Fw: Hebrew Syntax., 2 Sam 15:37

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Wed Apr 17 14:56:30 EDT 2002

Dear Alviero,

I do not intend to continue this discussion because I also have many 
other things to do. I do not think that my opinion of things is the 
only right one and all others are wrong, but I try to turn the matter 
ninety degrees and ask "What is right?" rather than "Who is right?"

There is no problem with finding patterns in the use of verb forms; 
you yourself has done a great work here. What I to point out are the 
presuppositions of particular conclusions and the unwarranted 
extrapolation of results. People are not computers and language is 
not mathematics. The fallacy I see in the application of discurse 
analysis to Hebrew verbs, is that *patterns* are translated into 
*meaning*. If you have two clauses combined with a WAW, as in the 
case of 2 Samuel 15:37, you cannot on the basis of a pattern you see 
in the use of YIQTOLs elswhere draw any conclusion on the use of the 
YIQTOL in this verse. If you do that, you force your opinion 
regarding the general use of YIQTOL upon a particular example, and 
that is misleading. So my criticism of Bryan regards his methodology.

By way of illustration, let us take away the prefixes and suffixes of 
the verbs of 2 Samuel 15.37 and just keep the root.

"David's friend Hushai BW) to the city, and (WAW) Absalom BW) to 
Jerusalem." The default interpretation of the conjunction WAW 
occurring between two clauses is that the two clauses are 
co-ordinated. There may be cases where such a WAW may express 
subordination, but in that case there should be clear markerss of 
that, because it is the less likely interpretation. The two clauses 
of verse 37 constitute one unit which can, from a linguistic point of 
view (there is enough information in the clauses for a perfect 
understanding of them) be interpreted without the help pf the 
context, except for the temporal reference. If one wants to look at 
the context (Chapters 15 and 16), there is nothing in it that has a 
bearing on the linguistic (or translational) interpretation of the 
two clauses, except the temporal reference.

What is important in the interpretation of such clauses are lexical 
meaning of the words, Aktionsart, temporal reference and syntax; of 
somewhat less importance are aspect and stem, and the least important 
is information above the sentence level. Suppose now that we revealed 
the conjugations and the first example of BW) was a WAYYIQTOL (which 
is the case) and the second was a QATAL (which is not the case). 
Would those following Bryan's method take the second clause as modal 
or as background information? I don't think so (but please correct me 
if I am wrong). So the reason for the the NIV taking the second 
clause as background information is the view that YIQTOL is 
imperfective and WAYYIQTOL is perfective. The reasons why Bryans take 
it as modal are the following:

"Actually, the x-yiqtol is a direct speech construction, so
this case is the narrator's brief departure into direct
speech in which directly addresses the audience in a side
comment like a parenthetical comment or an aside.  I call
this phenomenon "speaking through the ivisible fourth wall"
(of the narrative's stage).

In effect, the narrator is breaking out of the literary
constraint of story-telling.  The x-yiqtol is
predictive/modal in nature...

Discourse analysis has not told me that X-yiqtol is modal in
meaning, only that it is off-the-line in historical
narrative and plain vanilla direct speech.  On the other
hand, the modality of the x-yiqtol, which I have accepted
based on a weighty consensus of experts does indeed
harmonize with my discourse analytical framework.  Here is
the value of discourse analysis to verbal semantics--as a
test of verbal semantic hypotheses."

And here is where I see the misleading nature of discourse analysis 
applied to Hebrew verbs. One see a particular pattern in the use of 
X-YIQTOL (it is (often) off-line in historical narrative). Then one 
transforms this into verbal *meaning* in the case on the single 
YIQTOL, saying that this single YIQTOL must behave in the same way as 
one sees other YIQTOLs behave. I claim that this is bad methodology. 
Where else in linguistics do scholars reason in this way? Linguists 
know that language is a living medium with great personal variety. To 
ascribe a particular discourse meaning (here: off-the-line) to the 
*form* per se is in my view circular and fallacious. In addition, 
nobody has ever published any study of *all* the X-YIQTOLs with past 
meaning to be sure that the pattern they think they see is universal.

In addition to this, we have Bryan's rather cryptic appeal to "a 
weighty consensus of experts".

