[b-hebrew] Hebrew Verbs Request (from Rodney Duke)

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Thu Aug 18 13:02:01 EDT 2005

On Thursday 18 August 2005 00:57, George Athas wrote:
> The following post is sent on behalf of Rodney Duke (dukerk at appstate.edu).
> =======================================================
> Dear Colleagues,
> The list has gone through another series of discussions on the Hebrew
> verbal system.  I have generally followed these discussions, and have even
> saved some that go back to 1999.  However, it is difficult for me to put
> together a synthesis of each one of the positions taken, when the
> discussion threads get so interwoven by interaction with various
> respondents.
> I would like to make the following request of each of the linguists,
> including self-educated linguists (no one excluded): Would you please
> present a very compact synthesis of your current understanding of (a) the
> Hebrew verbal system (tense? aspect? modal nuance?) and (b) the function of
> waw, particularly in wayyiqtol.  I certainly would benefit from a
> side-by-side comparison of your responses, if you would be so willing. 
> Also, I would like to request a (c) element: your strongest supportive
> argument.  For instance, I would be interested in the traditional "tense
> advocates" and 4-verb form advocates to state what they think is the
> strongest, still-standing argument for short and long prefixed verbs.  I am
> not asking that you go into lengthy explanations or defend your positions
> against all other variants.  Just state in briefly why you are convinced. 
> No dialogue.

My view is based on a strict separation of syntax and semantics, a la the 
earlier Chomsky, and my overall theory builds on his earlier "Extended 
Standard Theory" since IMO he made a bit of a wrong turn at trace theory.  In 
any case, to answer the 3 questions:

a) I do hold to the basic 4-component model, but understand them to denote a 
combination of syntactic connection with the preceding clause and 
realis/irrealis mode.  That is to say, a form may indicate one of 4 
situations: a syntactic connection with what precedes in an indicative mode 
(realis), a lack of syntactic connection (simple declarative in English) in 
indicative mode, a syntactic connection in irrealis mode (with Hatav, I place 
future tense in this category) including subjunctive etc., or lack of 
syntactic connection in irrealis mode.

b) Best to read my paper in the 1994 Hebrew Studies for the full details, but 
briefly, the wayyiqtol is the simple declarative, i.e. it indicates a simple 
statement that has no syntactic connection with what precedes.  It is not 
sequential, subordinate or otherwise syntactically joined with the preceding 
clause.  There may be loads of semantic and pragmatic connections, but these 
have no bearing on the syntactic function of the form.  The waw is not just a 
prefixed waw, it's a prefixed WA. that includes both the vowel and the 
doubling of the next consonant.  It resembles the conjunction in much the 
same way that interrogative-he resembles the definite article, but is not a 
conjunction.  Rather, it is a specified syntactic affix that denotes 
something syntactic, in this case the syntactic break.  Again, the gory 
details are in my article.  Unfortunately, I haven't had much chance to do 
any really formal work on the other forms for the past several years, so I 
don't have all of those fully worked out yet.  If I live long enough........

c) The main reason I looked in a different direction is because the other 
theories in place at the time didn't seem to cut the mustard, so to speak.  
When I coupled that with my linguistic studies and especially 
transformational-generative grammar, a different picture emerged.  My 
strongest supporting argument is that this approach best explains virtually 
all occurrences that we have of the wayyiqtol with explanatory, not just 
descriptive, adequacy, and explains the anomalous form of the prefixed waw.

One thing to note is that, when I presented my paper that was later published 
in Hebrew Studies, Galia Hatav's monograph hadn't appeared yet.  So my paper 
doesn't include anything about modality, because I didn't begin incorporating 
that idea until after I devoured her book and saw how effective her use of 
the modality factor is.

For what it's worth.

Dave Washburn
"Well, if I'd wanted a safe life, I guess I wouldn't have 
married a man who studies rocks." - Betty Armstrong (Fay Masterson)

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