ghatav at aall.ufl.edu
Sun Feb 28 07:38:24 EST 1999
Hi Dave Washburn,
>Let me pause right there and develop further what I meant by
>"thought." I think this may be part of the communication difficulty
>we're having in this thread. Here is a snippet of my article:
>The WP construction signals a separate thought not syntactically
>connected with what precedes it. Note that this statement says
>"not *syntactically* connected"; it says nothing about semantic or
>pragmatic connection. The construction will be the form of choice
>for narrative prose simply because it behaves just like the verbs in
>(a)-(d) [a list of clauses describing the minutes of a meeting - dw].
>It neither links with what precedes, nor does it contradict or force a
>break. It simply indicates a new thought. (p.44)
>The question of syntactic connection, along with the strict
>separation of syntax from other features of language, is the key to
>this description. In the case of the qatal, there is a syntactic
>connection of some kind with the material around the qatal clause
>(exactly what it is, of course, remains to be fully understood). After
>reading your book, I really like the idea of a "new" R-time.
>However, see below.
Yes. I agree that syntax is not a factor in determining the use of
the form Wayyiqtol. It rather depends on the interpretation and truth
conditions of the clause, which are semantic notions. What I want to add
here is that we must be careful in not putting in the same basket semantics
and pragmatics, and that we need also to add discourse structure (DS) into
the picture. Let me elaborate. Traditional linguistics (and here I am
including the Chomskian approach) refers to the term "syntax" as well as
"semantics" only with respect to sentences (and its components). Hans Kamp
in his DRT and Irena Heim in her "cards" theory show that the the structure
of the discourse has its own rules, affecting truth-conditions (TC). In
order not to aggrevate anybody, or maybe to keep things separately, they do
not call the study of DS "syntax", but they still show that not only
clauses but independent sentences have a crucial rule in determining TC.
Most people consider discourse analysis to be part of pragrmatics. I don't
like that. As I see it, pragmatics does not determine TC, although many
times it strondly IMPLICATES them. Sematnics has to do with TC, while
pragmatics has to do with inferences and implictures,which can be
cancelled. TC have to do with logical implications which may not be
cancelled. I recall one of the people asked if there is a difference
between BH and English concerning the verb forms. The crucial difference
between them, it seems to me, is that in BH the form of Wayyiqtol always
builds an R-time, which results in sequence in the narrative. In English
the simple past is used for that purpose, but it does not entail
(logically) that the clause in which it appears necessarily builds a new
R-time. Consider first the difference between (1a), (1b) and (1c) below:
1. a. Mary entered the room. She turned the light on and...
b. Mary entered the room. She felt depressed...
c. Mary turned off the light. It was dark in the room.
We understand the second sentence in (1a) to move the time forward, so we
see it as building a new R-time. The second sentence in (1b) is
interpreted as reporting a state which overlaps in time the event of
entering the room. So although its verb is in simple past, the clause does
not move the R-time forward. Hinrichs (1986) builds a theory around
aktionsarten, claiming that the difference between (1a) and (1b) is due to
the fact that the second sentence in (1a) reports an event while the second
sentence in (1b) reports a state. however, he himself shows that statives
are not necessarily understood to overlap in time the situation reported in
the previous clause. (1c) is a variation of an example he himself provides.
He explains that by saying that eventive clauses introduce the NEXT R-time.
I will not get into showing why this does not work either (I explain it in
my book and in my article 1989). I brought this up to claim that in English
we understand sequence only by pragmatic inferences. In (1c) we understand
the room being dark as a RESULT of Mary's turning off the light, and
therefore we see it as happening after it. But inmagine the room being dark
all the time, and the light was in the corridor. So Mary turned off the
light (in the corridor), the room was dark to begin with, but she didn't
know that, and when opening the room she fells, etc. Since the sequence in
English is due to pragmatic inference, it can be cancelled. This may be
shown also by the following example:
2. Mary wrote her article, read the new book about BH, washed her
her, called John, and went to the party.
Due to Grice's maxim of manner, which says "be orderly," we understand the
events in (2) to happen in the same order they are reported. But we may
very well cancell the implicature by adding the phrase "not necessarily in
that order". Now, contrary to English, I claim, this cannot be done in
case of Wayyiqtol in BH, since it *semantically* builds the R-time; it is
not a pragmatic inference. Now we understand a series of wayyiqtols to
form a sequence in the narrative not by pragmatic inference, but by the
rules of the narrative discourse.
Re *qatal*. I am not sure what you mean by "syntactic connection". A
*qatal* clause does not build an R-time, and therefore it cannot be
interpreted by itself (concerining its temporalilty). Therefore it is
usually interpreted with respect to a neihgboring (usually previous
clause). However, it may have an adverb to give it its interpretation as in
Gen. 30:21, and Gen. 22:1. You may object to these examples as
illustrations of the qatal not being syntactly dependent, but rather
semantically. You may say for the 30:11, "And afterwards she bore a
daughter" that "and afterwards" connects the clause with the previous one.
