WEQATAL vs. QATAL statistics

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Sat Aug 19 16:13:30 EDT 2000

Dear Henry,

Thank you again for your answers. We are discussing subjects which some may
find difficult. To help others to follow the discussion I do not delete
anything from your post. If the list moderators want me to do that in the
future, I will of course follow the advise.

>> Date: Sun, 13 Aug 2000 22:39:02 +0200
>> From: Rolf Furuli <furuli at online.no>
>>> Henry Churchyard wrote:
>>> 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.  >> 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.
>>> 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.  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 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.  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.
>> 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.
>Well, ---
>  1) When you're trying to explore whether two things share the same
>properties or each have different properties, then you must treat the
>two separately, as a provisional research assumption, or you can't even
>begin to get to grips with the question.  If a social scientist were to
>try to examine whether or not Protestants and Catholics have different
>incomes, he would have to collect income data separately for the two
>groups; if he instead collected income data without recording religion
>(lumping Protestants and Catholics together, on the assumption that they
>did not in fact have significantly different incomes), then there's no
>way he could even try to answer the question using his data.  So there's
>nothing logically circular about my little two-dimensional tables; their
>existence arises from the very basic fact that it's impossible to test
>whether or not two entities are different by assuming beforehand that
>they're the same (as I wrote in the previous posting, "the basic
>question is whether or not there are meaning differences between
>different morphological form categories, which is a two-dimensional

Your illustration with Catholics and Protestants illuminate the situation
excellently. For a scientist to compare income data of the two mentioned
groups, he first *must decide* which persons are Catholics and which are
Protestants in order to be sure that he deals with two different groups.
Similarly with QATAL and WEQATAL. If there should be any meaning in a
comparison of the temporal reference of QATAL and WEQATAL, we first must
decide (assume) that they ARE  two different groups (Catholics and
Protestants). But then we have assumed what we should prove, namely, that
QATAL  and WEQATAL *are* two different groups. You are correct when you say
that lumping Protestants and Catholics together it is impopssible to do the
income test. And similarly, without ASSUMING that QATAL  and WEQATAL are
two groups with different meaning, it is impossible to use my data to show
that they are two different groups

>  2) If you're saying that the categories "Past", "Present", "Future",
>"Perfect", and "Modal" have absolutely nothing whatever to do with
>_semantics_ as you define it in this case, then I wonder what the real
>"semantic" categories actually are here (and whether such deep and
>abstract semantics would really have much direct relevance, to questions
>of morphology at least).  In my statistical calculations, I was working
>with the categories that you provided, and which looked pretty semantic
>to me; if you claim that these categories do not represent "real"
>semantics, then it seems to me that it would now be your responsibility
>to carefully define new categories which do represent "real" semantics,
>and to show that according to the categories of such "real" semantics,
>QATAL and WEQATAL do not have significantly-contrasting semantic
>distributions.  But you haven't done that so far, that I know of, and
>until you do, I think that most somewhat statistically-literate
>linguists would find that the statistical interaction strength of 0.7794
>(where the minimum value 0 would represent identical relative
>distributions of QATAL and WEQATAL with respect to Past, Present,
>Future, Perfect, and Modal; while the maximum value 1 would represent
>maximally distinct distributions of QATAL and WEQATAL forms with respect
>to Past, Present, Future, Perfect, and Modal), and the rejection of the
>hypothesis of non-interaction between morphology and Past-Present-
>Future-Perfect-Modal at the p <.0001 level, are indications that there
>is a significant typical meaning difference between QATAL and WEQATAL.

I do not say that the categories "Past", "Present", "Future",
"Perfect", and "Modal" have absolutely nothing whatever to do with
semantics. In most languages of the world (the tense-languages) these
categories (save Present, and perhaps Modal) have semantic meaning. But we
cannot take for granted that a dead language, such as Hebrew *is* a
tense-language - and the data show that it is not. So in *this* language
and similar languages without tenses, "Past", "Present",
"Future","Perfect"; and "Modal" have absolutely nothing whatever to do with
semantics. YIQTOL, WAYYIQTOL, WEYIQTOL, QATAL  and WEQATAL can have any
mood and any time reference, and therefore, one particular form does not
code for one particular tense or one particular mood.

>Anyway, the claim that correlations between morphology and the
>categories of "Past", "Present", "Future", "Perfect", and "Modal" must
>be absolutely and exceptionlessly 100.00% to be considered part of
>"real" semantics, and that any such correlation which falls short of
>absolute 100.00% exceptionlessness (however slightly) must have nothing
>whatever to do with semantics, doesn't necessarily strike me as being a
>very helpful theory -- since most of the time this theory seems to
>require you to just throw up your hands and sweep whatever can't be
>fully explained within a few very basic and simple parameters under the
>carpet into the ill-defined catch-all region of "pragmatics".

