What ARE the clues for sequence in BH?

Joe A. Friberg JoeFriberg at email.msn.com
Sun Dec 26 17:45:59 EST 1999

Peter Kirk wrote:

> As I understand it, the aorist participle in NT Greek and the
> perfective participle and gerund in Russian encode sequentiality, i.e.
> an action which is completed before the action of the main verb. They
> stand opposed to their present and imperfective counterparts which
> encode simultaneity. A Greek aorist participle with an aorist main
> verb encode not just the perfective aspect of two completed actions
> but also the sequence of those actions. And sometimes you can get
> quite a string of aorist participles with one main verb, which are
> presumed to be in sequential order. Is that right?
> Peter Kirk

In Reply to:
> ______________________________ Reply Separator
> Subject: Re: What ARE the clues for sequence in BH?
> Author:  <mc2499 at mclink.it> at Internet
> Date:    15/12/1999 02:54
> <snip>
> Does anyone know of a language that codes narrative discourse information
> into the verb rather than coding some aspect which incidentally is
> appropriate for the discourse? I know of none. I would think then that
> sequence is derived rather than principal to the verb form in this case as
> well.
> Cheers,
> Ian

It seems to me that it is not merely morphology, but morphology + syntax
that gives the sequence in both Gk aor. ptcs. and Hb wayyiqtol.

Note: on the Gk aor. ptcs., I believe Peter later indicated that the order
did not matter: either preceding or following main V, the ptc indicated
action prior to the main V.  (I cannot find that this latter email right
now, so I may be remembering wrong.)

Nevertheless, in the case of the Gk aor. ptc., I am convinced it must
precede the main V to indicate prior action.  I came across two nice
contrastive exs. in the same passage this last week:
Lk 2.17 IDONTES DE EGNWRISAN 'After they witnessed this sight, they spread
the word'
Lk 2.16 KAI HLQAN SPEUSANTES --where the aor. ptc. characterizes the main
action in an adverbial manner: 'So they hurried off'
I know of no exceptions to this contrast, neither a case in which an aor.
ptc. preceding the main V does NOT imply preceding/preparatory action to the
main V, nor of a case in which an aor. ptc. following the main V DOES
indicate prior action, although I would not be too terribly surprised to
find an exception to the latter.

Hence, it appears that it is the syntax working with the morphology that
provides the sequential meaning: aor. ptc. *preceding* main V.

The same can be true of the wayyiqtol form, only in this construction, the
wayyiqtol *follows* the verb to which it shows subsequent action.  Also,
since the wayyiqtol can begin what is apparently an independent sentence, it
is not strictly syntax, but discourse grammar working together with
morphology that provides the sequential meaning.

Because sequence necessarily involves multiple verbs, it must rely on more
than morphology, but because language in use can report on multiple
sequences and is not strictly limited to only one, it cannot merely rely on
pragmatic sequence (sequence of verbs corresponds 1-to-1 w/ sequence of real
events) to convey sequence, but must incorporate other discourse and
syntactic constructions.

These higher level constructions may rely on particular morphological forms.
Whether the use of the morphological form in the particular
syntactic/discourse construction is original or derived is quite irrelevant
synchronically; what is important is the current usage of the forms.  If a
morphological form (wayyiqtol) is used exclusively (or at lest
prototypically) in a particular construction so that incedence of the
morphological form implies the presence of the larger construction of which
it is a part, it is hard to separate the meaning inherent in the overall
construction from the form itself.  Hence, it is difficult to separate
+sequential from the prototypical use wayyiqtol, because the form
prototypically implies the construction, which in turn prototypically
implies sequence following the prior verb.  Hence, I would like to see some
way in which this connection is made in the prototype model of wayyiqtol,
whether by  inclusion of a +sequtl property, or by inclusion of a
description of the discourse construction of which it prototypically is a
part, which itself includes a sequential indication.

God bless!
Joe A. Friberg

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