But the connection is not syntacitc. Compare it to the following example:
3. Mary went to Orlando. She wanted to see Disney World.
The second sentence in (3) is syntacticly independent, but it cannot be
interpreted by itself since it contains the anaphoric pronoun "she", which
demands an antecedent for its interpretation. Similarly, "Afterwards..."
would be a well formed indepedent sentence, but must have an anticedent for
the anaphoric temporal phrase "afterwards". As for Gen. 22:1. The WAYHI
phrase is not an independent clause. Although it is usually translated as
"and it came to pass", it is not reporting an event, but serves as an
Dave also wrote:
>Yes! However, I would suggest that "their own R-time" has, in
>much of the literature, been assumed to mean that this R-time will
>*necessarily* be subsequent to the R-time of the previous clause (if
>there is one). I suggest this is not the case. The new R-time can
>be anything: subsequent (as in narrative prose), the very beginning
>of something (a la Jonah 1:1), a back-loop of the type we have
>been discussing recently, a resumptive clause after an aside (as in
>much of Andersen's material, but see also my TC article), and
>several other uses. The critical part of my view to keep in mind is
>that these factors are NOT determined by the fact that the clause
>has a WP verb, they are determined by the meaning of the clause
>in question (in relation to the meanings [semantics] of the clauses
>around it) and the pragmatics of the discourse unit the clause is in.
>In this sense, the WP is a "simple" non-modal form. As John R.
>put it, use of the WP is nothing spectacular, what should catch our
>eye is use of something other than the WP.
If you are right, and wayyiqtol in the narrative can be "anything", you
will have to determine the conditions for it to be this thing or the other.
As for Jonah 1:1, this is what we should expect: the first clause on the
time-line MUST be in a sequential form.
I would argue also,
>though it's not fully developed yet, that weqatal is the same
>"simple" form in a modal context. This idea is built on your view of
>the weqatal as a modal, and I will definitely give full and profuse
>credit when I get something put together on the subject.
>> discourse the potentiality to form a sequence is realized, and therefore
>> sequential clauses will necessarily appear on the time-line, as bids of the
>> sequence. The very same clauses are not necesserily understood as part of
>> sequence in discurse such as (1). Does that mean that a sequential clause
>> ceases to be sequential when it appears in lists (or other discourse where
>> sequence is irrelevant)? NO!!! It did not loose its potentiality to form a
>> sequence, since it still introduces its own R-time. I would like to
>> explain the idea by the following analogy. People have the potentiality to
>> form lines. This happens when we board a plane, buy tickets for the opera
>> or get coffee at conferences. Mary and John will also contribute to forming
>> a line in such cirdumstances. Assuming now that they are inside the movie
>> theater, watching a movie. Now they are not part of a line, but they did
>> not loose their potentiality to be part of one. Now assume that Mary went
>> to get tickets for the movie, but no other person was there to do the same.
>> So Mary is alone, and therefore is not a "link" on some line, yet she has
>> not lost her potentiality to be one.
>A good analogy, though I think it works better under my view :-) Is
>the most basic and distinguishing feature of people their potential
>for forming lines? Hardly. This is just one among many
>potentialities that people have. Likewise for the WP.
>To go back to WP - it always has the
>> potentiality to participate in forming a sequence, but it actually does it
>> only if it is relevant. One clear relevant enviroment is a narrative
>> discourse. In this case, not only does WP participate in forming a
>> sequence, but moreover, it NECESSARILY does so.
>Here's where we diverge. I don't see anything necessary about it.
>In order for a sequence to form, the discourse might necessarily
>require a WP form; however, it does not follow from this that in
>such a context the WP necessarily denotes sequentiality. Now,
>within the context of the semantics of aspect and modality,
>sequence is certainly a major factor in narrative prose discourse.
>However, the example we have been discussing shows that even in
>an unbroken chain of WP clauses, it's possible for a new R-time to
>be previous to what has transpired and it is not necessary (or, in
>this case, profitable) to assume that it is subsequent.
>This might seem circular,
>> but it is not. The definition of what is a narrative discourse is taken
>> from linguists and literature people such as Labov and Reinhart,
>> independently from the forms in BH. So, when checking narrative stretches
>> in BH, I expect all and only the WP clauses to appear on the (actual)
>> time-line. The question remains, How do WP clauses behave in
>> non-narratives. There, too, as I said above, they form an R-time. However,
>> for a lack of independent analyses for genres other than narrative we
>> cannot determine their function.
>Well said. At the same time, we're working at two different levels.
>When you said in your book that I "reject the discourse analysis
>approach altogether" that was true in a sense, but in another sense
>it is a bit overstated. I think there is a lot we can learn from
>discourse analysis; my problem with it is that it assumes certain
>things about the verb forms that are not yet in evidence. Hence, I
>do my grammatical work down at the clause level, hoping to
>discover what are the basic building blocks of discourse units and
>patterns. To do that, I seek the lowest common denominator in
>various usages of a verbal form, and look for a unified syntactic
>explanation for why a particular form can appear in discourse types
>x, y and z. As far as I know, this has not been done to date in BH.
