<wayyiqtol> again

peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Tue Dec 28 19:32:23 EST 1999

Dear Rolf,

I am glad to see you active on this list again. Thank you for sharing 
with us the results of your surveys of QATAL and WEQATAL.

It is clear that the categories into which you classified QATAL and 
WEQATAL are not the categories which distinguish these forms from 
other verb forms (not absolutely in the sense you wish, probably not 
even prototypically in the sense recently discussed). If they had been 
those categories, I would have expected to find for each verb form one 
or a small number of categories widely represented and others almost 
empty. So I accept that we can conclude that neither QATAL nor WEQATAL 
is a tense pure and simple. However, we cannot go on from there to 
suggest alternative distinguishing categories without first defining 
those categories carefully and making an analysis according to those 
categories. The problem with your suggestion that YIQTOL and WAYYIQTOL 
are imperfective, QATAL and WEQATAL are perfective, is that, having 
admitted that you do not follow well-known definitions of perfective 
and imperfective like Comrie's, you have not clearly defined how you 
define these aspects and can distinguish between them in a Hebrew 

I am grateful to Galia for her clear definition of Reichenbach etc's 
three times. I think your deictic point (C) corresponds to Galia's 
speech time (S). It seems that when you decide whether a particular 
QATAL is past, present or future you are considering the relationship 
between E (event time) and S (speech time) - for I think your RT is 
not Reichenbach's R (reference time) but his E.

Now I wish that you had been able to make a slightly different 
analysis of QATAL and WEQATAL, to determine the relationship between E 
and R, as defined by Galia. For my thinking (which could be confirmed 
or disproved by the type of analysis which you have done but with 
different categories) is that the Hebrew verb system is built around 
distinguishing relationships between E and R, and that S is of minor 
importance. I would also suggest that the waw conjunction, when 
prefixed directly to the verb only, rather than the verb form is what 
signals the building of a new R time, i.e. it functions rather like 
the conjunction "then" in English. Thus both WAYYIQTOL and WEQATAL 
would build a new R time, and that is the essential difference between 
these two and the forms QATAL, YIQTOL.

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: <wayyiqtol> again
Author:  <furuli at online.no> at Internet
Date:    28/12/1999 01:52

Dear Galia,

I would like to give some comments on your post.


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.


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)...


More information about the b-hebrew mailing list