WEQATAL vs. QATAL statistics (non-circularity)

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Sun Aug 27 18:19:13 EDT 2000

Dear Henry,

Thank you very much for all your work with this thread. Even though we
disagree as to the ralationship between WEQATAL and QATAL, I will use your
arguments in connection with my thesis, in order to see where I need to be
more explicit in my arguments. Our standpoints have been clearly stated,
and now it is up to the list-members to make their own decision.

Allow me just a small note. My data which you used for your calculations,
primarily described temporal references and to a certain extent modality.
The temporal references were important for me, because I used the data to
show that neither of the groups YIQTOL, WAYYIQTOL,QATAL, and WEQATAL has a
uniform temporal or aspectual distribution. And this means that neither
tense nor aspect is grammaticalized in Hebrew.

So far I have only pointed to what I see as assumptions behind your
statistics, and have argued that the conclusions as to the meaning
difference between QATAL and WEQATAL are not better than the assumptions. I
have said enough about this, but for the benefit of those who will work
further with the material, I would like to mention another set of
parameters which are important when similarity/dissimilarity between QATAL
and WEQATAL are discussed. These are the parameters of syntax and of
linguistic convention.

I will not discuss these  parameters in this post, just point to
Waltke/O'Connor 519-526. Their arguments regarding the meaning of WEQATAL
are primarily syntactic, and that is also the case with several of the
authors they quote. They say: "In sum WEQATALTI has the values of the
prefix-conjugation and represent a situation relative (that is subordinate)
to the leading verb (or equivalent)." The principal error of
Waltke/O'Connor, in my view, when they discuss the conjugations, is that
they use Comrie's *objective* definition of aspect without first testing
the definition against the Hebrew verbal system. The consequence of this
error is that they interpret characteristics of WEQATAL forms as
imperfective, when these characteristics can be viewed as perfective, given
that the Hebrew aspects are *subjective*. (I also think that their
definition holds in many cases but very far from all cases)

However, their principle of syntactic explanation is sound, but I believe
that Bo Johnson, whom they qoute, is more correct when he argues that QATAL
and WEQATAL have the same meaning, but the uses (particularly the syntactic
one) are different. While the numbers I have published definitely show that
tense and aspect (in Comrie's sense) are not grammaticalized in Hebrew,
only syntax and linguistic convention can explain the the differences in
the temporal and modal distribution of QATAL and WEQATAL. This is a main
point in my thesis.

So apart from a discussion of assumptions leading to circularity, a
comparison of the environments in which QATAL and WEQATAL occur, is very
important when a decision is to be made regarding the forms, whether or not
they have the same meaning.



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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