furuli at online.no
Tue Jul 26 11:29:17 EDT 2005
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.
University Of Oslo
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