[b-hebrew] translations of important quotes using Rolf's ideas

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Mon Apr 9 12:23:41 EDT 2007

Dear Ken,

Your suggestion regarding the prediction of verb forms is interesting, not
because  it is possible to apply any kind of prediction to big chuncks of
text, but rather because the Hebrew setting of verb use is illuminated. 
your question below, "Where the theory is not able to correctly predict the
verb form, we need to ask why," is important. Chapter 8 of my dissertation
discusses the setting you illuminate. I list the principal headings of the
chapter below:

    The theoretical background for a similar use of different forms
    Situations with similar or almost similar use of the forms
    Situations where the use of the imperfective aspect is significant
    Linguistic conventions and patterns

The basic point is that Aktionsart, procedural traits (the Vendleran
properties), syntax, whether the verb is clause initial or not, and  the 
context are more important factors as signals of meaning than
the conjugations. Since the two aspects, which are expressed by the
conjugations (YIQTOL etc) have some traits in common and other traits that
are different, in many situations both aspects can be used without any
*visible* difference in meaning. I use the word *visible*, because we can
think of the difference between phonetic transcription and phonemic
transcription. The first one is much more detailed, but is not used so
often, because we need not often show in the transcription where a
particular sound is made, whether the lips are rounded or not, etc.etc. This
means that several different phonetic transcriptions can be expressed by one
single phonemic transcription. This is a good illustration of a much
neglected subject in Hebrew studies, namely *the requirement of precision*.
Where the requirement of precision is high, the phonetic transcription is
used; when it is low, the phonemic transcription will do. When the
requirement of precision in Hebrew is high, particular forms are used; when
it is low, any verb form can be used to express about the same meaning;
though there are conventions that may restrict the choices in such
situations as well.

I would argue that verb forms are used to make a part of the potential
meaning of a fientive (actional) situation visible. But what about stative
situations? A state is defined as something that holds and continues to hold 
any input of energy, and a part of a state is similar to any other part or
to the state as a whole. So there simply is nothing that the aspect can make
visible. Thus, the requirement of precision is low (an exception is when the
entrance into the state is stressed; QATAL is often used here). In Joshua
chapters 15 through 19 the (stative) borders of the land are described. In
these chapters we find 84 WEQATALs, 22 WAYYIQTOLs, 3 YIQTOLs, 3 QATALs and
one participle describing exactly the same stative situation (the borders) 
with the same
time reference. No prediction is possible, even though there is a
prepoderance of WEQATALs. Predictions regarding other stative situations are
difficult as well.

There are also numerous fientive situations where the requirement of
precision is low. One example is the description of the excellent wife in
Proverbs 31:10-31. In this account we find 18 QATALs, 5 YIQTOLs, 9
WAYYIQTOLs, 3 passive and 1 active participle with the same time reference.
We can also consider the 11 QATALs, 11 YIQTOLs, 9 WAYYIQTOLs, 4 WEYIQTOLs,3
WEQATALs, and 3 infinitive constructs with the same time reference in Isaiah

There are numerous fientive situations where the requirement of precision is 
high. In many of these, prediction of verb forms is difficult, since there 
are so many factors that influence the choice of verb form. However, I will 
mention one situation wheremy theory makes a prediction: Conative situtions 
(attempted but not carried out), will be expressed by YIQTOLs or WAYYIQTOLs 
(imperfective forms).

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ken Penner" <ken.penner at acadiau.ca>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, April 09, 2007 3:37 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] translations of important quotes using Rolf's ideas

> Thanks, Steve.
> It seems to me that a good test of the usefulness of a theory about the
> Hebrew verb forms is its ability to correctly predict which forms the
> Hebrew author would have chosen.
> If what the prophet had in mind would have been spoken in English as
> follows, which verb forms would Rolf's theory predict him to have chosen
> in Hebrew:

> 52:13 Look! My servant will act with insight. He will certainly be high
> and elevated and exalted very much.
> 52:14 Just as many will be appalled at him - so
> disfigured is his appearance more than that of any other man,
> and his form more than that of mankind -
> 52:15 likewise he will startle many nations. Because
> of him kings will shut their mouth.  For what had
> not been recounted to them, they will actually see,
> and to what they had not heard they must
> turn their attention.
> 53:1 Who will believe our message?  And to whom will
> the arm of YHWH be revealed?
> 53:2 He will come up before him like a tender
> shoot, like a root out of dry ground. He will not have a
> stately form nor any splendor. We will see him,
> but he will not have an appearance that we should
> desire him.
> 53:3  He will be despised and avoided by men, a
> man of pain, who is familiar with
> sickness. He will be like one from whom men hide their faces,
> a despised one, who we will not esteem.
> Etc.
> Where the theory is not able to correctly predict the verb form, we need
> to ask why (this is not a rhetorical question). Is it because English
> lacks the precision necessary to convey the nuances of the Hebrew verbs
> efficiently? Then we should try over-translating, in order to convey that
> nuance. Is it for some pragmatic reason? If so, that reason should be
> spelled out so we can take it into account. Is it for no apparent reason?
> This should be stated.
> How does this sound as a test of a theory regarding Hebrew verb form
> semantics?
> Ken
> Ken M. Penner, Ph.D. (McMaster)
> Acadia/Greek&Hebrew
> Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic vocabulary memorization software:
> http://purl.org/net/kmpenner/flash
> _______________________________________________

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo 

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