WEQATAL vs. QATAL statistics, cleaning up assumptions

yochanan bitan-buth ButhFam at compuserve.com
Tue Aug 22 09:36:21 EDT 2000

clarity requires a full citation. Please excuse the length.

>>the following needs to be cleaned up logically:

>>> 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,
>>>QATAL  and WEQATAL *are* two different groups.

>>Come on, clean up the act.
>>qaTALti and veqatalTI are two different forms and do not need an
>>in order for them to exist. They exist.
>>People are not interested in hearing someone throw around 'debate
>>but they would appreciate seeing that true reflection and understanding
>>have taken place.

>The forms exist graphically, that is correct, 

I was speaking about the phonological forms qaTALti vs. veqatalTI.
'Graphically', here should refer to the vocalized MT, which is graphic. And
please remember that linguistic 'forms' (as opposed to meaning) generally
refer to the base medium of the language. In that sense the graphs, even
the MT vocalizations, are only a partial represenation of the form. For
example "dbr" is a graph but the linguistic forms for this graph include
dibber and davar, among others. [The graph 'shin' even hides the fact that
an extra phoneme existed in the language ('sin') which later joined with
samex and not 'shin'. The Masoretes have been good enough to record these
'sin's for us.]

>and the accentuation is
>different in a few forms (enough forms to show that the Masoretes
>distinguished between them). 

Yes. Exactly. the Masoretes did distinguish them and in another post you
implied that this was a pre-linguistic knowledge based on intuititvely
learning the language and not on grammatical analysis. 

>Your error, in my view, is that you *presume*
>that the stress is phonemic, but this is completely unfounded. 

We have a communication problem here. First, stress in Hebrew is phonemic,
as everyone agrees: E.G. SHAva 'she returned versus shaVA 'she is
returning'.  There is no 'presumption' here but a general fact. And stress
has many conditioned euphonic changes like in pausal forms or with nasog
But moving the stress to the end of a 1s,2s suffix conjungation verb
qatalTI/qatalTA is not one of the euphonic changes. However, with veqatalTI
and veqalTA stress moves to the end. It is not phonologically motivated. It
is a different morphological class. It is good that you agreed that the
masoretes distinguished them. They need to be included in an system.

>Henry has
>correctly argued that the stress distinction between QATAL  and WEQATAL
>cannot be diachronically traced back to some older forms. 

And here is your error. You have added a 'diachronic' argument to the
synchronic status and interpretation of veqatalTI. You are arguing or
implying that because veqatalTI does not have a proto-Hebrew, or
proto-Semitic source you may remove it from the synchronic layer that it is
in. BH as recorded by the Masoretes has a veqatal morphological category.
Most people I know assume that the stress shift is an innovation in
Biblical Hebrew within the Northwest Semitic languages. But the pre-history
of its pedigree or source is irrelevant for its existence. Would you mind
retracting your statement "you presume that the stress is phonemic, but
this is completely unfounded",?

>My suggestion is
>that in the chanting in the Synagogue the 'default' understanding ( to use
>your words) was that QATALs with prefixed WAW for the most part was used
>with future reference, and therefore these forms were marked with ultimate

I don't understand 'therefore', here. Actually, the forms are quite often
used to mark habitual in past contexts, and forms like Hif`il plurals
retained their stress on the 'i' vowel and not on the suffix. So once again
the Masoretes surprise everyone by NOT systematically regularizing and
changing something but apparently leaving things the way they received them
as best they could. [I am not arguing that MT dialect retains ancient
phonetics. Only that they did not regularize the grammar. Fortunately for
everyone, they remained grammatically naive and didn't fudge with the
data.] by the way, most Israelis read right over this accentual
distinction. while it shows the categoriy status to the grammarian the
system is able to function without it. 

>in contrast with WAYYIQTOLs with penultimate stress. 

Again, a little problem. Most BH vayyiqtols have final stress. It is only
some of the weak verbs that show the accent shift.

>This need not
>be more than a *functional* view, an observational view, not a semantic

to be honest, this statement doesn't communicate. 'Observational' is
linguistic term? Most linguists would call differing morphology for
different interpretations to be 'semantic'. If by 'semantic' you mean
'uncancellable meaning', then by that definition it is not semantic and
will become unverifiable. [Have you read Jerry Katz  "Common Sense and
Semantics"? He is an old time generative-schoolist who is not very
appreciative of semantic theories that contravene what language users
intuitively know. And if semanticists can contravene living languages, just
think what they could do with the dead.] 

>To use Catholics and protestants again. The people exist, regardless of
>their religious faith. But to make a study of the difference in income, it
>is not enough to study people in Catholic neighborhoods and compare them
>with people in Protestant neigborhoods. What is necessary, is to make a
>*semantic* distinction and decide that these particular people are
>Catholics and these are protestants. Similarly, it is not enough that
>QATALs and WEQATALs *exist*, but a semantic decision is necessary. You
>decide that the stress difference is phonemic, and that they are two
>different semantic groups. In other words, you must in a scientific way
>demonstrate that my claim that they are one and the same group, is wrong.
>That is my challenge, and this is not tactics.

I think that what has been said above already answers and reverses your
statements here. A semantic distinction is not necessary for defining the
groups veqatalTI and qaTALti. They are different formal categories and as
different formal categories may be assumed to have a different meaning. And
it doesn't matter whether that meaning is an uncancellable semantic meaning
or some kind of pragmatic-semantic meaning. The difference is there. I
think you've already admitted that the Masoretes, in fact, did see that
they had a different meaning, though I don't accept that the Masoretic
meaning was specifically 'future'. 

which leaves us with four-plus morphological categories needing
definitions: qatal, yitqtol, vayyiqtol, veqatal. 

Now, how are you going to prove that yiqtol has the same 'uncancellable'
meaning as vayyiqtol? You cannot just assume them to be the same. And
proving that the abstract linguistic parameters of tense and aspect are
'not uncancellable' with yiqtol and vayyiqtol becomes irrelevant since that
only says what they are not, and that negative result is only according to
a particular constricted definition. I further wonder if such definitional
constrictions aren't crossing over that common sense line that Jerry Katz

Randall Buth

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