WEQATAL vs. QATAL statistics, cleaning up assumptions, 90% regularities

Henry Churchyard churchh at uts.cc.utexas.edu
Fri Sep 1 16:03:54 EDT 2000

>> From: yochanan bitan-buth <ButhFam at compuserve.com>

>> 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.]

This "anti-Kahlean" point of view certainly seems to be valid.

> From: Rolf Furuli <furuli at online.no>

> I for one view the Masoretes as extremely faithful copyists.

Copyists of the pre-existing consonantal text, but active transcribers
of everything (vowels, supersegmentals, geminates, sin-shin, he-mappiq
etc.) that had not been transcribed by the consonant-only orthography.

> Most likely, the ultimate stress on some WEQATALs was something they
> heard in the synagogue.  However, the biblical text was not written
> for the purpose of chanting it in the synagogue.  Therefore, at the
> point when the synagogue use started, or some time later, the tones
> and accents connected with the chanting were instituted.  What we
> primarily are efter, is not synagogue use, but the original stress
> and meaning.

It's perfectly true that liturgical chanting in the sense of
associating a constant musical melody with each orthographic accent,
is extraneous to the original linguistics of Biblical Hebrew.
However, the positioning of stress within each word is _not_
linguistically extraneous (but rather highly historically relevant) --
despite the fact that that the same orthographic symbols (the
_t.@`amim_) are used to transcribe both cantillational melodies and
word-internal stress-positioning.

The only reason for you to have mentioned "synagogue chanting" at all
was to try to tar Tiberian orthographic indications of word-internal
stress-positioning with the same brush of "artificiality" as
liturgical chanting.  However, I have found that the Tiberian
stress-system still strongly reflects the effects of word-final
short-vowel deletion, a historical sound-change that occurred around
1100 B.C. (give or take a century or so) -- as discussed in chapter 4
of my dissertation -- so I can't accept any proposal of the
artificiality of the Tiberian word-internal stress-positioning system
as a whole.

> Regardless of whether Jeremiah the prophet actually said what he is
> reported to have said, the author presented it this way.  So the
> question is: With what kind of intonation was the expressions
> uttered or read originally?

You're right that I can't really prove (through internal phonological
phonological reconstruction or external contemporary transcriptions)
that the w at qaatalTII/w at qaatalTAA stress-shift occurred as early as 600
B.C. (since in WEQATALs the non-pausal stress positioning is an
innovation, and early transcriptions do not record stress at all).
However, I can prove that anomalous stress in WAYYIQTOL _does_ date
even farther back than 600 B.C. (since it is a direct relic of the
word-final short-vowel deletion change of ca. 1100 B.C.).

So it's perfectly compatible with the available strictly phonological
evidence to accept WAYYIQTOL stress anomalies as showing that
WAYYIQTOL was distinct during the time that the Biblical Hebrew text
was written, but to deny that WEQATAL stress anomalies show that
WEQATAL was a distinct morphological category when the Biblical Hebrew
text was written (though available phonological evidence does not
_prove_ that WEQATAL anomalous stress was not early, but is only
compatible with this).  However, it's _not_ compatible with the
available phonological evidence to deny the early morphological
distinctness of both WAYYIQTOL and WEQATAL (as you do).

But anyway, if my historical phonological reconstruction is correct,
then only a distinct minority of WEQATAL forms ever showed anomalous
stress at any diachronic stage (while almost all unsuffixed WAYYIQTOL
forms originally showed anomalous stress) -- so that the morphological
distinctness of WEQATAL can't be completely dependent on the existence
of stress anomalies.  As I've mentioned before, morphologists would
generally consider a "predominant pattern of non-compositional
temporal reference use" to be quite sufficient for positing the
morphological distinctness of WEQATAL (or some WEQATAL); here the
existence of stress anomalies in some cases is a lagniappe.

P.S. Word-internal stress-positioning is quite a different matter than
"intonation" (the word "intonation" has a very specific meaning in
linguistic terminology).

> First, we find a great spread of meaning in the WEQATALs with
> ultimate stress: past meaning, future meaning, imperative,
> volitional, apodosis, final clause etc.  (in other books we have
> present, perfect, prothasis, gnomic etc). What is the common
> denominator of all these that would justify putting them in one
> group with one kind of special stress?

