What ARE the clues for sequence in BH?

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Tue Dec 14 23:41:56 EST 1999

> In our recurring discussions on whether or not the wayyiqtol encodes, to
> some degree, sequentiality, a question keeps coming up in my mind.  If
> the wayyiqtol *does not* include this feature, what is the source?
> After all, the normal case is that there are few, if any, adverbial type
> features (whether true adverbs or prepositional phrases acting as
> adverbs) to indicate the sequence of events, and there is no conjunction
> that carries this information, like the English, "then."
> A case in point is the narrative in Gen 2.  If one were to take that
> narrative to 100 people, almost all of them would see it as sequential.
> This includes those who use this very sequentiality combined with their
> identification of the forming of the animals to indicate the disparity
> between Gen 1 and Gen 2.  And even those who don't require it to be
> sequential, like our own Dave Washburn, give the appearance that their
> first take was that it was, indeed, a sequence.  It was only to get Gen
> 2 to come in line with Gen 1 that he pointed out that, in his opinion,
> the wayyiqtol does not encode sequentiality and that the forming of the
> animals, which he equates to their creation, probably preceded the
> formation of man.  This seems ad hoc to me.  Hence, I rephrase my
> question: what objective markers are there in BH to show that events are
> sequential or non-sequential?

Sequence is inherently semantic and pragmatic.  "He arose and 
went" is sequential because we know that in the normal course of 
things it's necessary to stand up before moving from one place to 
another.  "The meeting was called to order.  The minutes were 
read.  The minutes were approved."  These are sequential, but the 
syntax of the clauses doesn't tell us that.  Our knowledge of the 
normal course of a meeting is what tells us this.  "I went to the 
grocery store.  I went to the post office.  I went to the park.  I went 
to the library."  These may or may not be sequential, we can't tell 
without more information.  The speaker may indeed be narrating 
things in sequence, or s/he may be narrating things in order of 
importance, or in no particular order at all.  We don't have enough 
pragmatic information to be sure.  Each clause is a separate 
thought, a simple declarative clause in realis mode.  This is how I 
see the wayyiqtol.  Hence, I guess one could say that in my view, 
sequence is encoded at the level of discourse.

Dave Washburn
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.
                                   Psalm 86:11

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