<wayyiqtol> again (G.Hatav)

Alviero Niccacci sbfnet at netvision.net.il
Thu Dec 30 03:09:57 EST 1999

On  27/12/99 (Re: <wayyiqtol> again) Galia Hatav wrote:

Dear Galia Hatav,

Thank you for your clear response. Please see my comments below.

>Dear Professor Nicacci,

	< ...>

> 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.

1) (Alviero Niccacci) I called *tense* a verbform or nonverbal 
construction that conveys the mainline of communication in one of the 
three temporal axes. Therefore in historical narrative wayyiqtol is 
the only tense. Qatal is not a tense in the full sense because in 
historical narrative it is a secondary-line verb form (in fact it 
appears in the second place of the sentence, i.e x-qatal). On the 
contrary, qatal is a tense in direct speech because it is used to 
start the mainline of an oral narrative, as shown by the examples I 
quoted in my previous post. In direct speech we have other tenses as 
well, i.e. x-yiqtol for simple, indicative future, jussive & 
cohortative yiqtol, and imperative. The nonverbal sentence (with or 
without participle) is also a tense in the axis of the present 
because it is used to convey mainline.
	Outside historical narrative, i.e. both in prose direct 
speech and in poetry, wayyiqtol is only used as a continuation form, 
i.e. it continues a verbform that is not a wayyiqtol and shares its 
status. in any case it preserves its past time reference.

>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>?

2) (AN)	As you know from reading Chap. 5 of my book, I listed a 
series of *tense transitions* (i.e. shifts from one verbform to the 
other, indicated with ->) that account for all the verbforms and 
nonverbal constructions attested in historical narrative. E.g. 
wayyiqtol -> x-qatal to express an antecedent circumstance, or 
simultaneity, contrast, or emphasis on the X element; wayyiqtol -> 
weqatal / x-yiqtol to express repetion, description; wayyiqtol -> 
nonverbal sentence (with or without participle) to express 
	What I tried to do is to identify the basic structures of BH 
and their respective function(s). The same I did for direct speech in 
Chap. 6 of my book.
	One of the best ways to learn the basic structures of direct 
speech versus historical narrative is to compare the parallel 
pericopes from Exod 25-30 and 35-40. Exod 25-30 contains instruction 
by God to Moses in direct speech, and 35-40 relates the execution of 
these instructions repeating almost the same words but shifting the 
verbforms and constructions from direct speech to historical 
narrative. In this respect, Abba Ben David's _Parallels in the Bible_ 
is one of the most useful *textbooks* to learn BH.

>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).

3) (AN)	As one sees form the above, I try to learn from the text. The 
text is our only source. From the text we have to deduct a theory of 
the verb--wherefrom, otherwise? I would certainly not encourage to 
start with general linguitics as is too often the case today. Too 
much theory, and too little analysis of texts.
	In a text we find different verbforms used and we try to 
understand there respective function(s) by observing how they 
interact one with the other. Finding good examples in crucial at this 
point as is also a basic theory of syntactical analysis. From each 
case one draws a consequence; by putting different pieces of evidence 
together, one gets a general picture, which is then tested, corrected 
and refined according to new data coming from further reading of 
	Having done good prose texts, which are normally well tied to 
time, space, ect., one is equipped to go on to analyze difficult 
cases and poetry.

>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. < ...>

4) (AN) I am not able to discuss your theory. I should study it in 
full, which I hope to do as I shall get your book. I think we have 
enough evidence to show that the verbforms do have a time reference 
of their own and do encode tense. Actually they are full tenses, i.e. 
they encode a FIX time reference, when they convey mainline of 
communication; they are RELATIVE tenses when they convey a secondary 
line of communication. In the latter case they express aspect, or 
mode of action, i.e. contemporaneity-anteriority-posteriority, unique 
information versus repetition, habit, description; contrast, emphasis 
etc. Even when they convey a secondary line, the different verbforms 
keep their respective time reference.
	As for wayyiqtol in poetry, I think it is used exactly as in 
direct speech. It keeps its past time reference, and therefore is not 
used with a future reference. Indeed, Joüon-Muraoka #118s page 395 
mention the use of wayyiqtol for the future after the so-called 
*prophetic qatal*; however the *prophetic qatal* itself is called 
into doubt, and perhaps rightly.

Peace and all good for the New Year 2000.
Alviero Niccacci

Studium Biblicum Franciscanum      Tel. +972 - 2 - 6282 936
POB 19424 - 91193 - Jerusalem      Fax  +972 - 2 - 6264 519
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