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

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Fri Aug 19 02:27:40 EDT 2005

Dear Rodney,

Below I give a short sketch of my views as they are expressed in my 
dissertation "A New Understanding of the Verbal System of Classical 
Hebrew An Attempt to Distinguish Between Semantic and Pragmatic Factors" 

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.
1. Tense is not grammaticalized. Temporal reference was important and 
must be construed on the basis of the context.

2. Aspect in the traditional sense, with the opposition complete/ 
incomplete (or, complete/uncompleted), is not grammaticalized. However, 
aspect, with different definitions (made on the basis of the 
relationship between event time and reference time) is grammaticalized. 
The forms YIQTOL, WAYYIQTOL,  and WEYIQTOL represent the imperfective 
aspect and QATAL and WEQATAL represent the perfective aspect.

3. Modality is grammaticalized in the imperative. Prefix-forms (YIQTOL, 
WAYYIQTOL,  and WEYIQTOL), and suffix-forms (QATAL and WEQATAL) can 
express different kinds of modality, and the same is true with the 
infinite forms (infinitives and participles). These are pragmatic functions.

4. The letter WAW, expressed as the prefixes WE-  and WAY- has an 
important syntactic function. It is this conjunction that is the 
principal force behind the sequentiality of the WAYYIQTOLs and not any 
intrinsic characteristic of the verb form.

5. There is no evidence for the existence of WAYYIQTOL and WEQATAL as 
independent semantic units before the Masoretes. The Masoretes vocalized 
verbs on the basis of pragmatics (temporal references and patterns that 
they saw), In Medieval times the pragmatic system of the Masoretes was 
given a semantic interpretation, and the modern four-component model was 

7. The WAYYIQTOLs tend to loose their endings when morpholology and 
phonology allow this (but not always). The same is true with the 
WEYIQTOLS. These apocopations are basically based on stress 
patterns/phonology and not on semantics.

6. The most important reason for the rejection of the traditional tense 
and aspect models is that all the finite and infinite verb forms can 
refer to past, present, and future, and they can signal incomplete and 
completed situations. Thus, each model has a lot of exceptions that 
cannot be accounted for by that model.
The advantage of my model with aspects (defined on the basis of the 
function of reference time and event time) is that it can account for 
the whole set of verbal expressions in the Tanakh without exceptions. 
This means that the model either is so vague that it has no explanatory 
power at all (because everything can be explained), or it has come close 
to the correct expression of the classical Hebrew verbal system.

>I do not believe that DeCaen, Hatav, Niccacci, Buth, and some others have been involved in recent discussions.  If someone could represent their positions or explain how your current synthesis differs from one of theirs, that would be even more helpful.  I am not trying to get another convoluted thread going, just a collection of summary statements to compare.  Thanks in advance for anyone who is willing to take the time and effort to respond!
>Rodney Duke
>Professor of Phil. & Rel.
>Appalachian State University
>Boone, NC 28607 
Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo


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