# wayyiqtol test

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Sat Feb 13 12:14:00 EST 1999

```Bryan wrote:
> > A methodological question - how can we determine which of us
> > is right, if we both think we have models which can explain
> > the data?  Can we propose a hypothetical sentence or a
> > paragraph or comparison of two descriptions of the same
> > event that, if we found it in BH, we could answer this
> > question?  Can anyone else help us on this?
> >
>
> An idea:  Sequence and perfectivity are inseperable.  A verb form's
> perfectivity creates sequence because perfectivity makes visible an entire
> situation, beginning, duration, and most significantly, END.  In order to
> create a sequence of events, each successive event's end must be visible.

Yes this is true.  However, I would argue that perfectivity does not
necessarily make sequence necessary.  IOW, it's easy enough to
have a perfective statement or series of statements that are not
sequential.  Hence, I would modify this statement to say that
"sequence requires perfectivity, but perfectivity does not require
sequence."

> The following sentence is perfective:  John ate a piece of pie.  The
> following is imperfective:  John was eating a piece of pie.  The first
> sentence includes the completion of the situation, and the second only
> provides an unbounded (at the end) duration.  We can test the two sentences
> for perfectivity by adding the phrase, "...but he didn't finish it" and
> judge if it's still English.  How do they strike you:
>
> a.  John ate a piece of pie, but he didn't finish it.
> b.  John was eating a peice of pie, but he didn't finish it.
>
> I would think you find (a) problematic, perhaps not even English.  Another
> example is John built a house vs. John was building a house.  The examples
> work because we know that eating a piece of pie or building a house has a
> end boundary, so that adding "...but he didn't finish it" fights with our
> understanding of the perfectivity of the situation.  Another example is
> John walked to the store vs John was walking to the store.  The test would
> be to add "...but he didn't arrive."  The point is that taking away the end
> point from a perfective clause creates impossible language.

c) John ate a piece of pie.
d) John ate some pie.

In c, we have a definite end-boundary as you said.  In d, I'm not
sure we do.  How much pie?  We don't know, hence in a very real
sense we're not sure where the end-boundary is.  It gets even less
clear if we add a temporal modifier:

e) John ate some pie while he waited for the party to begin.

The element in these clauses that we want to know about is the
simple past tense verb "ate."  I would suggest that all 3 clauses
are "good" English, yet they use the same verb form in very
different aspectual contexts.  c is clearly perfective, while d is
ambiguous and e is clearly imperfective.  But we can make d sort
of perfective if we add the following:

f) John ate some pie and then went back to the dance floor.

Here we have an explicit end-boundary, but it isn't provided by the
form of "ate," it's provided by the temporal indicator "then"
introducing the next clause.

Hence, I would suggest that while Bryan's examples of perfective
and imperfective are pretty clear, the overall situation is far from
clear because the English simple past can be used in a variety of
contexts, and for imperfective situations we are not limited to the
explicit English imperfective.  How we apply this information to
Hebrew will largely determine where we choose to go with the
wayyiqtol and the other verb forms.

> The problem is with the Hebrew Bible we have only *possible* language.  We
> don't have the chance in a dead language to probe for the impossible.

Yes.  It's a bit like trying to type without fingers at times.

> Here's the hypothetical BH I would put before a native speaker of BH to
> test whether the wayyiqtol is inherently perfective and sequential:
>
> vayyibneh \$lomoh 'et habayit velo' calah 'oto
> and as a control I'd also substitute a participle boneh for the wayyiqtol.
>
> If this hypothetical native speaker of BH would simply tell me tov o lo'
> tov it would help so much.  If my wayyiqtol sentence is good BH, then
> wayyiqtol is neither perfective nor (I imagine) sequential.  If the
> sentence sounds stupid to him, then perfectivity must be inherent to the
> form.  Personally, I think the wayyiqtol sentence would sound stupid to
> him.  What do you think?

Good question.  I think we have some examples that are sort of
similar, such as my now-infamous Judges 12 example of the 3
minor judges.

> Now look at real BH, 1 Ki 6:9
>
> vayiben 'et habayit vay:kalehu
>
> Does it blow away the perfectivity of wayyiqtol or the sequentiality of
> wayyiqtol?  Maybe.  I think it's counter-evidence.  "John built the house,

I'm fuzzy here (sorry); which view do you think it's counter-evidence
to?

> and then he finished it" doesn't sound like good English. But the
> counter-example is weakened a bit by the possibility that it is hendiadys.
> Even in English, although "John built and finished the house" sounds a bit
> weird in isolation, it might fly in a context in which one wants to
> emphasize that the end point of the activity is reached.  That is just the
> kind of emphasis I think the writer is achieving in 1 Ki 6:9.

An interesting possibility.  However, I would think that if the writer
really wanted ot emphasize the endpoint, a chiasmus would have
been even more effective:

vayiben 'et habayit (atnach) 'oto kalah \$lomoh

or something similar.  Do you know of some other examples of
hendiadys of this type using two WP's?  That would go a long way