[b-hebrew] More on verbs

Rolf rolf.furuli at sf-nett.no
Thu Dec 13 03:04:16 EST 2012

Dear James,

I am not "dancing around definitions" and I am not offended—I did not discuss my emotions—but I try to keep my discussions on a scholarly non-emotional level. However, I found that what James Spinti called a "nice overview, contained language that questioned the abilities  and scholarly knowledge of some who view Hebrew verbs differently from yourself, instead of addressing the linguistic questions. This is what I call "ad hominem arguments" For example, when you speak about Andrason's "lack of a clear grasp of the Hebrew data" and say that his approach is "naive," this is an attack on the scholar or person Andrason. And what is the premise for this evaluation of the scholar Andrason? That you KNOW; you have the answers. And the approaches of those who do not agree with what you KNOW, are naive and silly, and these scholars lack a knowledge of the Hebrew data.

I would like to remind you that there is no final answer to the meaning of the Hebrew verbal system. Any study of Hebrew verbs, including your own study, is based on induction, deduction, and on several basic assumptions (axioms). A balanced scholarly approach, therefore, would be to  question the conclusions of other scholars on the basis of  linguistic arguments, and not calling their approaches or persons with names.

I do not think that you have given adequate answers to my previous post, so I would like to comment on one point in each post. My focus now is on your words: " It is just silly to continue arguing over basic definitions that are widely agreed upon already, because it both wastes time and halts progress." I have some questions:

1)  Is it true that the definitions of the Hebrew verbal system have differed greatly during the last 150 years (cf. the works McFall, Blake, Rundgren, Waltke-O'Connor, Joüon_Muraoka, and others)?

2) What are the definitions used in the study of Hebrew verbs that are "widely agreed upon"?

3) Do these definitions have a particular basis, or are they just just a priori definitions, or definitions based on common sense?

4) Is it true that the concepts "deictic center," event time," and "reference time" are fundamental linguistic concepts that are used by linguists in their study of the verbs of different languages?

5) Is it true that the nature/meaning of the three concepts are widely agreed upon?

If you give  confirmatory answers to 4) and 5), my question is?

6) in which sense is it silly to systematically apply the mentioned three concepts to the Hebrew verbal system in order to try to find the meaning of each conjugation, instead of just accepting traditional definitions a priori?