The answer is to look at each category separately; for at least the
five meaning categories for which you have provided a numerical
breakdown, it turns out that about 90% of the proportionally-adjusted
occurrences attested in each category are all either WEQATAL forms or
plain QATAL forms, as I've previously posted.  If your theory can only
account for a few limited varieties of "vertical" distinctness (i.e.
overwhelming numerical concentration of WEQATAL or plain QATAL
occurrences in certain boxes within a column of such a chart), and
can't do anything whatever to explain the strong and consistent
"horizontal" distinctness observed across each of the rows of the
chart, then I think it's so much the worse for your theory...

             |  QATAL | WEQATAL|  Total
    FUTURE   |   965  |  4100  |
             |   9.3% |  90.7% |   100%
    OTHER    |   397  |  1383  |
             |  11.2% |  88.8% |   100%
    PAST     |  7450  |   357  |
             |  90.1% |   9.9% |   100%
    PERFECT  |  2605  |    55  |
             |  95.4% |   4.6% |   100%
    PRESENT  |  2505  |   192  |
             |  85.1% |  14.9% |   100%
    Total       13922     6087

> Second, there is a fact that the intonation is different in
> different kinds of clauses; e.g. we expect an imperative to have
> another intonation than a final clause.  An ultimate stress,
> therefore, is not to be expected in all kinds of clauses in the
> original expression or writing of the words.  That Jeremiah should
> have used an artificial ultimate stress contrary to his natural
> intonation, is not substantiated with a single piece of evidence,
> and it simply is not likely.

Final-syllable stress in w at qaatalTII/w at qaatalTAA is diachronically due
to a linguistic analogy, but after this historical analogy has
occurred, the synchronic status of this anomalous stress is not
particularly "artificial".  Nor does the historical occurrence of the
analogy have anything whatever to do with liturgical cantillation.
Nor can word-internal stress positioning be described as "intonation".
(Even the liturgical cantillation melodies have surprisingly little in
common with intonation.)  The absence of anomalous stress in "pausal"
environments (i.e. the last word in a prosodic phrase) is a strictly
phonological phenomenon (predictable from universal linguistic
prosodic principles) which basically affects all Hebrew stress-shifts,
as discussed in several places in my dissertation.  So I think your
statements in the paragraph above are rather confused.

> A suggestion, therefore, is that a combination phonological rules
> regarding stress, syllables and vowel length and the rhytm in
> reading narrative accounts can account for the penultimate stress of
> some WAYYIQTOLs and the opposite in WAW+QATALs of 1st and 2nd
> person, singular (when they are used contexts which are different
> from the normal past contexts).

It is simply not the case that purely phonological factors can predict
anomalous WAYYIQTOL and w at qaatalTII/w at qaatalTAA non-pausal stress
positionings (see the discussion of distinctive vs. non-distinctive
stress in my previous postings) -- that's why such stress-positionings
are called "anomalous" in the first place.  If you're admitting that
there is a correlation between stress-positioning and "contexts which
are different from the normal past contexts", then this is exactly
what a morphologist would call a morphological distinction.  And since
WAYYIQTOL anomalous stress clearly originates in the sound change of
ca. 1100 B.C., therefore there is a correlation between phonology,
morphology, and historically-reconstructed forms which contradicts
everything you were saying in the preceding paragraphs.

>> 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 start with the graphic difference that we see in unpointed texts -
> prefix-forms and suffix-forms.  (That some prefix-forms are
> shortened does not at the outset indicate a third group). I cannot
> imagine that any linguist will say that this is not a logical
> starting point.

The original unpointed consonant-letter-only orthography is certainly
one category of evidence to use (and a type of evidence which is
available chronologically earlier than Hebrew pointed orthographies).
But if you're using the consonant-letter-only orthography to imply
some kind of presumption that WEYIQTOL and WAYYIQTOL were originally a
morphological unity (which was later "artificially" differentiated by
the Masoretes), then I certainly _would_ consider your position to be
logically assailable, as I've posted before:

# 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 Masoretic text where we find the WAYYIQTOLs which *seem to* be
> different from the YIQTOLs.  But in contrast with you, who seem to
> take for granted that the two *are* semantically different, and
> demand that I prove that they are not, I ask: What is this
> WA(Y)-element before all these YIQTOLs?  I find an enormeous amount
> of speculation, but *not a single* study that has been able to
> substantiate a view that this WA(Y) is anything but a simple
> conjunction.  Therefore I need not prove that it is not
> WAW-conjunction, but those who deny this, should prove their case.

Actually this waC- phonological shape (where "C" = indefinite
assimilating consonant) is not a phonological shape that the
conjunction takes on in any other context, and its presence here
cannot be explained purely from the surrounding phonological context --
so that in fact this special form of the conjunction actually creates
a strong presumption of the morphological distinctness of wayyiqtol.

Henry Churchyard   churchh at usa.net   http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/

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