Wayyiqtol/X + qatal (Hatav, Niccacci)

John Ronning ronning at ilink.nis.za
Tue Feb 23 00:01:03 EST 1999

Galia Hatav wrote:

<extensive snip>
> Thus, I argue, WP can contribute to forming a sequence, but *qatal*
> cannot.


> So, when checking narrative stretches in BH, I expect all and only the
> WP clauses to appear on the (actual) time-line.

further, explaining exceptions to this:

>However, this does not mean that we do not find actual cases of *qatal*
> clauses which are understood to report an event which occurred AFTER
> the previous one. Such case is Gen. 30:21: "And afterwards" she bore a
> daughter". In this case, however, not the verb but the conjunction
> "afterwards" is what moves the time forward. The question is if this does
> not contradict my claim that only WP appears in sequence in
> the narrative. The answer I gave in my book was that this clause is not a
> bid on the time-line but serves in the background. Now I think I have a
> more precise answer (work in progress).  One of the *qatal*'s functions,
> I believe, is to mark the discourse topic (DT).

Similarly, Alviero Niccacci wrote:
> We can say that waw-x-qatal is non-sequential in the sense that it does
> not carry on the narrative mainline indicated by wayyiqtol; rather, it
> represents a break in the flow of communication. Syntax can not
> tell what kind of break happens. This needs to be evaluated in every 
> case with the help of interpretation.
> Because x-qatal can not stay alone in a narrative text, two main
> possibilities exist:
> a) the x-qatal represents a background information connected with the
> PRECEDING mainline wayyiqtol, i.e. we have a tense transition
> wayyiqtol --> x-qatal, or b) the x-qatal represents the setting of a
> following wayyiqtol, i.e. tense transition x-qatal --> wayyiqtol.
> - The main difference is that wayyiqtol represents mainline or
>  foreground, while x-qatal represents offline, or background.

Dear Galia and Alviero,

I'm interested to know how the following example is
explained by your theories.

In the discussion of God giving the mannah to Israel,(Exodus
16), there is a series of three references to evening (when 
God would give the quail) and morning (when God would give

1a (v.6) `ereb *wiyda`tem*  In the evening you shall know .
. .

then an identical construction for the morning

1b (v.7)  uboqer *ure'item*  and in the morning you shall
see . . .

likewise the following pair use an identical construction
(different from 1):
2a (v.12) beyn ha`arbayim *to'kelu*  basar  at twilight you
shall eat meat

2b (v.12) ubabboqer *tisbe`u*  laxem  and in the morning you
shall be satisfied with bread

likewise another form used for the following:

3a (v.13) wayehi ba`ereb *watta`al*  it came about in the
evening, quail came up

3b ?

You would think that from this sequence, 3b is virtually
"programmed" i.e. you should have:

wayehi babboqer plus a wayyiqtol verb.  

The actual phrase?

3b (v.13) ubabboqer hayetah shikbat ha++al  and in the
morning there was a layer of dew

It looks to me like hayetah can't be background information
for the
previous evening, neither can it be disconnected from the
preceding and taken non-sequentially; it does not seem to be
"a break in the flow of communication" (Niccacci) at all,
but seems to
move the story along in exactly the same way as a
wayyiqtol form would).  Hatav's theory might be in the
if one could show that the layer of dew is now the discourse
topic.  But we've already been given the discourse topic (in
a way that does fit Hatav's theory):  - v. 6 Yhwh howciy' 
'ethkem  me'erets  Mitsrayim  "It was the Lord who brought
you up from the land of Egypt."  (On my view this becomes
the discourse topic because the departure
from standard word order signals something especially
important - it has nothing to do with the inherent meaning
of the verb form).

Since I don't have all these complicated theories in my head
(I don't think BH writers or speakers did either), 3b is not
a big problem - I assume that two consecutive uses of the
verb hayah was felt a bit awkward  (wayehi  babboqer 
wattehi . . .) (such a construction is found in Exod 19:16
in that case there are more words between the two wayehi's),
so the
writer fell back on the non-prefered (but permissible) way
of carrying forward the story line, with wayyiqtol plus X +

This example would also seem to cast doubt on the
co-theory of the wayyiqtol form as inherently sequential.

We recently discussed an example that casts doubt on the
"discourse topic" explanation/exception proposed by Hatav, 
as well as the theory of Niccacci:

Gen 24:46 Abraham's servant relates recent events and says:
wa'esht  wegam  haggemallim  hishqatah  "I drank, and the
camels she watered."

By Hatav's and Niccacci's theories this must express
simultaneous events (I drank while she watered the camels),
whereas it's quite clear from the foregoing narrative (to
which the hearers of v. 46 were not privy) that the events
were quite distinctly sequential (v. 18 wattashqehu 
wattekal  lehashqoto . . . v. 20 wattish'ab lekol

The camels do not become the new discourse topic in this

So, while you have quite elegant theories, do you understand
my skepticism?

I'd also be interested to know how you view the use of the
qatal forms in the sequence wayehi bayyom haX qatal (Exod
16:22 and 27) - don't the qatals here function exactly as a
wayyiqtol form would?

(Apologies in advance if you've already explained these
examples in your books, which I haven't had a chance to


John Ronning

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