Semitic linguistics is arguably involved in its own version of a "maximalist versus minimalist" controversy with respect to verbal morphology. Dissent persists about whether and to what degree the Northwest Semitic verb paradigms underlying languages such as Biblical Hebrew and Amarna Canaanite (yaqtul, yaqtulu, yaqtula) are themselves determinative of tense-aspect-mood values, as opposed to extra-verbal structures ranging from syntax to discourse. To label a verb form as marked or unmarked for these values is to evoke a bountiful yet nebulous complex of theories about how language is built and employed. But Semitists have often unwittingly bleached markedness terms of their full historical and technical significance, reducing them to generic appellations that are invoked in sporadic and nearly random fashions. By applying markedness to Semitic morphology in a consistent and rigorous manner, this innovative book brings to bear a venerable linguistic construct on a persistent philological crux, in order to achieve deeper clarity in the structures and workings of Canaanite and Hebrew verbs. Korchin's arguments hold relevance for translating and interpreting nearly every sentence in ancient texts such as the Hebrew Bible and the Amarna letters.
Harvard Semitic Studies - HSS 58