WEQATAL vs. QATAL statistics, agreement

yochanan bitan-buth ButhFam at compuserve.com
Sun Aug 20 03:35:44 EDT 2000

The following should lead to agreement:

>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
>pragmatic explanations as well.

First of all, the question at hand is NOT whether the Massoretes thought
vayyiqtol was a past tense. Personally, I am certain that they were aware
that its application was wider. They knew Hebrew. [[And they pedantically
counted and compared all the forms of the whole tana"k and recorded a
memorized vocalization of it! yirbu kemohem! ]]

So, let's at least agree:
1. that the Masoretes distinguished veyiqtol from vayyiqtol. Furthermore, 
2. this is the oldest CERTAIN vocalization of the forms that we have.
3. that the forms have remarkable confirmation as morphological entities
going back 3000 years and in diversified language communities, one of which
continues to this day (Arabic with lam yaktub). 
4. that there is a significant correlation of the distinctive forms with
2000-year-old texts translated by bi-lingual communities. 

Are 1-4 agreed on? 
Please note, I am not asking whether you like what I do with the statements
but whether they can be accepted as accurate.

We do not need to agree on the meaning of the formal categories. 

In fact, I am highly suspicious of any claim to provide one measurable
"meaning" because the forms are required to cover so much ground as to make
them impossible to fit into any one, measurable parameter. That is why I am
on record for calling the categories 'DEFINITE' and 'INDEFINITE', because
it forces definitions outside the beaten path. (I mean, who ever heard of
'definite' verbs, or 'indefinite' ones?) Unfortuantely, 'definite' cannot
be defined by one traditional parameter. On its own it becomes 'subjective'
and 'unfalsifiable', which is why I prefer to have it linked to
default/more-probable situations of measurable parameters.

This could lead to recognizing where differences remain in certain
theoretical definitions.
The following quotation is a theoretical assumption and not a 'fact':

>So in *this* language [Hebrew-RB]
>and similar languages without tenses, "Past", "Present",
>"Future","Perfect"; and "Modal" have absolutely nothing whatever to do

"Absolutely nothing" is obviously misleading or wrong, as long as
'semantics' means 'referential meaning' in the common linguistic sense. But
it is equally true that the forms do not have absolute temporal reference.
Against the quoted statement, the statistics brought forward by Rolf, the
writer of the statement above, show an unmistakable, statistical,
connection with time, though one that is not absolute. 

We need to find ways to brings these things together.
Now, - if someone wants to redefine a different linguistics and call such
time reference 'pragmatic', fine. ['Aspect' and 'mood' may likewise be
joined into the picture as 'pragmatic'. When the process is complete, one
will have moved a complicated semantics over into 'pragmatics' and if done
consistently and thoroughly, the Hebrew verb categories will be classified
as having no 'semantics' but a complicated, semantic 'pragmatics'. I can
live with that, communicate with that, though I would draw my lines and
make my definitions differently.]

In addition, when one factors in how a person learns any language, how
networks of associations are always developed, one may easily come to a
conclusion that the language users have 'default' understandings for
certain forms. One may then define the varied functions as 'pragmatic'
applications related to the defaults, though again, that is a different
definition of pragmatics from Functional grammar and from Relevance theory,
which would still include the network within a more complicated semantics.
Are you guys tracking?

Randall Buth

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