[b-hebrew] b-hebrew Uncancellable meaning and Hebrew verbs

James Read J.Read-2 at sms.ed.ac.uk
Wed Jul 1 11:41:54 EDT 2009

Hi David,

you keep on attacking uncancelability as if it is, in some way,  
sufficient to undermine Rolf's analysis of the uses of the verbs in  
biblical hebrew. To the best of my recollection (correct me if I am  
wrong) you have not stated a concrete position that you hold with  
respect to the various verb forms but various statements seem to  
indicate that you uphold other traditional analyses.

May I point out to you that your position on uncancellability of  
meaning seems to undermine your being able to hold any kind of  
position on the meaning of verb forms? You yourself are arguing that  
meaning can be cancelled by context. So how could you then defend any  
particular position?

I think you may be able to read Rolf's work better if you approach it  
this way. Instead of assuming that the work falls down without the  
foundation of uncancellability you could ask the question 'If there  
was an uncancellable meaning what would it be?'. I think then you can  
see the true value of Rolf's work. You can then see that his analysis  
shows that tense is not uncancellable to the verb forms. This seems to  
me to be one of the most salient points of the study. This, of course,  
does not mean that verb forms were never used without a tense in mind.  
The possibility exists that there are different usages that conform to  
different patterns. It would be interesting if somebody followed up  
Rolf's work to explore this issue.

We can take for example English verbs. Usually there is a usage which  
we consider to be the default. e.g.

I play football every Thursday evening
Jill goes to church on Sundays
Fred works in the factory

These examples illustrate a default of repeated action expressed by  
the present simple in English. However, this default can easily be  
cancelled by context. e.g.

A man walks into a bar and says 'Ouch!'.

Context reveals a story in the past. The default can also be cancelled  
for semantic reasons. e.g.

He thinks she's lying

Certain verbs, as above, can use the present simple with a present sense.

Anyway, all this aside, if you really wish to attack Rolf's study I  
would suggest applying his method of analysis to any given text and  
seeing if you can find fault with the method. Your attack on  
uncancellability really isn't going anywhere. Because such an attack  
undermines every interpretation of the verb forms.

James Christian

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
Scotland, with registration number SC005336.

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