To have semantic meaning in the sense that I use the expression, a form
should signal just one particular tense or one particular mood or one
particular aspect. There is no problem if a form both codes for a tense
*and* a mood, or a tense *and* an aspect, as is the case in NT Greek. But
on the tense-plane, the mood-plane, and the aspect plane, the form should
just code for one member. The 100.00 % you mention in no way should be
pressed. In his classic book "Tense", Comrie shows there can be exceptions
and special cases. Language is a living medium and the users of language
are individuals, so we cannot force a language into a form without
exceptions. However, exceptions should be of the kind that they can be
explained. Of the five Hebrew groups, the different uses of four of them
definitely excludes them as candidates for being a particular tense, aspect
or mood. The only group that *could* code for a tense, the past one, is
WAYYIQTOL, because a past reference is seen in more than 90 % of the
occurrences of this form.

A little less than one thousand WAYYIQTOLs with non-past reference is quite
a great number if they are classified as exceptions. I could have accepted
such a high number of exceptions and viewed WAYYIQTOL as grammaticalized
past tense, if the exceptions were accounted for or explained. But this is
not the case. Nobody  has ever bothered to find the number of the
"exceptions", and the "explanations" have just been weak attempts with
little or no systematization. The most curious argument, in my view, is
that only in narrative can we find the real tense of a form. So we must
exclude poetic and prophetic texts etc. I cannot think of an argument that
to such a degree turns the case upside down. The mainline verbs of a
narrative MUST have past reference regardless of whether they are tenses or
not. So the least likely place to find the true nature of WAYYIQTOLs is in
narrative texts - provided that - and this is very important - we do not at
the outset *assume* that Hebrew is a tense language. Another "explanation"
is that tenses are used differently in poetic/prophetic texts compared with
narrative. That these texts have special styles is evident, but a tense has
the same meaning in any context, and even in special cases such as
hypothetical conditional clauses, the true tense meaning of the verb is the
core of the expression. A third "explanation" is that tense has changed
diachronically between the first and the last written part of the Tanach.
This is repeated over and over again, almost as an axiom, but it has never
been demonstrated by examples. So I can live comfortably with much less
than a 100.00 % uniformity, provided that the exceptions are explained.

