[b-hebrew] Prophetic Perfect? Psalm 107

UUC unikom at paco.net
Fri May 21 08:36:50 EDT 2004

Dear Rolf,

>In my view traditional Hebrew grammar itself contains many fundamental
I wrote Hebrew grammar book. The ancient language is mathematically precise,
without a single oddity.

How do you know that English word "duck" means a duck and not an elephant?
Because most times you hear someone say "duck" it refers to this food (dead
or still alive). If someone calls another bird a duck, or uses the word as a
verb, etc, yourecognize it as deviations. Why? Because statistically the
word "duck" refers to a duck.
Sometimes the words change their meaning over the time. How do we know that?
Because statistically the new meaning becomes increasingly common.
Some people, perhaps, write "duk." How do we know it's wrong? Because most
others write "duck."
But then English lost "thou" form, How do we know that it is not people who
err, but the language change? Because no one uses this word in the modern
Grammar is about statistics.

Best regards,


> 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
> 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
> >ancient corpus.
> >And, anyway, the most important question for your argument is: what is
> >ratio of these non-standard wa's to the standard ones? 5%? 10?
> >
> >
> >Best regards,
> >
> >Vadim
> >
> >
> >>  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
> >>  >same ratio of errors both in the simple tenses in in wa's and we's.
> >>  >are the scribal errors, not refutation of the tenses. I don't think
> >medieval
> >>  >English always uses tenses correctly, but you won't argue on
existense of
> >>  >tenses there.
> >>  >
> >>  >
> >>  >Sincerely,
> >>  >
> >>  >Vadim Cherny
> >>  >
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> >>
> >
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