Hebrew Syntax.

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at sil.org
Sun Apr 14 18:04:16 EDT 2002

Rolf, I would not claim that Longacre etc had no working hypothesis re
WAYYIQTOL etc. It is clear that they have, and so do I. I trust that
they have arrived at it (as I believe I have) by proper consideration of
the relevant evidence (including a balanced consideration, based on
detailed study of phonology, of the comparative Semitic evidence). But
it would be unreasonable to expect them to go into this in detail in
every article in every collection; for the sake of space and time they
may sometimes simply state their working hypothesis. I suspect you and
they are also working from different definitions of aspect and
Aktionsart – which is not surprising as your definition of aspect (or at
least how you relate it to Hebrew) seems to be unique to yourself.

There are many differences between presuppositions and working
hypotheses. One is that one is prepared to examine the evidence against
a working hypothesis and if necessary abandon that hypothesis. Are you
prepared to abandon your position on WAYYIQTOL etc if enough evidence
against it is presented?

Peter Kirk

-----Original Message-----
From: Rolf Furuli [mailto:furuli at online.no] 
Sent: 14 April 2002 07:45
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: RE: Hebrew Syntax.

Dear Peter,

As I have written, I admire Alviero Niccacci for his consistency and
that he does not refer difficult examples to "exceptions" but always try
to explain them in accordance with this model. However, his grammar
("The syntax of the Verb in Classical Hebrew", 1990) and the other
Hebrew grammar which is based upon the discourse principles of Harald
Weinreich,namely, W Schneider (1974) "Grammatik des biblischen
Hebräisch" presuppose that there are four or five finite conjugations.
So my reference to such presuppositions are hardly misunderstandings, as
far as these basic grammatical books are concerned.

Please look at the chapter by R.E. Longacre "Discourse Perspective on
the Hebrew verb: Affirmation and Restatement" in W.R. Bodine
"Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew" (1992) Winona Lake: Bisenbrauns. Says
Longacre regarding WAYYIQTOL (1) and QATAL (2):

(1)"Since this form is historically descended from an archaic preterite,
I simply call it  a preterite... the tense form expresses sequential
actions in the past (and is viewed as punctiliar)...

(2)The perfect in Biblical Hebrew acts like a secondary storyline. It is
only weakly sequential and not necessarily punctiliar." (P. 178)

The words above reflect definite presuppositions. Whereas Lonacre's
general description of the function of the forms is true in a great part
of the text, his presuppositions are misleading. There is no evidence
that WAYYIQTOL  descended from an old preterite, just pure speculation,
and punctiliarity is an Aktionsart characteristic and not an aspectual

According to your words you engage in discourse analysis without the
traditional presuppositions, and that is fine, but of course, all of us
make assumptions. So I ask: What kind of meaningful results can we get
from discourse analysis (the way you do it) without taking a stand for
(or at least following a working hypothesis) whether Hebrew has two, or
four, or five conjugations? How can your discourse analysis throw light
on the meaning of Hebrew verbs?

Regards Rolf

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo


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