[b-hebrew] wayyiqtol prefix gemination
crazymulgogi at gmail.com
Mon Nov 28 17:31:58 EST 2005
At the end of your mail, you said:
"I like the idea that HA and VA have something in common. I
just don't see how it can work."
This encourages me to explain a little further. Hope you won't regret
what you said now ;)
You said the theory I propose has a problem, because:
"Most theories assume that AZ/V/etc. YIQTOL --> "past tense" is one phenomenon."
The case is, if the "gemination first"-theory, that I am trying to
convince you of here, does *not* assume this, we cannot call this a
reasonable argument against the theory. The number of people who
believe something is not an argument pro or contra, as we can observe
clearly in politics, science and religion ;)
Why would Az+Yiqtol be related to Wayyiqtol? It *nowhere* seems that
Az and the Yiqtol prefix have fused together. It could be the case, I
think it's highly unlikely, but that's why I prefer another theory.
I feel there is some kind of confusion or misunderstanding about the
relationship between Wayyqtl and Az+Yiqtol. In my opinion, these two
are two different phenomena. When we have Az+Yiqtol, it may have
preterite meaning. I accept that, but it doesn't make any sense to
imply that "if we already have Az+Yiqtol with preterite meaning, we
cannot have a different phenomenon Wayyiqtol with preterite meaning
However, that is what I feel you tend to imply.
There is no reason why the BHebrew repertoire should have only one
"tense" with preterite meaning (=Wayyqtl), and if it turns out there
is another way of expressing something that happened in the past (i.e.
Az+Yiqtol), we "punish" this by saying that they are really the same
As far as I can see, [Az] is usually said to mean "then", "at that
time [in the past]" (and it is attested ca. 130x, which is still
incomparable to the number of times we have Wayyqtl, which is in the
tenthousands, I guess).
If Az already means "at that time in the past" there is no urgent need
to do anything peculiar to the Yiqtol that follows. (Even if the
Yiqtol following Az had had its own specific final short vowel, after
the yiqtols lost their short final vowels this wouldn't have to result
in any compensation. Az doesn't "require" the short or apocopated
yiqtol, Wayyqtl often does: I guess because the gemination makes the
word longer initially, so a little shortening in the end was
On the other hand, Wayyqtl without a word "then" is just the yiqtol,
which, when we have no explicit expression of a point in time, likes
to have its prefix geminated in order to remove all modalities etc.,
"anchoring it to this world" (Hatav's way of saying it), giving it a
place in time, which no longer needs us wondering when or how it'll
As I explained but maybe not clear enough: Yiqtol > *YYiqtol >
*AYYiqtol > WAYYiqtol.
Why don't we have *HAYYiqtol? I.o.w. why was [hey] never the auxiliary
consonant for *ayyiqtol?
This is what I meant when I said these things about Hebrew word order
being, in my opinion, VSO:
It happens so many times that clauses, almost any type of clauses,
begin with [wa-/we-], that the [W] got to be the fixed
auxiliary consonant to precede *ayyiqtol. That some notion of [wa-]
"and" was then included in the Wayyqtl form is understandable, because
language is not about loose words, but about sentences following
sentences. It also made sure that Wayyqtl was not welcomed in the
middle of a clause, i.e. not in the initial position, because the
fixed auxiliary consonant [w-] would break the sentence in two.
Hence "Wayyomer hayyeled le-)avihu, "hinneni!" we-lo) shama(
)avi-hayyeled ki )oznayim )eyn lo."
So not "we-lo) wayyishma(" but "we-lo) shama(".
The problems with words like Ma (long a) or She-, causing gemination,
are different in this theory in the sence that they *are*
words/particles unlike [ha-] or the prefix with dagesh in Wayyqtl:
these are not words.
I disagree with the idea that if we have a few words in BH that *do*
cause a dagesh in the following consonant, it should also mean that
all other cases of gemination we don't understand must ultimately be
causes by some kind of (visible or invisible) word.
That kind of thinking is not very logical: it disregards the character
of gemination: it actually *can* happen autonomously too, like in the
pi'el it does. Of course I do not contest that MA- and the like cause
***It may be that this gemination is caused *on the analogy of* the
[wayyiqtol] and [hammelek], by the way! This idea goes a little far,
and I wouldn't dare defend even that thought here. I would have to
continue typing all my life on this mailing list, and I don't believe
it myself either.***
(Btw: in the case of Ma-, gemination doesn't always follow; even when
it stands alone, I thought it has a long vowel represented by qametz,
unlike the word wa-/we- (btw I said MA- has patach only after
gemination, sorry, I meant, only after gemination happened to the
The fact is, as I said, that in the (hit)pa'el, in words like gannav,
in the yiqtol of the nif'al, apparently a dagesh just "happens", and
often for a reason. Why not in Hammelek, or Wayyqtl? Why would it not
You asked a very good question: "what is the drawback of:
1. "MA, SHE-, MI-, HA- all must be part of heavy syllables (inducing,
therefore, DAGESH or compensatory lengthening aka TASHLUM DAGESH)."
I don't think there is any drawback; only for HA- I don't think it is
what happens. I admit, I can't disprove your position, just as you
can't prove it.
Yiqtol is the default modal and whatever-you-want tense, only when it
has (wa+)C1=double or AZ preceding it, it's the narrative (simple
past) tense: "anchored".
3. "Because V+YIQTOL in Pi'el would yield VIQATEL (not V'YIQATEL),
and because the Y marks the tense to begin with, the initial consonant
has doubled consistently. It's not a great explanation, but neither
is it entirely implausible."
Joel, when you wrote the latter passage down, didn't you think this
explanation is not only farfetched, it is even *less* plausible than
the theory I'm trying to convince you of? Difference being, my theory
*is* an "elegant" hypothesis and the above conjecture, well, a little
Both of our theories have some little side-effects, but I really
believe that if you count them up, mine needs less additional
hypotheses of the kind you state in 3. above, than your's; above that,
it's also fresh and surprising. The idea you mention in 3. needs so
much careful deliberation in the mind of the user of BH, whereas my
primary gemination needs the original BH user to apply only analogy
all over the place, and copying the same phenomenon in every prefix.
I mean, I assume BH actually was a spoken language someday. Analogy is
one of the key concepts in spoken languages. And I don't believe the
masoretes invented anything we have been discussing here.
Concluding, you wrote:
"These three cover all of your data, plus all of the prefixes, plus
AZ+YIQTOL; and they don't wrongly predict any forms that don't exist."
In the above I explained why I don't think it predicts non-existing
forms. For example, I explained why we have no *we-hayyiqtol.
I spent a little too much time on this, I fear.
But I'm sure I'll be rewarded some day ;)
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