<wayyiqtol> again

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Mon Dec 27 19:52:10 EST 1999

Dear Galia,

I would like to give some comments on your post.

>Dear Professor Nicacci,
>I am familiar with your theory as I read your book carefully, and I am glad
>I have the chance to converse with you. (I want to thank Brian Rocine
>	First let me comment on your claim that <wayyiqtol> is the past
>tense in the historical narrative.  From your analysis of Gen 1:5 you
>should conclude that <qatal> also is past tense.  So even if one accepts
>that the forms encode tenses, that would not help in distinguishing between
>them. I understand that you see <wayyiqtol> as past tense only in the
>narrative material. But categories do not change their nature from one text
>to the other. Their properties, which always exist, may be used differently
>>from one genre to the other, but they do not change.

I heartily agree with you that the semantic meaning of a verb form does not
change  in any context; a form that "is born" (grammaticalized) a preterit
will allways remain a preterit. During the last months I have looked at all
the QATALs and WEQATALs  of the Bible. The WEQATALs I have grouped
according to verb class (H"L, W/Y"P etc), position of accent, the relation
between the deictic point (C) and the reference time (RT)/whether they have
past,present, or future meaning/,and according to particular syntactic
properties. The QATALs I have grouped according to the relation between C
and RT, their modality (I differentiate between "subjunctive"  and "future
meaning"), and their position in the sentence.

Of 6087 WEQATALs (ambiguous forms were skipped) I found the following


	PAST	357		5,8
	PRESENT	192		3,15
	FUTURE	4100  		67.35
	PERFECT	55     		0,9
	MODAL	147		2,41
	IMPERAT	643		10,56
	FINAL	31		0,5
	CONDIT,PROT 312		5,12
	CONDIT,APOD 123		2,02
	GNOMIC	48		0,78
	OTHER	79		1,29

Of 13150 QATALs (ambiguous forms were skipped) I found about 800 instances
where RT comes after C (future meaning), and about 1000 where RT coincides
with C (present meaning). I also found about 600 sentence -initial QATALs
and about 200 with clear subjunctive traits. (I am refining the data
regarding the QATALs, so I just give approximate numbers)

The 13.6% of the QATALs with present and future meaning definitely speaks
against the view that QATAL is grammaticalized past tense or has the same
meaning as WAYYIQTOL, and the 5,8 % of WEQATALs with past meaning speaks
against the view that WEQATAL is grammaticalized future tense or has the
same meaning as YIQTOL. As a matter of fact, all the characteristics listed
above for WEQATAL are also found as QATAL characteristics, though in
different percentages. I see no problem in explaining the difference in use
(QATAL mostly with past meaning and WEQATAL with future meaning) by a
combination of syntax and Hebrew linguistic convention, most important
being the versatility of the conjunction waw of the WEQATAL form. Because
you don't take any Hebrew verbal form as a grammaticalized tense,one
obstacle is removed that may prevent others from seriously consider my
conclusion, namely, that there is no inherrent semantic difference
whatsoever between QATAL and WEQATAL- they are one and the same form,
coding for the perfective aspect.

