[b-hebrew] Emerging consensus (and paedogogy) on "Waw Consecutive" PSS
furuli at online.no
Sun Aug 15 02:34:53 EDT 2010
See my comments below.
>> except that in these latter cases the word 'tense' does not
>> necessarily refer to time
>?? Both in common definition and in the specialized SIL definition, I
>understand "tense" to refer to time. So where does this timeless "tense"
There is no "timeless" tense! Bernard Comrie in his book "Tense"
(1985, vii) defines tense as "grammaticalization of location in
time." This means that the temporal reference of a verb is not caused
by the context, but is an intrinsic part of the verb itself. Please
consider the examples below. Examples 1), 2), and 3) show that the
participle "walking" in not a tense, because its past, present, and
future reference is caused by the context. The past reference of 4)
is not caused by the context but by the verb "went," which has an
intrinsic past tense. In other words, the form "went" represents a
grammaticalization of past location.
1) Rita was walking to her office.
2) Rita is walking to her office.
3) Rita will be walking to her office.
4) Rita went to her office.
In hypothetical conditional sentences and other special cases, a verb
that signals past tense may be used in a way where it seemingly
refers to something different from past location. But a careful
analysis will reveal that it has not lost its past force.
In order to to show the real issue in connection with Hebrew verbs,
particularly WAYYIQTOL, I bring a quote from Comrie (1985:63):
"In looking for examples of relative time reference, it is essential
to ensure that the relative time reference interpretation is part of
the meaning of the form in question, rather than an implicature
derived from, in part, the context. One area which is particularly
confusing in this respect is narrative, where one gains the
impression of a sequence of events which are located temporally one
almost immediately after the other, the chronological sequence
mirrored in the linear order of clauses. Thus one might be tempted to
think that this sequencing is part of the meaning of the verb forms
used, thus introducing a meaning of 'immediate past' or 'immediate
future' relative time reference (depending on whether one defined the
time reference of the preceding verb in terms of the following verb,
or vice versa). However, as was shown in section 1.8, this sequencing
of events is a property of narrative itself, quite independent of the
verb forms used to encode narrative, so the mere fact that verb forms
receive this interpretation in narrative is not sufficient evidence
for assigning this meaning to those verb forms. Indeed, crucially one
would need to look for examples outside of narrative, where the
context does not force the immediate succession interpretation, to
demonstrate that this is actually part of the meaning of the form in
This important observation that it is the narrative itself that
causes the sequences of verb with past reference and not the verb
forms used, is almost completely ignored in studies of Hebrew
verbs!!!! Moreover, the last words of Comrie show that the worst
possible place to study WAYYIQTOLs in order to find their real
meaning, are narrative accounts. Any verb form used in narratives
must have past reference- not because the verb forms represent
grammaticalized location in the past-but because the narrative
requires past reference of the verbs used. This is seen in Ugaritic.
In the saga of king Keret (or, Kirta) we first have an account with
future reference telling what Kirta should do in the future and what
should happen. Then we have a narrative account with exactly the same
verbs and the same forms used with past reference. In Phoenician,
infinitive absolute is the narrative form, but it is not a past
tense. Examples are the Karatepe texts about king Azidawada.
Applying Comrie's words to Hebrew, most of the occurrences of
WAYYIQTOL cannot tell us anything about the meaning of the form,
because they occur in narrative contexts. But it is actually these
narrative examples that have been used as proofs both of those who
view WAYYIQTOL to be past tense and those who view the form to be the
In WEYIQTOL forms, the WE- is viewed as a syntactical element, a
conjunction that binds two words or clauses together. Therefore, the
WE- has no grammatical meaning, and the forms beginning with WE- do
not represent a grammaticalization of anything. In the same way we
must ask if the WAY- element of WAYYIQTOL simply is a syntactical
element used to bind sequences of clauses in narratives together, or
whether it signals that grammaticalization has occurred. And
remember, the answer to that question must be found by a study of the
relatively few WAYYIQTOLs occurring outside narrative texts.
The work of Diethelm Michel, "Tempora und Satzstellung in den
Psalmen" (1960) is a very fine source with a study of WAYYIQTOL
outside narrative texts. But I cannot recall any other studies of
>> but to generically to a verb category that
>> marks some kind of tense-and/or-aspect-and/or-mood.
>> If one likes abstract notation one could talk about qatal "TAM-1" and
>> yiqtol "TAM-2" as the basic Hebrew verb system, with an additional
>> sequential vayyiqtol "seqTAM-1" and sequential ve-qatal "seqTAM-2".
>> These four nodes or categories and used in Hebrew to refer to the
>> whole referential world, not necessarily unambiguously.
>I'm sorry, but I'm completely lost here.
I am also completely lost here! Particularly the words "some kind
of" blurs the picture. These words show that PANTA REI.
University of Oslo
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