"Consecutive imperfect"...

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Tue Dec 8 17:27:56 EST 1998

Henry Churchyard wrote:
>>>> Stress may be phonemic in Hebrew but it need not be so in all
>>>> instances.  Even qatals may have penultimate stress when wf is
>>>> prefixed, e.g. 2 Kings 7:4 wfmftnu.
>Not sure exactly what you"re referring to here; diachronically, this
>form has perfectly normal penultimate stress (from *wamawatnuu or
>something like that), and synchronically in biblical Hebrew it has
>normal stress on a penultimate syllable before a word-final
>vowel-final syllable; there are no stress shifts or special stress
>developments in this word that I can see.
>>>> You are correct that I ignored stress-shift in non lamed-he
>>>> forms. I should have said that to add the prefix waw would
>>>> increase the number of syllabels, thus affecting the position of
>>>> the stress and resulting in apocopation in many instances.
>I don't think so -- the stress is always determined from the end of
>the word (at a diachronically earlier stage always on the penultimate
>syllable, with some modifications and complications by the time of
>Biblical Hebrew, as discussed in Blau's 1976 outline grammar, for
>example), so it seems quite unprecedented and unparalleled for the
>presence of a prefix to cause stress shift, especially when an
>alternative diachronic explanation of the stress distributions is

Dear Henry,

I agree with you that stress is determined from the end of the word, as I
earlier today wrote to  Peter Kirk, but this can hardly be the only factor.
Let us take a closer look at the example I mentioned in my last post -
Psalm 21:2. Here we have the compound ma(h)-yyfgel with penultimate stress.
In Psalm 16:9 we find the wayyiqtol form wayyfgel also with penultimate
stress. The last form is formally jussive and the first form may also be
viewed this way.  In Psalm 53:7 we find the jussive yfgel, in Zephania 3:17
we find the yiqtol indicative yfgil and in Habakkuk 1.15 we find the
weyiqtol  weyfgil, all three with ultimate stress. Could you please explain
why the the forms of Psalm 21:2 and 16:9 have penultimate stress while the
other three have ultimate stress? I cannot see that this is determined from
the end.

Regarding my comment on 2 Kings 7:4 a portion fell out between writing and
posting. What I wanted to say was that in pausal forms of qatal with
penultimate stress, a wf-prefix (and not a we-prefix) would even mark
consecutive perfects, suggesting that wa- and we- are the same lexeme. More
examples of this are found in Bauer-Leander: Historische Grammatik der
hebraischen Sprache, 82k.

>> In view of the fact that there is no trace of wayyiqtol before the
>> Masoretes, and because no researcher has ever been able to explain
>> how or why a simple conjunction can change the meaning of a verb
>> form to the very opposite,
>Rolf, I really wish you wouldn't use words like "invent", which can be
>interpreted as polemical provocative terminology implying that the
>Masoretes indulged in self-conscious fakery to cook up something
>totally artificial and unnatural.  And it's not really true that
>"there is no trace of wayyiqtol before the Masoretes" since most of
>the component elements make perfect sense in comparative Semitic
>terms; it's only the consonant gemination after wa-, and the fact that
>this gemination is restricted in occurrence to forms derived from
>earlier Semitic *yaqtul preterites (or whatever you want to call the
>proto-form corresponding to Akkadian iqtul, Arabic pseudo-"jussives"
>after _lam_, etc., if you don't like the label "preterite"), which are
>slightly mysterious -- but not mysterious enough to fairly cause
>suspicions of masoretic "invention"...

Thank you for your information about "invent". I am not a native speaker of
English and appreciate being corrected in matters like this. As I have
already written, I believe that the Masoretes wanted to be 100 per cent
faithful toward the text they heard recited in the synagogue. But the
nature (or value) of patah and shewa led them to use these letters in the
way we know without having in mind the great semantic difference which were
ascribed to the letters by the grammarians from the 11th century onward. If
this is true, the masoretes were innocent as far as invention is concerned,
but the later grammarians who had their minds fixed on past, present and
future tenses misunderstood the work of the Masoretes and laid the
foundation of the present four-component model.


Rolf Furuli
Lecturer in Semitic languages
University of Oslo

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