[b-hebrew] VERBS. Was " masorete pointing v's LLX transliterations"

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Mon Jul 25 17:42:48 EDT 2005

Dear Peter,

I am sorry but I cannot comment on your arguments below.  Our views 
regarding linguistics and classical Hebrew are so different that I see 
no purpose in any discussion.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

Peter Kirk wrote:

> On 25/07/2005 09:36, Rolf Furuli wrote:
>> RE: [b-hebrew] masorete pointing v's LLX transliterationsDear James,
>> In the archives you will find hundreds of posts discussing the verbal 
>> system of classical Hebrew.  So I will just give a few comments below.
>> There are three basic problems in published studies of the the Hebrew 
>> verbal system:
>> 1) It is *assumed* that Hebrew has four different conjugations 
>> prevents any real test of the number of conjugations of the verbal 
>> system, because if you start with four you end up with four.
> Rolf, this is unfair. It is undeniable that in the pointed Masoretic 
> text there are five (not counting imperative, infinitives, participles 
> etc) verb paradigms which are distinct in FORM (I here count WEYIQTOL 
> as a different form from YIQTOL) - a number reduced by two if initial 
> vav pointed with sheva is *assumed* to be nothing more than a prefixed 
> conjunction, but that still leaves three distinct FORMS. The issue is 
> whether these various forms are distinct in MEANING. But your method, 
> at least in its original form, was apparently to *assume* that 
> underlying the various FORMS there are only two distinct MEANINGS - 
> and that the formal distinctions were arbitrary inventions of the 
> Masoretes, a suggestion which was rightly questioned by your external 
> examiner. Of course if you start with two you end up with two, just as 
> with four - or else you end up with an absurdity which demonstrates 
> that your initial assumptions were incorrect. Well, the initial 
> results of your investigation seemed to me to lead to such an 
> absurdity. I hope that you have been able to modify your presentation 
> either to give a coherent explanation of why your results are not an 
> absurdity, or else to present your results as proving the invalidity 
> of your original assumptions and so that there are at least three 
> semantically distinct verb paradigms.
>> 2) The basic distinction between semantic meaning (intrinsic or 
>> uncancelable meaning) and conversational pragmatic implicature 
>> (meaning dependent on the context) is ignored. ...
> This distinction is part of just one recent and controversial approach 
> to semantics. You really should accept that other scholars have the 
> right to use their own models of semantics without complaining about 
> it - especially when most of them were writing before your own model 
> was even though of.
>> 3) When aspect is applied to Hebrew verbs, it is assumed that Hebrew 
>> aspects have the same nature as the aspects in other aspectual 
>> languages.  I am not aware of a single study where the nature of 
>> Hebrew aspect has been studied in its own right, from the viewpoint 
>> that aspect can be language specific.
> Well, the whole point of the linguistic concept of aspect is that it 
> is intended to be a cross-linguistic category applicable to many 
> languages. You can argue if you want that Hebrew does not have aspect 
> as applied to other languages, but in that case it would be safer to 
> avoid confusion by using a different word which will not confuse 
> linguists.
>> I have studied the functions of the verbs, but my goal has been to 
>> find the *meaning* of each verb form, i.e. to find the parts of the 
>> verbal system that always will have the same meaning.  Because any 
>> verb form can have past, present, and future meaning, can express 
>> completed and uncompleted events (or bounded and unbounded events), ...
> I note that this is probably only true on your two form assumption, 
> i.e. if you assume for example that WAYYIQTOL (most commonly past and 
> completed) is the same verb form as YIQTOL (most commonly non-past and 
> uncompleted). This is a bit like saying that if you presuppose that 
> the words "chalk" and "cheese" have the same meaning there is no 
> English word which distinguishes chalk and cheese.
>> ... my conclusion is that neither tense (=grammaticalized location in 
>> time) nor aspect as it is found in English are grammaticalized in 
>> classical Hebrew.  However, the Hebrew conjugations do express 
>> aspect, but with a nature very different from the English aspects.  
>> This means that YIQTOL, WEYIQTOL, and WAYYIQTOL  represent the 
>> imperfective aspect and QATAL and WEQATAL represent the perfective 
>> aspect.
> Rolf, I have never understood your attempts to define "the 
> imperfective aspect" and "the perfective aspect" as applied to Hebrew. 
> But one thing is clear: your definitions of these aspects as applied 
> to Hebrew are so totally different from the cross-linguistic 
> definitions found in standard linguistics books that your use of the 
> same terminology serves only to spread total confusion.
>> ... My conclusions are radical indeed, because they in a way turn  of 
>> Hebrew verb grammar upside down. An acceptance of the conclusions 
>> would have a great impact on  Bible t
>> ranslation, because thousands of verbs in modern Bible translations 
>> are in need of re-translation.  This relates particularly to the 
>> temporal references of verbs.
> Rolf, what turns Hebrew grammar upside down is not your conclusions, 
> but your initial *assumption*, that verb forms which are distinct in 
> form and which in traditional grammar have very different meanings are 
> in fact semantically identical. Since you started with this 
> assumption, it is of course part of your conclusion, but it is not a 
> meaningful result because it is clear that if you start with a 
> different assumption you end up with different conclusions - indeed 
> you said so yourself: "if you start with four you end up with four". 
> So, unless you can demonstrate very clearly that your assumption (not 
> your conclusions) must be correct and the alternative assumption must 
> be incorrect, the best you can hope to prove by your method is that 
> there is an alternative consistent interpretation of Hebrew verbs, and 
> that we cannot be sure which of the two interpretations is the correct 
> one. I don't think you have actually demonstrated that your assumption 
> leads to an alternative consistent interpretation (although I haven't 
> seen your final results on this), but that's a separate issue.

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