Wayyiqtol - comparative Semitic, morphology, phonology
furuli at online.no
Fri Jul 28 07:50:38 EDT 2000
I have some comments and questions. See below.
>> Based on morphology I differentiate between prefix forms in the
>> following way:
>> Accadian: IPRUS - IPARRAS
>> Ge'ez: YENGER - YENAGGER
>> Ugaritic: YAQTUL - YAQTULU
>> short form viewed as preterit and jussive. Thus the basic difference
>> between the short and the long forms in these languages is one of
>> modality, the short forms are modal, the long ones are indicative.
>What's the point of dragging in forms such as IPARRAS and YENAGGER
>that have no real direct relevant comparability with Hebrew
>morphological forms? (And in fact, it's not entirely clear that
>Ugaritic YAQTULU is all that comparable to Hebrew plain YIQTOL in
>There were no true proto-Semitic categories of "long" vs. "short"
>(with accompanying meanings) that survived as an opposition into
>various daughter Semitic languages, including Hebrew. Rather, there
>were a variety of early Semitic morphological formations (some
>happening to be longer than others), each of which had its own
>particular meaning, or meanings. Some of these forms survived with
>phonological/morphological modifications into some daughter languages,
>with modified meanings -- but these attested meanings cannot be
>explained by relying on any kind of general abstract Semitic "long"
>vs. "short" meaning distinction (which simply does not exist as a
>generalized abstraction, away from the details of specific concrete
>forms in each individual language).
>So when reconstructing the semantic history of Hebrew forms, the basic
>relevant data is the attested meaning, in other languages, of forms
>which are cognate with the Hebrew forms in question. When we examine
>various conjugations in various languages with a shape somewhat like
>early Semitic *YAQTUL we discover various general "preterite" and
>"jussive" meanings in various languages -- though we don't find
>exactly the same form being used with both jussive and preterite
>meanings in the same language; instead some morphological distinction
>is made if both are present in the same language (so the Akkadian past
>IPRUS vs. "optative" LIPRUS, the Hebrew addition of waC- to the
>preterite, the Arabic addition of a prefixed _lam_ particle to the
>preterite, etc. -- Amarna Canaanite as reconstructed by Rainey has
>the appearance of being a partial exception, but this may be due to
>the fragmentary nature of the evidence). So it seems fairly clear
>that there were two different "short" conjugations with two different
>general meanings in common early Semitic or proto-Semitic (regardless
>of whether or not these two might have a common ancestor in the the
>earliest pre-Proto-Semitic); these differences between "jussive" and
>"preterite" semantics are what led Hetzron to propose his hypothesis
>that jussive *YAQTUL was originally ultimate-stressed and and
>preterite *YAQTUL originally penult-stressed. I have to reject
>Hetzron's reconstructed phonemic stress-position distinction on
>phonological grounds, but it certainly looks as if there were distinct
>meanings involved here.
>So I find lumping together jussive and preterite meanings as "modal"
>to be an unhelpful oversimplification, and I find no obstacle to
>positing a reconstruction in which early Semitic "preterite" *YAQTUL
>is the diachronic ancestor of Hebrew WAYYIQTOL (whatever the
>subtleties of synchronic semantic analyses may be, there's no denying
>that predominant or characteristic function of the WAYYIQTOL in Hebrew
>is past narrative) -- and this reconstruction is greatly strengthened
>by the strictly phonological evidence assembled in chapter 4 of my
>dissertation which shows that WAYYIQTOL descends from consonant-final
>*YAQTUL, while plain YIQTOL descends from a vowel-final form,
I particularly found your 4th chapter interesting. You are able to account
for the phonological data in the Tanach, and I will discuss your
conclusions thoroughly in my thesis.
You say: "When we examine various conjugations in various languages with a
shape somewhat like early Semitic *YAQTUL we discover various general
"preterite" and "jussive" meanings in various languages -- though we don't
find exactly the same form being used with both jussive and preterite
meanings in the same language;"
I see some problems with this. If I understand you correctly, your
conclusions only relate to phonology and not to semantics; you do not take
any standpoint as to whether WAYYIQTOL and its supposed Ugaritic cognatate
are tenses or aspects or something else. Yet you seem to base your study on
a *semantic* foundation, expressed by the following three assumptions:
1) Forms that are modal and forms that are used in narratives cannot exist
in one semantic group.
2) When Ugaritic YAQTUL both has modal meaning and is used with past
reference, there must be two groups of YAQTULs with different semantic
meaning but having the same morphology.
3) There must have been some way to differentiate between the two groups
with identical morphology; therefore a difference in stress position is
Have I understood you correctly, or do you claim that the Ugaritic modal
YAQTUL and "preterite" YAQTUL can be distinguished on morphological
I have never claimed that early Semitic had "short forms", I have been
dealing with forms that we find in written documents and not forms that are
thought to have existed. Hebrew, Accadian, Ge'ez and Ugaritic have two
prefix-forms, one shorter than the other. In all the four languages is
present/future reference (indicative) generally connected with the longer
form and past reference and modality is connected with the shorter form. I
have not made any claims regarding this, just pointed out the pattern and
suggested that it should be studied.
