAL have a different semantic meaning by a statistics
showing a significant difference in the time reference of the two. Because
a verb can have *any* time reference in a tenseless language (and the time
reference therefore is not distinctive), from a *semantic* point view (as a
means do distinguish semantically between two forms which are graphically
different), a past, present, perfect, and future referense represent
"APPLES", "APPLES", "APPLES", and "APPLES". But from a pragmatic point of
view (to find out why there is such a significant difference in time
reference) they are "APPLE", "BANANA", "ORANGE", and "CUMQUAT". I wonder
why it is so difficult for you folks to differentiate between  pragmatic
and semantic arguments. Even if one does not like the model of Broman
Olsen, such a distinction is elementary linguistics.


>You used morphologically defined categories and mapped them against
>simple/crude time frames. The time frames showed themselves statistically
>significant. But you "know" that Hebrew cannot be related to time in 'any
>way whatsoever' [sic]. So you rename your "bananas and apples" as "apples
>and apples" above. If one formal category occurred mainly with bananas and
>another formal category occurred mainly with apples, that is a fact. The
>wiping away of evidence will hardly lead to the refinement and
>understanding of the system that  you seek. It proves your non-system

I have never claimed that Hebrew verbs "cannot be related to time in 'any
way whatsoever'" to use your words. If I see a single WAYYIQTOL in a
narrative account, my first thought is that the time reference is past. But
it *must* not be past because its time reference is pragmatic. What I have
claimed is that we cannot on the basis of the single verb form alone, say a
WAYYIQTOL, draw any conclusions as to its temporal reference. To do this we
need the context.

>uvexen, matai taHel lilmod et ha-safa? So when will you start learning
>Hebrew? (Notice how the Hebrew sentence naturally works with the prefix
>conjugation for this meaning, but not with the suffix conjugation. In fact,
>the prefix verb brings that little bit of 'future' reference and
>distinguishes the sentence from a past reference in this context.)  there
>is nothing like using a language for acting like a mirror and bringing
>about rapid learning. I speak like this because you are refusing to listen
>to your own data. and language use, even mistakes, are great for
>discovering what is emic.
>     Or maybe you just don't know what "emic" means? The morphological
>encoding of communication effects is an emic distinction.  The emic parts
>of the code are used for communicative effects. Kaxa.

You have mentioned the concept "emic" several times, and above you apply it
in one context. I think the list will benefit if you give a thorough
definition of the concept, with examples.

>     You're a very energetic researcher and can make a real contribution if
>you leave the dead-end/fictitious system (i.e. abandon the falsified claim
>of the non-existence of the vav-hahippux/thematic-mainline categories) and
>reinvest your energy in defining/refining the 4 morphologically significant
>categories (+5veyihye/6viyhi/7qotel/8eqtela). I wouldn't spend time writing
>I didn't have hope for you and look forward to something good.
Thank you, I enjoy most of your posts



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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