Verbs in Ps 18 and 2 Sam 22

Peter_Kirk at sil.org Peter_Kirk at sil.org
Sun Sep 6 01:16:00 EDT 1998


Maybe I'm being rather naughty, but I can't help making a slight 
variation to Bryan's sentences:

a.)  I awake. I wash. I go to school.
b.)  I awake.  Then I wash.  Then I go to school. 

i.e. the same as before except changed from past simple to present 
simple tense.

or a better pair (because there is less natural time ordering):

a) I wash my face. I brush my teeth. I comb my hair.
b) I wash my face. Then I brush my teeth. Then I comb my hair.

To me, a) now suggests something habitual, hence imperfective, with no 
time ordering implication. b) could have the same meaning with the 
added element that these actions are habitually done in this order. 
But it is also likely to suggest (within an overall discourse 
framework) that this is a "historic present" type of narrative, which 
would be perfective and past. Overall one might say that "then" plus 
present simple is generally past perfective (but might be habitual 
with time ordering) but present simple without "then" (at least in 
this sort of context) is generally imperfective. One could almost say 
that the "then"'s have converted imperfective into past perfective.

Could the wa- of wayyiqtol have an analogous function, within a 
discourse framework? Could an original "historic present" idiom, 
signalled by "waw" as a discourse marker, have developed into the 
major (in prose genres) narrative past tense form? This development 
would be less complete and fixed in poetry, allowing for the 
variations between Ps 18 and 2 Sam 22.

Just some ideas for you experts to think about.

Peter Kirk



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