>> This means that I see two groups of prefix forms. (1) THE INDICATIVE
>> GROUP: the long forms of YIQTOL, WAYYIQTOL (I think of those which
>> *could* have been apocopated but are not), and WEYIQTOL (which are
>> not apocopated). (2) THE MODAL GROUP: the short forms of YIQTOL,
>> WAYYIQTOL, and WEYIQTOL.
>"Long" and "Short" as you're using them here have absolutely nothing
>whatever to do with "long" and "short" in the early and reconstructed
>Semitic sense (e.g. YAQTUL vs. YAQTULU; or YAQTULUU vs. YAQTULUUNA).
>Rather, WAYYIQTOL and jussive YIQTOL historically come from early
>Semitic "short" forms, while Hebrew plain YIQTOL comes from early
>Semitic long forms. The synchronic complexities of Hebrew forms
>derived from lamedh-he roots are interesting in their own right, but
>they are not diagnostic for historical reconstruction (since lamedh-he
>truncation has developed away from its original historical pattern).
>Historically, all apocopated lamedh-he forms and all WAYYIQTOLs are
>"short" in the Semitic sense, while no plain (non-jussive) YIQTOLs
>are "short" in the Semitic sense.
>> My task is to explain how verbs that often has past reference and
>> forms that are modal can exist in the same group. In other words, in
>> which sense can it be said that WAYYIQTOLs are modal.
>I think the fact that there was both an early Semitic "jussive"
>*YAQTUL and an early Semitic "preterite" *YAQTUL (which don't take on
>exactly the same morphological forms in any attested Semitic language,
>remember) is entirely unrelated to the fact that the -YIQTOL in Hebrew
>WAYYIQTOL (which descends from early Semitic "short" *YAQTUL) has
>happened to come to resemble Hebrew plain YIQTOL (which descends from
>early Semitic "long" *YAQTULU), at least in Hebrew strong verbs.
>I don't think there's much to be gained by trying to come up with a
>common explanation for both of these disparate and unconnected facts.
>Nor is there much profit in positing a general persistent common
>Semitic "long" vs. "short" semantic distinction (this simply does not
>exist as a general principle that can be abstracted away from the
>details of specific concrete forms in each individual language, as
>I've said), and then applying such a "short" vs. "long" classification
>to Hebrew forms in an ad-hoc way which is entirely different from the
>way the distinction was defined for other Semitic languages. Nor does
>denying the historical connection between early Semitic "preterite"
>short *YAQTUL and Hebrew WAYYIQTOL -- which is plausible on general
>semantic/pragmatic/whatever grounds, and is nailed down pretty
>precisely by strictly phonological evidence -- necessarily help much
>in explaining things.
>I'm not a semanticist, so I can't really evaluate your strictly
>synchronic and Hebrew-internal non-phonological evidence for the
>general unity of all so-called "YIQTOL" forms (including WAYYIQTOL) --
>but it seems to me that if you ignore the highly-specific and
>phonologically-established fact that Hebrew WAYYIQTOL descends from
>earlier Semitic "preterite" *YAQTUL, then your cross-Semitic
>comparisons will not turn out to be very fruitful.
In which sense do you use the word "fact"? I agree that your discussion
accounts very well for the Biblical data, and fits a reconstructed model of
Early Semitic with two forms *YAQTUL with different stress, but do you
claim that it is *proven* that WAYYIQTOL "descends from and earlier Semitic
I do not claim the following, but for the sake of argument, how would you
counter the claim: "In the days of Ezra it was decided that the YIQTOL
forms with proclitic waw used in narrative texts, should have penultimate
stress, in order to help the listener discern the meaning when the text was
recited." Could such a claim be harmonized with your data? If not,why?
The basic weakness with the claim that Ugaritic has a preterite YAQTUL and
a modal YAQTUL, is that nobody has, to the best of my knowlege, analysed
the data from the standpoint of pragmatics versus semantics. It has just
been taken for granted that past reference = paste tense (tense =
grammaticalization of location in time). A second weakness is that nobody
has ever considered, again to the best of my knowledge,whether modal forms
can be used for past reference, i.e. whether past reference and modality
can have a common denominator. We must not force our Indo-European
understanding of modality on the Semitic languages. While we find both
Epistemic and Deontic modality in Hebrew, there are many examples among
those forms which are marked for modality (jussives and cohortatives) where
we will be at great pains to describe as modal. We should also keep in mind
that subjunctive in Accadian has little or no traits of Inde-european
modality, its basic characteristic is that verbs with the subjunctive
marker occur in dependent clauses. So a careful study of Semitic modality
A last question. So far I have found 744 examples (341 present, 150 future,
170 perfect and 73 modal) of WAYYIQTOL with non-past meaning, and I expect
to find more. How should we explain these 5 % of non-past WAYYIQTOLs if the
form is a preterite which stems from an Early Semitic preterite *YAQTUL?
University of Oslo
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