[b-hebrew] Prophetic Perfect? Psalm 107

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Fri May 21 04:10:11 EDT 2004

Dear Vadim,

I trust a physician who examines my eyes much more than one who just 
counts them. To apply general statistical models and to use known 
error rates in connection with the verbal system of a dead language, 
is the same as to count eyes. We have to make a *qualitative* study 
of the verbal system of Classical Hebrew, not just a *quantitative* 
one!  True, statistics is a part of a qualitative study, but just a 
part of it.

My basic criticism of previous studies of Hebrew verbs is the 
following: No scholar, as far as I know, have ever published a study 
of Hebrew verbs where a systematic difference between past reference 
and past tense have been carried out.

Let me now ask you a question: Please take a look at Genesis 1:1 and 
the first WAYYIQTOL in the verse and tell me: How can you know (and I 
am asking for scientific reasons) that this WAYYIQTOL *semantically* 
speaking *is* past tense (grammaticalized location in time), and that 
the past reference is not  pragmatic implicature? To state the 
question a little differently: Which scientific reasons do you have 
to argue that this WAYYIQTOL  is not a YIQTOL with past reference (as 
the two in Genesis 2.5 which have past reference) with the 
conjunction WAW prefixed? I am not satisfied with references to 
grammars, but I want to hear linguistic arguments.

BTW. I do not say that the Tanakh does not contain errors, but to 
speak of "grammatical errors" you must first establish "the true 
grammar" by which you can detect these errors. In my view traditional 
Hebrew grammar itself contains many fundamental errors.

Best regards


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>Dear Rolf,
>You cannot meaningfully argue that Tanakh contains no grammatical errors.
>And so there are errors in the tenses. Few percent errors is common in any
>ancient corpus.
>And, anyway, the most important question for your argument is: what is the
>ratio of these non-standard wa's to the standard ones? 5%? 10?
>Best regards,
>>  With all due respect for your scholarship, your argument reminds me
>>  of the case of H. Birkeland and F.R. Blake in the middle of the 20th
>>  century. Both were strong proponents for the view that WAYYIQTOL
>>  always signals past tense, but they both had the same problem.
>>  Looking at grammatical works discussing the topic, each of them found
>>  about 150 cases in these books (the same cases) which contradicted
>>  their view (today this number has grown to 1.000). But because both
>>  were absolutely certain that WAYYIQTOL *was* past tense, and nothing
>>  but past tense, they had to explain the contradictory cases. Both
>>  were able to show that the 150 cases did not contradict their view,
>>  but what is interesting, is to compare their reasoning. Birkeland
>>  argued that all the examples (except possibly three) were real
>>  Preterits, but Blake concluded that most of the examples were not
>>  preterits, but that they were wrongly pointed. their results were
>>  given before they started their consideration of the 150 examples.
>>  To ignore the examples that contradict one's view with the argument
>>  that they are errors, does not recommend itself as a good scientific
>>  method. Errors will occur, but they must be shown to be errors on the
>>  basis of a scientific analysis. If you have studied the Philosophy of
>>  science, you should be familiar with the problem of induction; one
>>  million white swans do not prove that all swans are white, but two
>>  black swans, who are not dyed or have gone through a fire, will
>>  falsify the hypothesis. Thus, the 1.000 non-past WAYYIQTOLs are a
>>  stronger basis for saying that WAYYIQTOL is not semantically speaking
>>  past tense than the 12.000 WAYYIQTOLs occurring in past narratives.
>>  The verb form used in past narrative *must* per definition have past
>>  reference, and we cannot know whether this pas reference is pragmatic
>  > or semantic. How should we for instance view the infinitive absolutes
>  > that are used as the narrative verbs in Phoenician, e.g. in the
>  > Karatepe inscription. By traditional logic, these should also be
>>  preterits, but nobody would say so.
>>  So I think it is better to ask yourself: Where have a learned that
>>  the Hebrew conjugations are tenses? Have I read it in textbooks that
>>  I trust? Or have I made a personal inductive study of a great part,
>>  or of all the Classical Hebrew corpus with this conclusion as a
>>  result? How can I be certain that my view is correct?
>>  Prepositions are notoriously ambiguous in any language, and I not
>>  seen evidence for "loose usage" of Hebrew prepositions (if you by
>>  "loose usage" means a use that contradicts lexicon or syntax). Again
>>  I think it is your preconceived ideas about prepositions that are
>>  wrong and not their use in the corpus.
>>  Best regards
>>  Rolf
>>  Rolf Furuli
>>  University of Oslo
>>  >Dear Ken,
>>  >
>>  >Tanakhic grammar is not always strict.
>>  >There is a certain percentage of incorrect or loose usage of
>prepositions -
>>  >and, certainly, of the verb tenses. I guess you would encounter about the
>>  >same ratio of errors both in the simple tenses in in wa's and we's. These
>>  >are the scribal errors, not refutation of the tenses. I don't think
>>  >English always uses tenses correctly, but you won't argue on existense of
>>  >tenses there.
>>  >
>>  >
>>  >Sincerely,
>>  >
>>  >Vadim Cherny
>>  >
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