[b-hebrew] Psa 107:19-21 (was WAYYIQTOL)

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Sat Mar 13 13:00:54 EST 2004

Dear Peter,

Your post has  many misunderstandings of my position, and I would 
need a very long post to answer them. But time is limited. I refer 
you to my answer to Bryan which covers some of your points. Just one 
comment: If you look at Broman Olsen's work, you will find a very 
fine discussion of how Comrie errs.

Best regards


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>On 12/03/2004 23:51, furuli at online.no wrote:
>>Dear Bryan,
>>In order to give an adequate answer I need to point out some basic 
>>weaknesses in peoples' dealing with aspects. I have already claimed 
>>that a basic weakness in modern studies which argue that Semitic 
>>verbs represent tenses, is the lack of systematic distinction 
>>between past reference and past tense (and future as well). There 
>>is a similar basic weakness in studies which argue that Semitic 
>>verbs represent aspects, namely the lack of analysis of the concept 
>>"aspect". Very often, all that is done, is to use the vague and 
>>wrong definition of B. Comrie (He confuses Aktionsart and aspect), 
>>and this often leads to the view that the perfective and 
>>imperfective aspects are mutually exclusive.
>Rolf, I find it methodologically very strange that you attack 
>someone's definitions, especially when that someone is generally 
>recognised as the leading scholar in the field and author of the 
>definitive work on it. Comrie's definition of aspect is not the same 
>as yours, but it does have the clear benefit that according to it 
>"the perfective and imperfective aspects are mutually exclusive" 
>whereas yours does not have this very convenient feature - which 
>makes your definition seem to me "vague" i.e. lacking in descriptive 
>and analytical power. Also, Comrie's definition is an excellent 
>description of aspect in Russian and one which fits well also with 
>observed features of English, Greek and many other languages. As 
>such it is a very powerful tool for analysis and understanding of 
>Now I accept that a priori this definition is not necessarily going 
>to be the most helpful one for analysis of Hebrew, and so we need to 
>study Hebrew for what it is and not assume that it fits well with 
>Comrie's categories. As a result we may come up with different 
>distinctions which are more helpful for Hebrew, and this is what you 
>claim to have done. But this is no reason for attacking Comrie as 
>"vague and wrong". Just because his definition does not apply to 
>Hebrew, that does not make it "vague and wrong". Also, because 
>Comrie's definition of aspect is the one accepted and used by most 
>linguists, you simply cause confusion by trying to redefine a 
>commonly used term; better to drop the word "aspect" completely 
>(having demonstrated that according to Comrie's definition it is not 
>useful for Hebrew) and invent a new terminology.
>>The last sentence does not indicate that there is linguistic 
>>anarchy in Hebrew, but rather that the aspects are not mutually 
>>exclusive, and that there are several areas where both aspects can 
>>be used without any distinction in meaning. It is the linguistic 
>>conventions that give meaning to the use of verbs. We can 
>>illustrate the case with the active participle and infinitive 
>>construct. These two forms have different meanings and different 
>>uses, but they are not mutually exclusive. Occasionally, therefore, 
>>an infinitive is used where we expect a participle, vice versa. But 
>>normally linguistic convention causes an orderly use of both.
>The problem here is that you have been locked by your linguistic 
>theory into an unrealistic dichotomy. On your theory, if I 
>understand it correctly, if a distinction between two forms is 
>semantically significant, it is uncancellable and so must maintain 
>this distinction in 100% of cases. If even in only 0.1% of cases one 
>form is used where the other is expected, you take that as proof 
>that there is no semantic distinction, and so that the difference 
>between the two forms is merely "linguistic convention" with no 
>semantic significance. (Please correct me if I have misunderstood 
>your position.)
>But this position is unrealistic for the study of real language. 
>Firstly, even the strongest semantic distinctions are not maintained 
>100%, especially in poetic language. Normal rules may be broken for 
>poetic and figurative effect, or just to fit the metre or rhyme. 
>There may be dialect and diachronic variation. Authors may simply 
>make mistakes (and so may copyists, in the case of an ancient text). 
>Secondly, the semantic distinctions may be more subtle than we 
>realise, so that there are real reasons why an unexpected form is 
>encountered; and in an ancient language like Hebrew, with a limited 
>corpus and no native speakers to work with, it may simply be 
>impossible for us to recover the truly semantic reasons for an 
>apparently anomalous form. Therefore we need to abandon this 100% 
>rule and accept that a few counter-examples do not disprove a rule, 
>and specifically that distinctions may be truly semantic even if 
>they seem to be ignored in some cases.
>The consequence of your approach to Hebrew is that, because there 
>are almost no rules in Hebrew which are followed 100%, by your 
>method of analysis there are no semantic distinctions in Hebrew, but 
>only "linguistic convention". This is of course a nonsense, as the 
>Hebrew speakers had to have some way to make semantic distinctions 
>in what they said. It also leaves the door open for you to interpret 
>the text in an entirely subjective way, because you accept no 
>semantic distinctions which can be used to control or falsify your 
>understanding. So, it seems, the predictions of your theory are 
>unfalsifiable, which in my opinion makes them valueless.
>Peter Kirk
>peter at qaya.org (personal)
>peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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