WEQATAL vs. QATAL statistics: a question and a doubt

Henry Churchyard churchh at usa.net
Sat Sep 2 07:27:25 EDT 2000

>> From: Peter Kirk:

>> I have reached my own conclusions, that there is a clear
>> distinction in temporal usage between QATAL and WEQATAL.  If list
>> members disagree about whether this distinction is one of meaning
>> or semantics, they are now differing more over the meaning or
>> semantics of the terms "meaning" and "semantics" within their
>> presupposed theoretical models.

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

> I am ready to admit an assymetry in the time reference and different
> other functions between QATAL and WAW+QATAL, and I can even call
> them "pragmatic" groups.  However, all the time references and
> different functions of QATAL are found in WEQATAL, so the difference
> is one of quantity (pragmatics) and not one of qauality (semantics).

But they are found with systematically quite different numerical
distributions, as I have explored in past postings.  And some of the
(numerically relatively small) overlap which does exist in your data
could very well be due to the existence of both "non-compositional
reference" WEQATAL (i.e. the morphologically-distinct conjugation
which has a different distribution of temporal references from plain
QATAL, and shows shifted word-final syllable stress in 1st.sg. and
2nd.masc.sg. forms in non-pausal environments), and also
"compositional reference" WEQATAL (i.e. plain QATAL which accidentally
happens to have a conjunction prefixed to it, and so has the same
range of meanings as plain QATAL, and never shows the stress shift of
true morphologically-distinct WEQATAL).  These two morphological forms
would actually be homophonous in the majority of forms -- but this is
not all that bothersome in practice, since "compositional reference"
(i.e. accidental) WEQATAL is so much less frequent than
"non-compositional reference" (i.e. morphologically distinct) WEQATAL.
For example, if we assume that the temporal/modal references of
"compositional reference" WEQATAL have exactly the same relative
frequency-of-occurrence distribution as those of plain QATAL, then at
most only 4.8% (i.e. 294/6087) of WEQATAL occurrences can be
"compositional reference" (accidental) WEQATALs, as seen from the
chart below (where the numbers in the second and third columns are
strictly hypothetical, and the numbers in the second column have been
made as large as possible, compatible with giving the second column a
relative frequency distribution identical to that of the first column,
and also compatible with having the values in the second and third
columns of each row be non-negative integers which add up to the
actually-attested number found in the fourth column of the row):

                      #          WEQATAL
             |  QATAL #Comp.rf.|Non-C.rf|  Total |
    FUTURE   |   965  #    20  |  4080  |  4100  |
    OTHER    |   397  #     8  |  1375  |  1383  |
    PAST     |  7450  #   157  |   200  |   357  |
    PERFECT  |  2605  #    55  |     0  |    55  |
    PRESENT  |  2505  #    53  |   139  |   192  |
    Total       13922     294     5793     6087  

I wouldn't place very much faith in the exact value of this 4.8%
number, but it's a reasonable first estimated rough approximation
extrapolated from your data.

So I see little need to revise the more-or-less traditional hypothesis
of a morphologically separate WEQATAL conjugation, distinct in meaning
(or "distribution of temporal reference uses", if you prefer) from
plain QATAL -- and that a rather small number of occurrences of
conjunction _w at -_ prefixed to plain QATAL also exist (these
"accidental" or apparent WEQATALs not showing the stress-shift or the
different distribution of temporal references associated with the
true, morphologically-distinct WEQATAL conjugation).  In fact, to my
mind your data has set the traditional hypothesis on a fairly firm
quantitative basis, and I thank you for making this possible (even
though you would vehemently disagree with the conclusion ;-) ).

>> A main plank of your argument, Rolf, seems to be that the verb
>> forms of the Masoretic text are not an accurate reflection of the
>> Hebrew verb system as it was in ancient times e.g. the final
>> centuries BCE.

> I think that the consonants of the Masoretic text are an accurate
> reflection of the Hebrew verb system in ancient times.  I am more
> uncertain as to the value of the accents, to which degree they are
> semantic or pragmatic, e.g. what the intention was of the ultimate
> pointing of some WEQATALs.

If you're asking "Why did the Masoretes chose to point the the
word-final syllables of some w at qaataltaa/w at qaataltii forms with
orthographic _t@`amim_ symbols?", then you're asking the wrong
question.  The right question is "What is the nature of the linguistic
analogy that resulted in stress-shift onto the word-final syllables of
some w at qaataltaa/w at qaataltii forms?".

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

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