[b-hebrew] VERBS

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Tue Jul 26 11:29:17 EDT 2005

Dear list-members,

Since the concept "uncancellable meaning" is very important in connection 
with Hebrew verbs, I think it is good to say some words about it, because 
Peter`s last post may cause some to misunderstand my position.

When I have spoken of "semantic meaning" that under no circumstances can be 
changed or cancelled, this has a synchronic perspective. I do not say that 
language never changes, and I do not say anything about what will happen in 
the future. But I speak of the language as it is at a certain point of time.

I will use two English examples:

1) The verb "to sing" has the characteristics durativity (the action occurs 
over time) and dynamicity (the action changes). Regardless of the context of 
this verb, the characteristics durativity and dynamicity cannot be 
cancelled.  "To sing" will always indicate that words and melody come out of 
someone`s mouth, and this is durativity and dynamicity.

2) The verb form "went" is grammaticalized past tense, and the semantic 
meaning (relationship) here is that reference time must occur before the 
deictic center (i.e. the action must occur before the present moment ).

Because past tense has a semantic (uncancellable) relationship to the 
present moment, it would be wrong to say "He went out of his house 
tomorrow."  I can think of a context where this clause is grammatical: "The 
little child said, "He went out of his house tomorrow."" Such a context does 
not change the semantic meaning of "went," because a speaking error is 
reported.  It is also possible to use a word in a contrafactual sense in 
poetry, or in order to cause a particular effect. But still the semantic 
meaning is not blotted out.

This is what I have meant when I have said that my aim has been to find and 
describe the uncancellable parts of the Hebrew verbal system.

When I hear someone deny that characteristics of some words cannot be 
blotted out by the context, I become stunned. This is so elementary that 
even children understands it.  Such a denial reminds me of the philosophic 
school whose members refuse to draw conclusions on the basis of the laws of 
nature, because "we may discover something in the future that will cause us 
to revise the laws of nature". It is obvious that to discuss science or 
anything else with people of this school is not meaningful, because all 
things are relativized.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University Of Oslo

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