>>Dear Bryan,
>>Thank you for your answer. To be frank, your interpretation shows 
>>in my view how unassailable discourse analysis is when it is 
>>applied to Hebrew verbs. I would go so far as to say that discourse 
>>analysis, as it is applied in studies of the Hebrew verbs, has all 
>>the potentials for hiding the meaning of the verbal system.
>	<...>
>>I know about your great knowledge of Hebrew, and with full respect 
>>for you as a scholar, I argue that discourse analysis leads you 
>	<...>
>Dear B-H list members,
>I do not want to get involved in discussions because I am taken by 
>many things but I can not resist.
>	Rolf, again you are insisting in your views--which is of 
>course legitimate--even in rather resolute terms when you argue that 
>discourse analysis leads Bryan--and presumably other "discourse 
>linguists"--astray. Personally, although I happen to be listed among 
>them, I rather follow text linguistics, an European approach to the 
>text as communication.
>	Any way, Rolf, if one is not ready to distinguish different 
>levels of communication, one will never explain why, e.g., in Gen 
>3:14 a wayyiqtol form is used in the introduction of direct speech 
>while in 3:16 and 3:17 a x-qatal form is used instead, i.e.,
>- 3:14 WAYYO'MER YHWH 'elohîm 'el-hannaxa$
>- 3,16 'el ha'i$$â 'AMAR
>- 3:17 ûle'adam 'AMAR.

I do distinguish between different levels of communication. But I see 
these only as descriptive of how forms often are used and do not 
apply this to meaning. In addition, I see hundreds of other uses than 
those expected, and I view the syntax and word order in singular 
clauses as much more important than discourse functions.

>This also applies to NT Greek, with aorist vs. imperfect, e.g., in 
>the Gospel of Luke chap. 12:
>- 12:13 EIPEN de tis ex tou oxlou
>- 12:14 ho de EIPEN autôi
>- 12:15 EIPEN de pros autous <...>
>- 12:54 ELEGEN de kai tois oxlois.
>Both verb form/constructions (wayyiqtol and x-qatal in Biblical 
>Hebrew, aorist and imperfect in NT Greek) occur one next to the 
>other, apparently they "mean" the same thing, therefore they are the 
>same. If someone is satisfy with this conclusion, OK, I am not, and 
>other people are not as well. Shouldn't we think that if different 
>verb forms/constructions are used, something different is meant? If 
>so, we have to look for appropriate, good examples that can show 
>more clearly than others the difference, then enlarge the research, 
>and eventually confirm or modify our conclusions.

One of my fundamental assumptions is that a difference in form 
signals a difference in meaning, so in this case we agree. I 
therefore distinguish between    two kinds of infinitives and two 
kinds of participles, all with different meaning. But I only 
distinguish between two finite forms, prefix-forms and suffix-forms, 
because I can see no evidence that there are four (or five) finite 

I view the Greek verbal system as both similar and different from the 
Hebrew one. I view imperfect as a combination of past tense 
(grammaticalization of location in time) and the imperfective aspect; 
I view the aorist as indifferent to tense but signalling the 
perfective aspect.

>	Rolf, I rapidly went through the examples you quoted in your 
>post (left out above) and I think that I can analyze them according 
>to the theory I am proposing, but frankly I can not at present. 
>Besides, I remember that in the past in this forum I offered you 
>alternative analyses of passages that in your view demonstrated that 
>different verb forms meant the same thing, and after considerable 
>effort both you and I remained of the same opinion.

I do not doubt that you can give alternative analyses, as you have 
done before; and Bryan both can and have the right to do the same. 
What I am arguing against are not primarily your results but your 
methodology. And I claim that a real viable model must be based both 
on deduction and induction. This means that you cannot only find a 
few, or several hundred forms, (say of X-YIQTOL), with a similar 
function, and on this basis deduce that this is *the meaning* of the 
form. To have a really sound foundation for your model you must in 
addition analyse *all* the particular forms in the MT to be sure that 
they all have this function/meaning. This has not been done, and 
therefore I say that discourse analysis leads astray.

>Best wishes.
>Alviero Niccacci
>Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
>PO Box 19424, 91193 Jerusalem (Israel)
>Tel. +972-2-6282936; 6264516/7 + extension 250; Fax +972-2-6264519
>Home Page: http://www.custodia.org/sbf



Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/attachments/20020417/ebf0ae6c/attachment.html 

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list