Fwd: Complexity

Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at lrz.uni-muenchen.de
Fri Mar 18 12:08:16 UTC 2011

Just a few remarks concerning Agustinus Gianto's comments posted by Tom:

Agustinus has drawn our attention to a set of very interesting data. 
Nevertheless, I dare to say that - as far as I know - the whole scenario 
of how the Hebrew (and West Semitic) tense/aspect/mood forms have 
developed is rather complex and perhaps a bit more complex that 
described by Agustinus. I understand that he has spoken of just a 
"skeletal picture", but in order to relate this picture to the question 
of complexity, some additional comments might be helpful (and necessary) 
(I'm sure that Agustinus is well aware of all these arguments, but maybe 
that they are of some help to the Funknet community):
> The TAM system in Biblical Hebrew (BH) is a good example of a 
> grammaticalization process that adds complexity to a previous system, 
> Aramaic, though stemming from the same system as BH, took the opposite 
> path.
> The development of the "prefix conjugation" in BH (generally called 
> "imperfect, yixtov 'he writes'; cf. Arabic yaktub-u) is a strategy to 
> handle the confusion resulting from the loss of final short vowels 
> /a,i,u/ at the end of a word in a previous stage. Comparative evidence 
> (cf. Arabic) suggests that the prefix conjugation in this earlier 
> stage had at least four forms, i.e, 3masc. sg.  imperfect: yaktub-u, 
> narrative yaktub-ø (=zero); jussive: yaktub-ø, optative yaktub-a. (The 
> narrrative and jussive have the same form but they have a 
> complementary distribution.)
According to my knowledge, a 'co-existence' of the two 'aspect'-like 
forms yaktub-u ('imperfective') and yaktub-ø ('perfective/narrative') is 
mainly reconstructed for Ugarit. The form yaktub-ø seems to have been 
the original form of the 'perfective > narrative' as illustrated by the 
Accadian perfective 'iprus'-paradigm (competing with the imperfective 
'iparras'-paradigm). Most likely, the zero-form also functioned as a 
'jussive' in given contexts. The -u-paradigm (the yaktub-u type) 
probably emerged from an older 'relative/subordinating' paradigm (marked 
by *-u, as in Akkadian) that could be added to both perfective and 
imperfective forms (Accadian iprus-u (perfective, relative), iparras-u 
(imperfective, relative). The 'dynamic' pair iprus(-u)/iparras(-u) stood 
in opposition to a stative-like, more nominal construction based on some 
kind of participle (the Accadian paris- ~ paras- ~ parus-type), that 
later on turned into the standard suffix conjugation (the kataba-type). 
So, what we have is first a merger of the iprus/iparras-forms (due to 
phonetic and accentual reasons) in Late West Semitic, resulting in the 
generalization of the imperfective function, but using the simple 
iprus-type. However, the underlying perfective notion of the iprus-type 
still competed with the new perfective paris-type. Hence the augmented 
form (the relative form marked by -u) had been taken to mark this new 
imperfective, probably also because in subordinated clauses, the 
imperfective fucntion conveying background information prevailed.

Although the processes alluded to above sound rather complex, they do 
not suggest - in my eyes - a rise in complexity, but simply a shift in 
paradigmatic organization. The two basic domains, perfective (~ telic) 
and imperfective (~ atelic) had been present in all stages of these 
processes. In addition, the processes to not introduce new material, but 
simply rearrange given paradigms and sub-functions.