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli
Onsdag 12. Desember 2012 19:02 CET skrev James Spinti <jspinti at eisenbrauns.com>: 
> Again, apologies if this posts twice, but John was experiencing difficulties posting.
> James
> ________________________________
> James Spinti
> E-mail marketing, Book Sales Division
> Eisenbrauns, Good books for more than 35 years
> Specializing in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Studies
> jspinti at eisenbrauns dot com
> Web: http://www.eisenbrauns.com
> Phone: 260-445-3118
> Fax: 574-269-6788
> > > Begin forwarded message:
> > >> From: John Cook <jacookvwbus at yahoo.com>
> >> Date: December 12, 2012, 11:13:47 AM EST
> >> To: "b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> >> Subject: Re. More on verbs
> >> >> Dear Rolf, James, et al.
> >> >> My apologies if you feel offended. My remarks were never ad hominem, but of course in academia very many scholars have difficulty distinguishing ideas from their own identity. Ideas we should be able to call "silly" without getting accused of ad hominem attacks (BTW Merriam Webster defines silly as "exhibiting a lack of common sense or sound judgement." Some theories do indeed lack common sense (e.g., wrt Michel's synchronic theory: if wayyiqtol and yiqtol have drastically different meanings almost all the time, isn't it common sense to admit they are two different grams the are partially homonymous, even if their etymological distinction is rejected?) or sound judgment (e.g., see my JNES review of your book, Rolf, available here: http://ancienthebrewgrammar.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/cook-2010-jnes-revfuruli.pdf).
> >> >> Of course the irony that makes me chuckle is that your b-hebrew post is a response all wrapped up around "definitions" in response to my blog post pleading that we get BEYOND these questions! Come now, we must honestly admit that b-hebrew is known for its lack of periodic ad-hominem attacks and for getting stalled in discussions—I admit I'm a regular lurker but I refrain from posting for just such reasons.
> >> >> But as long as you insist on dancing around definitions, let me defend my use of special pleading. As you cite in the definition, the meaning includes "alleging a need to apply additional considerations." Or, to use a more respectable source, Merriam Webster defines it more succinctly as follows: "the allegation of special or new matter to offset the effect of matter pleaded by the opposite side and admitted, as distinguished from a direct denial of the matter pleaded." I've already linked to my JNES review of your work, and my point is amply made there: you acknowledge that better than 93% of wayyiqtol forms refer to past events, but you use the special pleading of pragmatics versus semantics (temporal location versus tense) to dismiss the common sense identification of wayyiqtol as encoding past tense. Admittedly it is important to distinguish pragmatics from semantics, but you apply the term pragmatics so unrealistically broadly as to include just about any knowledge of the real world to exclude some common sense semantic interpretation (just see the example of 1 Kings 6:1 in my review or my previous b-hebrew post on Gen 2:19.
> >> >> Similarly, your engage in special pleading when you claims that "it is not obvious that it [aspect] as the same nature" in different languages (see the full quote in the review). What does this mean when scholars are making immense strides in a wide variety of languages all around the world using the basic definitions that are found to be equally applicable across all languages (look at WALS online, Bybee et al.'s book, Dahl's work—there are hundreds upon hundreds of languages that have been successfully analyzed using the agreed upon definition of aspect). Your claim amounts to saying that ancient Hebrew speakers were simply incapable of speaking about certain types of events or events in certain ways (or else we have some retrojection of the idea of Holy Spirit Greek into Hebrew!). This idea (not you) is silly.
> >> >> I don't mean to diminish the contribution of Michel's study; it is very important, but it is also extremely crippled by this silly assumption that since wayyiqtol and yiqtol look so much alike they must be semantically related—this in the face of a plethora of data that say otherwise. On this point, the diachronics are a mere side-issue: they clearly don't exhibit the same meaning in the same text except in few and uncertain cases. (BTW I address wayyiqtol in poetry in the fourth chapter of my book where one can find the stark contrast of approach between myself an Michel; you, Rolf, will be especially pleased that my argument is largely built on attention to the distinctness and interaction between semantics and pragmatics!)
> >> >> John A. Cook
> >> http://ancienthebrewgrammar.wordpress.com/
> >> >> >> -----------------------------
> >> >> Message: 8
> >> Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2012 07:56:51 +0100
> >> From: "Rolf" <rolf.furuli at sf-nett.no>
> >> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] More on verbs
> >> To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> >> Message-ID: <3ee0-50c82a80-23-1ae010a0 at 210425284>
> >> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
> >> >> Dear James,
> >> >> A basic principle of the discussions on b-hebrew is that we treat other persons and their views with respect. We can disagree with other members, even having strong disagreements. But we do not, or at least, we should not, use ad hominem attacks,  implying that we KNOW and the others do not know, but they are stupid. John Cook does not meet this standard, particularly by using the word "silly," and by this implying that other scholars are stupid persons. He says:
> >> >> 1) "It is just silly to continue arguing over basic definitions that are widely agreed upon already, because it both wastes time and halts progress." But this is exactly the way science works! Scientific progress is caused by scholars who questions established "facts" and try to go new ways. Cook has certain definitions of aspect, and many others agree. I for one do not accept these definitions, but calling my approach "silly" (=stupid), that it "wastes time" and "halts progress" shows a lack of respect for me as a scholar.
> >> >> Cook says:
> >> >> 2) "I made just this point in my review of Furuli?s work, which he continues to defend on b-Hebrew by special pleading about the unique character of aspect in Hebrew." I challenge Cook to give a detailed description on b-hebrew of how I use "special pleading."  Wickipedia gives the following definition:
> >> >> "Special pleading, also known as stacking the deck, ignoring the counterevidence, slanting, and one-sided assessment,[1] is a form of spurious argument where a position in a dispute introduces favourable details or excludes unfavourable details by alleging a need to apply additional considerations without proper criticism of these considerations. Essentially, this involves someone attempting to cite something as an exemption to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exemption.
> >> >> So I ask Cook: What counterevidence have I ignored? What unfavorable details have I excluded? Where do I cite something as an exemption to a general rule without justifying the exemption?
> >> >> Cook says:
> >> >> 3)  "The silliness of the consciously synchronic approaches is enough to demonstrate that point (not Joosten, but e.g., Diethelm Michel)"  Again a scholar is said to be stupid; this time it is D. Michel. I find the study of Michel to be an important contribution to the study of Hebrew verbs. He proceeds along new ways, and particularly his use of the Psalms to analyze the WAYYIQTOL form rather than using narratives, where the verb must have past reference, and we cannot know whether the past reference is pragmatic or semantic, is important. In my view, Cook has not succeeded in showing a DIACHRONIC grammaticalization process for the WAYYIQTOL form, which is a basic task of his work. Nevertheless, I find his dissertation to be a fine scholarly work.
> >> >> 4) According to Cook,  A. Andrason of the University of Stellenbosch lacks "a clear grasp of Hebrew data." His approach is "naive and unhelpful," and "his theory remains at the theoretical level and is virtually useless for the philological task if decipering the biblical Hebrew text." And, there is a "fatal flaw in the flurry of publications from Alexander Andrason." Thus, Andrason is stupid as well, according to Cook.
> >> >> I do not find Cook's article to be "a nice overview," but rather a one-sided judgment of the works of other scholars without showing these scholars the respect they deserve.
> >> >> >> Best regards,
> >> >> >> Rolf Furuli
> >> Stavern
> >> Norway
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