[b-hebrew] Prophetic Perfect? Psalm 107

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Mon May 24 09:30:23 EDT 2004

Dear Peter,

Since we disagree regarding fundamental linguistic principles and 
draw completely different conclusions from the same data (e.g. 
Phoenician infinitive absolutes), I see no reason to continue this 
discussion. But of course, I respect your scholarship.

Best regards


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>On 23/05/2004 10:51, furuli at online.no wrote:
>>In many cases the distinction between semantic meaning and 
>>conversational  pragmatic implicature is difficult to establish. 
>>But Peter draws this too far, because there are many areas of 
>>language where the difference is clear-cut, as in connection with 
>>verbs. Of course, falsifying examples must have a secure foundation 
>>(textually, contextually etc), and even exceptions can be allowed 
>>if they can be linguistically explained. But the main proposition 
>>stands: A verb conjugation which semantically represents past tense 
>>cannot have future reference.
>So, Rolf, are you making the claim that if a language has a true 
>past tense that can NEVER be used with a future reference? Would 
>you, I wonder, accept that English has a true past tense (or perhaps 
>more than one, but let's stick to the simple past for now)? What 
>would you do if I found secure counter-examples? Would you abandon 
>or modify your "main proposition"? Or would you decide that English 
>has no more of a past tense than Hebrew does? By this kind of 
>argument we could probably demonstrate quite quickly that there are 
>no past tenses in any language, except perhaps in certain dead 
>languages in which there is insufficient data to falsify the 
>Of course you have left yourself a get-out clause that "exceptions 
>can be allowed if they can be linguistically explained". So then, 
>would you like me to offer linguistic explanations for your non-past 
>WAYYIQTOLs? We have been through this before, and I found none which 
>don't have convincing to me linguistic (or textual) explanations. 
>Many can be explained as future perfects, perhaps even "prophetic 
>perfects". And in rather a lot of the cases we looked at before the 
>temporal reference of the events is highly uncertain.
>>The fact that the infinitive absolute is used for narrative 
>>accounts in Phoenician, and to some degree in the Amarna letters, 
>>has no direct bearing on the falsification principle. But this fact 
>>illuminates the case with the WAYYIQTOLs from another angle.  If 
>>infinitive absolutes, which nobody would say semantically represent 
>>past tense, are used as the narrative verb form, then the 
>>WAYYIQTOLs neither need to represent semantically past tense, just 
>>because they in great numbers are used in narrative accounts. Why 
>>some say they cannot understand this simple fact is difficult for 
>>me to understand.
>While I would not say "semantically", I would suggest that a 
>Phoenician verb form used regularly in past contexts, whatever its 
>Hebrew cognates, is a past tense.
>As for swans, suppose that I am describing a beautiful riverside 
>scene. Swans were gliding past, and the flowers on the bank matched 
>the swans' feathers. What colour were the flowers? Of course, they 
>were white, because in this scenario the swans, unless otherwise 
>specified as black, are assumed to be white (except perhaps by 
>readers in Western Australia, where swans are prototypically black). 
>And it is not just pragmatics which tells us that the flowers were 
>white, it is the semantics of the whole text.
>Peter Kirk
>peter at qaya.org (personal)
>peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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