pennerkm at mcmaster.ca
Thu Nov 21 14:01:22 EST 2002
I just finished reading an excellent study by Mark Smith: _The Origins
and Development of the Waw-Consecutive_, in the Harvard Semitic Studies
Series 39; Atlanta: Scholars Press. Don't be put off because it's a
book; it's only 63 pages. L. McFall's 1982 _The Enigma of the Hebrew
Verbal System_ (Sheffield: Almond) is another classic.
Let me note some important cautions about over-generalizing about the
waw-consecutive. The verb-forms are used differently in
(1) different periods (pre-exilic, post-exilic, Qumran, Mishnaic);
(2) different genres (narrative, poetry, legislation, instruction,
direct discourse, non-literary texts,);
(3) different areas (Galilee, Samaria, Judah);
(4) initial vs. non-initial position in the sentence;
(5) protasis vs. apodosis of conditional sentences;
(6) dependent (e.g. purpose or result) vs. independent clauses.
Many studies neglect to make these distinctions.
The waw-conversive theory (where the waw converted past to future and
vice-versa) was common from the 10th to 19th centuries. S. R. Driver
(like Ewald before him) was a major proponent of Hebrew aspect, but he
wrote in 1881, before the Akkadian language was well-known, so he
couldnt do a comparison of the two verbal systems. G. R. Driver in 1936
claimed the tenses were *originally* timeless, but his study did not
distinguish poetry from prose. As early as 1918, Bergstraesser compared
Hebrew tenses to those in the Amarna texts, and came up with a theory of
Hebrew tense development:
(1) a present-future form (yaqtulu) lost its final vowel and began to
look just like a past-tense form (yaqtul),
(2) this past form (yaqtul) fell into disuse because of the similar
functions of the a form which was emerging as a past tense (qatal),
(3) the primary tense contrast came to be between this new past tense
(qatal) and the present-future (now yaqtul becoming yiqtol).
(4) only in the restricted environments of prefixed waw and in poetry
did yaqtul(=wayyiqtol) remain as a past tense.
(5) by analogy to the converted imperfect (wayyiqtol), which appeared to
convert the tense from future to past, a converted perfect (weqatalti)
also developed, to convert past to future in sequences.
I think Bergstraesser's description would still be considered the
"consensus" (especially stages 1-4), although it has been challenged
repeatedly. Stage 5 is more open to debate. Smith finds the origins of
the converted perfect in Armana Akkadian and Ugaritic qatala forms
following waw in the apodoses of conditional sentences, and the inherent
future sense of such constructions was eventually extended (only in
Hebrew) to waw+qatal in independent clauses as well.
I hope this helps; which passages in particular were being discussed?
Ken Penner, M.C.S. (Biblical Languages, Greek Focus), M.A. (Hebrew
Ph.D. Student, McMaster University
pennerkm at mcmaster.ca
Flash! Pro vocabulary memorization software:
> On another list, I'm watching an enthusiastic discussion of
> conclusions reached because of the way vav-conversive verbs at the
> beginning of sentences are translated. One of the participants makes
> extensive reference to Driver's book, which if I understand
> it correctly advocates an aspectarian view of the verb.
> Is there a scholarly consensus about the vav-conversive at
> this point in history? If so, what is it?
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