 When we translate the
>verses into English (or any other language which has tenses - past,
>present, future) we have to use tenses, as it is obligatory in Englsih. The
>question is how do we know what tense to use.  Following your analysis it
>is not a problem in the case of <wayyiqtol>, since you see it as the past
>tense, but what do you do with <qatal>, <yiqtol>, <wqatal> and <qotel>?  It
>seems to me that you are doing what we all do, namely using the context.
>But aren't you doing the same with <wayyiqtol>?  You may want to say that
>you are not, since there are no cases where <wayyiqtol> is understood as
>present or future, while the other forms have different tense
>interpretations in different enviroments (within the narrative material).
>So, do you want to conclude that only <wayyiqtol> encodes tense, while the
>other forms do not? This would be an unwarranted conclusion, theoretically
>speaking.  My contention is that NONE of the forms encodes tense, but while
>all the forms would be interprted according to the context concerning tense
>(when translated into English), <wayyiqtol> is always understood as
>depicting events in the past. The question is why.  In my book I show it to
>be derived by elimination.  As I see <wayyiqtol> to be non-modal and the
>future to be modal, <wayyiqtol> cannot be used to depict future events. It
>cannot be understood to refer to present situations either, but this
>because of its sequential nature. One cannot get a sequence in present,
>unless it is habitual, as shown in the following contrasting examples:
>	1. Mary is eating and reading the paper.
>	2. (Every morning) Mary gets up, takes a shower and goes to work.
>The clauses in (1) report two simultaneous activities at the present
>moment. We do not understand them to be in sequence. If we switch from the
>progressive in (1) to the simple present in (2) we do get a sequence, but
>habitual. I show (in chapter 4 in my book) that habituals are modal, so (2)
>is modal, and therefore it cannot be depicted in BH by <wayyiqtol>. So we
>are left with the past, and that is why <wayyiqtol> is always interpreted
>as referring to the past.  The question arises now is why this is not the
>case in the prophetic material. I did not do any work on prophecy, but I
>started to think about the problem. In my last post to the list I suggested
>to call <wayyiqtol> an R-building form. What I want to check now is whether
>it appears in prophetic verses not only to report future events but also
>other modals. If my guess is correct, we will NOT find it in other kinds of
>modals, but only in future. As shown in the literature and summarized in
>chapter (4) in my book, the future is modal because of its open nature. In
>the case of the word of God transferred by His propehts one might assume
>that the future is NOT open (or at least that this is how it is viewed by
>the prophets), and therefore it is treated just like the past. So now we
>have a generalisation for the form not only in narratives but in any genre
>- it is an R-building form. If instead, we Assume that it is past tense we
>will be able to take care of it only within the narrative.
>My analysis will take care of the examples you provide, without resorting
>to tense.  Let's consider your example Gen 5:1 <WAYYIQRA' 'elohim la'or yom
>-- welaHo$el QARA' layla> I agree with your translation: *God called the
>light Day -- WHILE the darkness He called Night* I also agree with your
>comment: Had the writer used twice *wayyiqra'* the effect would have been
>different: THEN God called the light Day, THEN He called the darkness
>Noght.   This is a good illustration of what I am trying to argue. The
>first clause in this example builds a new R-time (assuming that you agree
>that God named the light only AFTER He created it). The second clause does
>not build a new R-time, but uses the one introduced by the first clause.
>Therefore it does not move the time forward, and it is interpreted, as you
>suggested, as related to the naming of the day.
>	Direct Speech (DS). You like to distinguish between the use of the
>forms in the narrative and their use in DS. As you correctly pointed out
>and illustrated, the first clause opening a DS would never be a <wayyiqtol>
>one. The observation seems to be valid, however I am not sure about the
>explanation you provide for it.  If the reason for the appearance of
><qatal> in the opening clause of DS is,indeed, because DS is a different
>genre than the narrative, why do we have this form only (ignoring
>counterexamples) in the opoening of the DS?  In pp. 181-2 I show that if
>the speaker is telling a story s/he would use <wayyiqtol> for the
>time-line, except for the first clause. A good example is 2Sam 1:6-11,
>where a big chank of narrative is given by the Amalekite. All the clauses
>of the Amalekite reporting what happened on Mount Gilboa are in
><wayyiqtol>, except for the first one which is in <qatal> (preceded by
>Infinitive Absolute).  I consider DS planted in a narrative to be a kind of
>subnarrative, and explain the use of <qatal> at the beginning as marking
>the transition from the main to the sub-narrative.

I have not yet completed my classification and grouping of WAYYIQTOLs and
YIQTOLs (that I also consider to be one and the same form - representing
the imperfective aspect). However, in connection with my mag.art thesis of
1995 I looked at all the WAYYIQTOLs in the Bible. I found 600 instances of
WAYYIQTOLs with non-past meaning, several of which are not sequential. I
reduced this to 399 examples in the thesis. I would also refer to Frank
Blake, 1951, "A Resurvey of Hebrew Tenses" who strongly argued that
WAYIQTOLs were preterits. In his book he discusses more than 100 examples
of WAYYIQTOLs with non-past meaning. For most of these examples he could
not find good reasons to classify them as preterits, and his solution in
most instances was that they were wrongly pointed! I expect to end up with
between 5 and 10% of all the 14900 WAYYIQTOLs having non-past meaning.

For almost the same reasons as you doubt Alviero's conclusions regarding
WAYYOQTOL being a past tense in narrative, I doubt your conclusion of
WAYYIQTOL as a *grammaticalized* R-building form. From one point of view
narrative is the worst place to start if we are going to find out whether a
form such as WAYYIQTOL is a tense or has other uncancelable
characteristics. This is so because the very narrative account has an
inherrent sequentiality which is combined with past meaning (RT comes
before C). Therefore we cannot know whether sequentiality and past meaning
is due to the narrative itself or is due to the verb form (Some months ago
I quoted B. Comrie regarding this.) So the argument: "I will not believe
that WAYYIQTOL  can have non-past meaning if you don't demonstrate this
from narrative accounts." is completely non-sensical.

I generally accept your demonstration of WAYYIQTOL as a R-building form in
your corpus, but  I dispute that you can extrapolate this to the whole
Bible corpus, and that this is an inherrent semantic property of WAYYIQTOL.
I rather ascribe its R-building ability to the nature of the narrative
itself (and the versatility of the conjunction waw). Only when you can
demonstrate the universal R-building property of WAYYIQTOL in *all* the
kinds of material found in the Bible, will you have a strong case for the
R-building being the semantic meaning of WAYYIQTOL.



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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