Biblical Hebrew Syntax

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Fri Apr 6 11:41:08 EDT 2001

Dear Peter,

It is true that we repeatedly have discussed the verbal system on the list
during the last years. My time is very limited now, so I generally refrain
from discussions. However, new ones join the list, and I think it is good
that they know there are persons who challenge traditional verbal thinking.

I do not agree that "the Hebrew verb system is a complete mystery". It
appears to be mysterious because almost all workers presume a model of four
conjugations, while a few, including myself use as a point of departure
that there are just two conjugations. It is obvious that if the verbal
system has just two conjugations, the system will appear to be mysterious
if four conjugations are used as the explanation key. The model I present
can account for all the 'curious' forms and 'exceptions', and it paints a
harmonious picture of the whole system. The question which can be debated,
is whether the definitions of the model are precise enough (in Karl
Popper's sense) to be falsifyable.

If you think that I ignore the time reference of the WAYYIQTOLs (95 % past
reference and 5 % non-past reference) you have missed an important point in
our earlier discussions. I do not ignore the evidence, but I explain it
differently, i.e. on the basis of pragmatics versus semantics.

Any *systematic* approach to the verbal system is an advantage, and I do
not think that only my approach will work. What is different in my approach
is that it includes a study of 75.000 finite and infinite verbs, and that
the focus is on the smallest parts of the language - the word, while most
other studies focus on parts of text above the sentence level, or on
sentences themselves, and include analyses of much fewer verbs.



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>Rolf, you have been making this point repeatedly on this list at least for
>the last couple of years. And I think that we have agreed that your approach
>is scientific but does not give definitive answers. Indeed it seems to me
>that the only answers it gives are "we don't know". Now possibly we need to
>leave it there and accept that the Hebrew verb system is a complete mystery.
>But there are other approaches which at least appear to be scientific (not
>only "assumptions"), though they are rather different to yours (e.g. not
>insisting on this "uncancellable" definition), and which give answers which,
>although not exactly definitive, are more positive and helpful than yours.
>For example, they don't insist on ignoring the evidence that in narrative
>99% or whatever of WAYYIQTOLs have past reference but only 4.3% (your
>figures for Genesis and Exodus) of YIQTOLs do. Perhaps these alternative
>approaches deserve closer examination.
>Peter Kirk

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