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

David Kummerow farmerjoeblo at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 2 20:35:37 EDT 2009

Hi James,

> 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.

I have in fact stated my concrete views in my article in KUSATU 8-9 
(2008) 63-95 and at times on this list.

> 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?

Not true. Please read my article. Also see my comments about 
prototyicality etc on this list.

  You yourself are arguing that meaning can be
> cancelled by context. So how could you then defend any particular position?

By way of defining semantics prototypically, not uncancellably.

> 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?'. 

It does in fact fall down because uncancellablity of meaning as I've 
demonstrated in my review "controls" the interpretation of the results. 
Uncancellablity of meaning cannot be assumed given the wide 
cross-linguistic evidence regarding multifunctionality etc.

And like I've said on this list: part of the problem with Rolf's 
position is when we get down to actual details of the text. I've 
repeatedly asked over the last few years to be shown how wayymer (just 
as one example!) can be construed imperfectively. That is, assuming that 
the imperfective aspect of WAYYIQTOL is uncancellable, how is this to be 
seen from wayyomer examples in the text?

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. 

Of course. But Rolf is also honest in admitting and show that 
traditionally-defined aspect doesn't fit either. And so because he's 
after the so-called uncancellable meaning, he then has to modify the 
definition of imperfective and perfective aspect so loosely that they 
can be sort of made to fit. I say "sort of" because, again, when we get 
down to examples, I simply am unable to see how his definition still 
fits -- hence my repeated asking to be shown concretely how wayyomer is 
imperfective in aspect.

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, I see it every day not working when I read the text! Hence I 
simply asked a concrete question regarding just one (!) example -- 
wayyomer. Two or three years ago when I asked this question Rolf ignored 
it, and it seems like that's happening again.

> James Christian

David Kummerow.

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