>>> lack of clarity as to whether or not WAYYIQTOL is a morphologically
>>> distinct conjugation; whether it is phonologically plausible that the
>>> stress shifts could somehow originate by pure "pragmatics" thrusting
>>> its way onto the phonological plane; whether the difference between
>>> _pathah._ + geminate vs.  _sh at wa_ + non-geminate seen in WAYYIQTOL
>>> vs. W at YIQTOL could be a non-phonologically significant difference,
>>> etc.  (By the way, the term "conjugation" is a morphological term,
>>> and what is or is not a conjugation should be determined according to
>>> morphological criteria.)
>> the term "conjugation" in my use includes both morphology and
>> semantics.  I expect that a difference in morphology signals a
>> difference in meaning.  I connect "morphology" with the form of single
>> words, so a prefixed preposition or conjunction will make the
>> particular word graphically different from the same word without the
>> prefix but will not necessarily make it morphologically different,
>> because we are dealing with two words.  As to WAYYIQTOL I note that
>> the form is graphically different from YIQTOL and WEYIQTOL, but it is
>> an open question whether it is morphologically different.  The short
>> forms are of course morphologically different from the long ones.  I
>> do not hold the view that WAYYIQTOL is a morphologically distinct
>> conjugation,so far I view it as a graphically different group.  My
>> starting-point is that in unpointed texts there are only two clearly
>> different groups of finite verbs, the prefix-forms and the
>> suffix-forms.  A great number of both groups have a prefixed waw, and
>> a number of the verbs of the prefix-group are shorter than others.  So
>> I need not start with more than two different groups.  When I go to
>> pointed texts, it is possible to classify the finite verbs in five
>> graphically different groups.  Because most students of Hebrew believe
>> that four of the five groups are independent conjugations with
>> different semantic meanings, it is natural to study each of these
>> groups and their statistics.
>It's true that semantic considerations can enter into establishing the
>existence of morphological entities, but basically only to the same
>degree that semantics enters into distinguishing allophones and
>phonemes -- that is, only overall sameness or difference of meaning is
>really relevant (and not the exact nature of the specific meanings
>themselves); and a difference in the predominant patterns of "temporal
>reference usage" would generally be considered quite sufficient to
>establish a morphological contrast.  By the way, the conjunction in
>wayyiqtol is not really a "word" according to any commonly-accepted
>definition, but rather is a "clitic" -- and when clitics are tightly
>bound to the words they are attached to (as is the case here), then
>morphologists are generally quite willing to consider them as part of
>morphology (even though clitics may also be syntactically-relevant).
>Once the morphological entities are established, you can debate at
>length whether these differences in the predominant patterns of temporal
>reference usage are properly "semantic" or "pragmatic" in your
>particular theory, but it would be reversing the normal procedure (and
>proposing a theoretical innovation which should be explicitly recognized
>as a departure from the usual practice), to say that ultra-subtle
>refinements of abstract "deep" semantic theory can come back around and
>rewrite the basic morphology-based definition of what is and what is not
>a morphological conjugation.
>As for the contrast between pointed and unpointed orthography, I stand
>by what I wrote a while ago:
>| Subject: Re: Diachronic Hebrew wayyiqtol (WAW the conjunction)
>| From: "Henry Churchyard" <churchh at usa.net>
>| Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 14:28:41 -0600 (CST)
>| > From: Rolf Furuli <furuli at online.no>
>| > we have to start with the data from the unpointed manuscripts.
>| > Everybody can see that the orthography just distinguishes between
>| > two groups of verbs.  But are there more than two?  on the basis
>| > of orthography I see just two conjugations.
>| Unfortunately, some important morphological distinctions are simply
>| not encoded in the consonantal orthography, due to the nature of the
>| consonant-only orthographic system (one semi-random example is the
>| contrast between the prepositions k-, l-, and b- followed by a
>| definite article vs. k-, l-, and b- followed by a noun not prefixed
>| with a definite article).  In such cases, it is fair to assume that
>| the Masoretes may have mispointed the contrast incorrectly in some
>| few individual forms (since the earlier consonant-only written text
>| did not give them any guidance).  However, this does _not_ create
>| any particular reasonable presumption that there was originally an
>| undifferentiated single form (i.e. a morphological unity) that was
>| later artificially differentiated by the Masoretes.  (This might
>| perhaps be the case, but if so, it would have to be specifically
>| proved in detail, and not vaguely presumed.)
>The Tiberian difference between wayyiqtol and w at yiqtol is highly
>morphologically significant, just counting the systematic phonological
>difference between _pathah._ + geminate consonant vs. _sh at wa_ +
>non-geminate consonant (in no other context does the conjunction cause
>gemination of the following consonant, and there is no plausible
>purely phonological explanation for the presence of the gemination) --
>without even mentioning the segmental differences between yaqUm and
>wayyaqOm, the stress shifts, usual shortening of lamedh-he forms, etc.
>It seems to me the only position that would really be logically
>consistent for you is to say that the Masoretes artificially innovated
>the wayyiqtol vs. w at yiqtol distinction in Tiberian; otherwise, if
>subtle considerations of abstract deep semantics can override the basic
>morphological wayyiqtol vs. w at yiqtol distinction, then I don't see why
>they couldn't also override the English unsuffixed vs. "-ed" suffixed
>morphological distinction.  Unfortunately for the idea of wayyiqtol as
>an artificial Tiberian innovation, it turns out that unusual stress
>patterns in Tiberian are highly correlated with a word's original
>historical consonant-final vs. vowel-final status before the late
>2nd. millennium B.C.E. loss of word-final short vowels.  (This is
>another corroboration of the general refutation in recent decades of
>Kahlean accusations of conscious artificial linguistic inventions in
>the Tiberian transcriptions.)

Your dissertation is a fine work of an exceptional high scientific
standard. You have made a plausible diachronic case for the WAYYIQTOL  as
coming from an old short preterite. However, the existence of a
grammaticalized past tense YAQTUL in the 2nd millennium is highly doubtful
in my view. While Tropper believes this, much of his data in his new
grammar (Josef Tropper Ugaritische Grammatik 2000. Alter Orient und Altes
Testament.) of more than 1000 pages can be used against this view. The same
is true with Rainey's recent four volume work on the Amarna letters. I
therefore find your diachronic arguments to be very fine, but I doubt some
of your premises regarding Early Semitic (but I don´t reject them, but I am
currently doing research on them). But most of all I doubt the semantic
conclusions that are drawn on the basis of the view that the Masoretes
followed a 3000 old system. Even though the Masoretes wanted to mark
WAYYIQTOL as in some way different from WEYIQTOL (as I think they wanted),
this needs not prove that they viewed WAYYIQTOL as past tense. There may be
pragmatic explanations as well.

>I fully admit that the definitive explanation for Hebrew verbal
>semantics has probably not been arrived at (and the idea that a
>conjunctive clitic prefixed to a finite-inflected verbal form
>"reverses the meaning" was already recognized as something of an
>oversimplification a long time ago), and I admire your willingness to
>start completely fresh, abandoning all pre-conceived notions; but I
>have doubts as to whether the "must-be-100%-or-must-be-non-semantic"
>version of semantic theory is really helping you very much here -- and
>with the ignoring of vowel points, the use of semantics to determine
>morphology (instead of allowing morphology to determine morphology, as
>is usually done), in addition to not really making productive use of
>the available diachronic and comparative Semitic information, I think
>you're in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater in
>collapsing morphological distinctions.
>P.S. I haven't gotten around to answering to the postings of July 28th
>and following days that replied to my posting of July 17th -- I got
>distracted with SAS computations etc...  ;-)


Rolf Furuli
University Of Oslo

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