Great. If it is possible that would be the best. The use of the
form in different genres or kinds of discourse should derive from its
>> The other forms, natably *qatal* are not sequential in the same sense as WP
>> is. I.e., *qatal* does not introduce its own R-time in the discourse, and
>> therefore it cannot move the time forward and contribute to forming a
>> sequence in the narrative. However, this does not mean that we do not find
>> actual cases of *qatal* clauses which are understood to report an event
>> which occurred AFTER the previous one. Suce case is Gen. 30:21: "And
>> afterwards" she bore a daughter". In this case, however, not the verb but
>> the conjunction "afterwards" is what moves the time forward. The question
>> is if this does not contradict my claim that only WP appears in sequence in
>> the narrative. The answer I gave in my book was that this clause is not a
>> bid on the time-line but serves in the background.
>Yes. It introduces Dinah and sets the reader up for the episode
>involving her in chapter 38. This, however, is a pragmatic
>consideration, not a syntactic one (obviously). So what it can tell
>us about the generalized force of the qatal is necessarily limited.
>However, as we examine uses of the form in other contexts, your
>idea about its relation to R-time does appear to hold true and
>account for its various usages.
>Now I think I have a
>> more precise answer (work in progress). One of the *qatal*'s functions, I
>> believe, is to mark the discourse topic (DT). In this example it marks the
>> digression from the current DT (which is Leah's bearing sons to her
>> husband, hoping this will earn her his love).
>Would you develop this line of thought a little more for me?
As I mentioned, this is a work in progress. What I need to do first is to
take care of the notion of DT. The best definition of DT is found in
Reinhart (1981) : "What the discourse is about." To my knowledge nobody
came with a more formal definition. It is possible that we cannot do any
better, that DT is a primitive which cannot be analyzed or defined any
further but be understood intuitively. (in every discipline we have a list
of such concepts.) Rachel Giora in her diss. and in her article (1990) uses
DT in this sense. She shows that (in modern languages such as English and
Modern Israeli Hebrew) there are two possible locations of the DT of a
segment. The DT may be introduced at the beginning of a new segment or,
which is more common, at the end of the current segment, announcing the DT
of the next segment. Departing from Giora, I first thought that Gen. 30:11
is an example of DT for the next segment. However, Dinah'a story is told
only TWO chapters later. So I modified Giora's claim: 'and afterwards she
bore a daughter' does not introduce the DT of the next segment but signals
the digression from lthe current DT, suggesting a DT which will be taken on
later. The difference between what Giora found and what we have in BH could
be a result of one of lthe following: 1)Modern languages differ from BH in
the way they introduce DT (which may explain also the fact that in modern
languages, but not in BH, we may have titles which are not full
sentences). 2) Giora analyses non-narratives, while our example is within
an narrative text. This possibility has grounds. Giora and Shen (I have the
ms.,but I am sure they have published it somewhere - I'll ask them about
it) show that there is an essential difference in between narrative and
non-narrative discourse concerning DT.
>In Gen. 22:1 the clause with
>> the *qatal* verb cannot be understood as the first link of the story (the
>> Binding of Isaac). The first bid is the event of God calling Abraham. It is
>> clearly the case that the *qatal* clause marks the DT: God tests Abraham.
>Yes, and the wayehi clause preceding it doesn't change this; that
>clause serves to tell us explicitly that the testing took place after
>the events reported in chapter 21.
>> Now I would like to answer the question of why WP is inherently sequential.
>> In my book I stated it as a mere stipulation. Now I am working for an
>> Again, within the line of Washburn (1994), it seems to me that WP has in it
>> the component *yiqtol*, which I show to be modal. The notion of modality I
>> adopt is the one suggested by modal logic: a modal clause quantifies over
>> possible worlds (PW). Now, *wayyiqtol* itself is understood to report
>> NON-modal events. How can we explain it, then, to consists of a modal form?
>> This is my hypothesis: The form of *wayyiqtol* consists of three morphemes
>> (not just two, as Washburn suggests): W-AY-YIQTOL. The morpheme *W* builds
>> a new R-time (which makes the form sequential in the sense described
>> above). The morphem *AY* (i.e., the vowel patah and the dagesh geminating
>> the prefix) specifies the PW to be the actual one (I'll call it AW). This
>> needs some explanantion. Coinsider the difference between (2a) and (2b)
>Fascinating! I understand that this is a work in progress, that
>there's a lot of material, and that you will want to publish it before
>tossing all the details out in a forum like this. However, could you
>give a "Reader's Digest" summary of reasons for separating the
>waw from the AY? It looks as though this idea has great
Thank you for your encouragement. I just came up with this idea, and this
was the first time I presented it to people. I am glad it makes sense (so
far). I am going to present it in the conference of SBL in San-Francisko in
two weeks, and now I am glad I have your feedback.
The reason I separate *W* from *AY* is simple. All the forms which build
the R-time have a prefixed *W*, including *wyiqtol* (w + shwa + yiqtol).
>[snip - good stuff, a definite keeper, but I have nothing to add]
>A Bible that's falling apart means a life that isn't.
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