Now, as for the processes in Hebrew itself:
> When the final short vowels dropped, the forms risk to get confused 
> with one another and their special use got compromised.  In Hebrew, 
> yixtov<  *yaktub<  *yaktub-u was generalized as the imperfect form in BH.
Well, this has not been the case for all verb forms. Some verbs still 
retain the opposition -imperfective vs. zero-jussive: There are 'Hifil' 
verb stems (when occurring without a further suffix) that have an -î- or 
-û- following the second radical in the imperfective, but -ê- or -ô- in 
the jussive (compare yaxtêv (3sg:M:JUSS) vs. yaxtîv (3Sg:M:IMPERF). 
Crucially, the waw-consecutivum construction mentioned by Agustinus 
takes up this opposition if given, confer: wa-yyaxtêv (wa-cons.) vs. 
simple yaxtîv. In this context, Agustinus assumes:
> The narrative yaktub-ø, however, still looked very much like the 
> imperfect. To deal with this, BH only allows the narrative yaktub-ø to 
> stand in the first-position - and to "seal" this constraint, a 
> conjunction wa- was prefixed to it, hence the form wayyiqtol 
> ("converted imperfect") is always clause initial. 
As far as I know, the waw-consecutivum construction is not bound to 
imperfective verb forms. Rather, it basically marks a consecutive 
clause, preceded by a clause in either the prefective or the 
imperfective. There is some kind of crossing principle: If the first 
clause is perfective, then the second clause takes the imperfective 
wa-consecutivum construction (then having a perfective function). But if 
the first clause is imperfective, then the second clause takes the 
perfective waw-consecutivum construction (then having an imperfective 
function) (sure, with many exceptions). Only in a later stage, the 
imperfective-based waw-consecutivum construction became possible also in 
text initial sequences.Hence, the waw-consecutivum construction did not 
elaborate the narrative function of the older *yaktub-form, but showed 
up as a general option to mark secondary elements in a chain of 
subsequent event images (quite parallel to Arabic fa-). In addition, the 
fact that the 'imperfective' waw-consecutivum construction makes use of 
the jussive paradigm (if different) suggests that it has started from 
the zero-form *yaktub, and not from the newer imperfective form *yaktub-u.

Now, as for the so-called 'optative' yaktub-a (better perhaps: finalis):
> The old optative yaktub-a took another path. When the final vowel -a 
> was dropped, it became yaktub, making it too similar to the imperfect. 
As far as I know there is hardly any evidence available that Hebrew ever 
knew the Arabic-like -a-finalis. The history of this element is rather 
obscure. Some people think of relating it to the so-called 'status 
energicus' of Arabic, South Arabic, and Ugarit etc. (-an) that would 
have dropped its -n just as it is true with 'nunated' and 'non-nunated' 
forms of nouns (e.g. Arabic bait-u-n 'a house' vs. al-bait-u 'the 
house'). But this is more like a guess....
> The strategy taken is interesting. The optative paradigm gave up its 
> 2nd and 3rd persons. But the sg and pl of 1st persons got stabilized 
> into what BH grammar calls "cohortative" 'ektva: and nektva: 'I/we 
> wish to write'.
Well, it should be kept in mind that the so-called cohortative (marked 
by the 'he cohortativum/voluntativum/paragogicum') is -â, and not -a. 
This cohortative (which may (rarey) occur, by the way, with the 2.Sg 
imperative and 3Sg:M imperfective, too) has occasionally been related to 
the above-mentioned status energicus (-â < -an). But again, there does 
not seem to be sufficient evidence to set up a final decision. In other 
words: The cohortative simply continues would seems to have been given 
already in Late West Semitic (or even beyond).

To sum up: I cannot fully understand, why
> BH opted for an ever complex grammaticalization
As far as I can see, there are no new grammatical categories that would 
have emerged in Hebrew via grammaticalization. The loss of final -u did 
not condition the creation of such a new category. Whether Hebrew ever 
knew the structure yaktub-a remains controversial. Thus, the paradigms 
at issue did not single out in a number of new sub-paradigms (idealiter 
addressing 'new' functional domains) but are simply marked for 
functional re-arrangment.

Best wishes,


*Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze *


Institut für Allgemeine & Typologische Sprachwissenschaft

Dept. II / F 13

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Ludwigstraße 25

D-80539 München

Tel.: 0049-(0)89-2180-2486 (Secretary)

0049-(0)89-2180-5343 (Office)

Fax:  0049-(0)89-2180-5345

Email: W.Schulze at lrz.uni-muenchen.de 
<mailto:W.Schulze at lrz.uni-muenchen.de>/// Wolfgang.Schulze at lmu.de 
<mailto:Wolfgang.Schulze at lmu.de>

Web: http://www.ats.lmu.de/index.html

Personal homepage: http://www.wolfgangschulze.in-devir.com


Diese e-Mail kann vertrauliche und/oder rechtlich geschützte 
Informationen enthalten. Wenn Sie nicht der richtige Adressat sind bzw. 
diese e-Mail irrtümlich erhalten haben, informieren Sie bitte umgehend 
den Absender und vernichten Sie diese e-Mail. Das unerlaubte Kopieren 
sowie das unbefugte Verwenden und Weitergeben vertraulicher e-Mails oder 
etwaiger, mit solchen e-Mails verbundener Anhänge im Ganzen oder in 
Teilen ist nicht gestattet. Ferner wird die Haftung für jeglichen 
Verlust oder Schaden, insbesondere durch virenbefallene e-Mails 

More information about the Funknet mailing list